There’s nothing but high-quality ingredients in these boxes, but you still get a prize: a healthy start to your day.
When you imagine a healthy breakfast, packaged cereal probably isn’t in the picture. And for good reason: Plenty of boxes deliver little more than refined grains pumped with added sugar and artificial coloring.
But the cereal aisle offers an abundance of options. All are convenient, many are budget-friendly, and a select few are truly good for you. How do you detect that last group? Misleading labels and advertising certainly don’t help—but we can.
First, look to the ingredients list.
“The first ingredient listed should be a whole grain, like whole wheat, oats, bran, barley, brown rice, or millet,” says Ha Nguyen, R.D. “And sugar should not be one of the first three ingredients. If it’s there at all, it should be toward the bottom of the list.”
Next, shift your eyes up to the nutrition label.
“I generally look for a cereal that has at least three grams of fiber, at least four grams of protein, and fewer than eight grams of sugar per serving,” says Lindsey Pine, R.D. “The combination of the fiber and protein will keep you fuller longer, and fiber also contributes to a healthy gut.”
If your favorite cereal falls short on protein (a lot do), pair it with an egg or yogurt to round out your morning meal.
Finally, while there’s no need to overanalyze calorie counts, Pine recommends double-checking the serving size. “The cereal industry does not have one standard size they post on the nutrition label, so the serving size can range from ¼ cup to 1 cup,” she says.
You don’t need to disqualify cereals with a smaller serving size, but do mind your portions. Most people simply pour from the box until their bowl is full—which might translate to three or four servings for certain cereals.
To make shopping even easier, keep these 10 healthy cereals in mind. They may not come with tiny marshmallows or a prize in the box, but they do come highly recommended by top dietitians.
Healthy Cereal #1: Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes
This simple cereal, which is made with a blend of several whole grains, stays crispy even after you soak it in milk, Nguyen says. Plus, it’s easy to dress up with a drizzle of nut butter or a handful of berries.
Nutrition per 1-cup serving: 160 calories, 1.5 grams fat (0 grams saturated), 170 milligrams sodium, 31 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 5 grams protein
Healthy Cereal #2: Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds
These crunchy buds, which are another one of Nguyen’s favorites, deliver a whopping 11 grams of fiber per serving. Eat them plain with milk, or sprinkle onto Greek yogurt to bulk up on protein during breakfast.
Nutrition per ⅓-cup serving: 80 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 210 milligrams sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, 3 grams protein
Healthy Cereal #3: Post Grape-Nuts
Similar to All-Bran Buds, Grape-Nuts work well paired with milk or as a topping for yogurt.
“The nutritional facts for Grape-Nuts are really solid,” Pine says. “The crunchy texture also requires more chewing, which makes it very hard to wolf down your breakfast.”
Nutrition per ½-cup serving: 210 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 270 milligrams sodium, 47 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 6 grams protein
Healthy Cereal #4: Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli
“If you like oatmeal but want a cold version, you’ll love muesli,” Pine says. “It’s a European-style cereal that contains oats and sometimes other grains along with dried fruit, nuts, or seeds.”
Simply mix the muesli with yogurt or milk, and let it sit for five to 10 minutes to soak in. This particular one has five grams of sugar per serving, but it’s entirely from natural sugars in the dried fruit.
Nutrition per ¼-cup serving: 140 calories, 3 grams fat (0 grams saturated), 0 milligrams sodium, 23 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 4 grams protein
Healthy Cereal #5: Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Style Muesli
Grain-free cereal may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not! And it’s a delicious way to start your day.
“As someone who’s allergic to oats, I’m always on the lookout for a high-fiber, oat-free cereal,” says Kendra Tolbert, R.D.N. “It’s surprisingly difficult, but this one fits the bill! Plus, it’s tasty and versatile. I eat it as a cold cereal for breakfast, a topping for yogurt, and as a grab-and-go snack.”
Nutrition per ¼-cup serving: 140 calories, 10 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 0 milligrams sodium, 9 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar, 3 grams protein
Healthy Cereal #6: Love Grown Original Power O’s
“The main ingredient in this cereal is a blend of beans, lentils, and chickpeas,” Pine says. “Also known as pulses, these ingredients are packed with vitamins and minerals such as iron, folate, and zinc. I also like that all of the grain in this cereal is whole grain in the form of brown rice.”
Nutrition per 1-cup serving: 130 calories, 1.5 grams fat (0 grams saturated), 100 milligrams sodium, 23 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 6 grams protein
Healthy Cereal #7: One Degree Organic Foods Sprouted Cacao O’s
This chocolate-flavored cereal made with chickpeas and sprouted oats is another one of Pine’s favorites.
They’re sweetened with a little bit of cane sugar, making them one of the sweetest cereals on this list, but fiber from the whole grains and chickpeas will help slow a potential blood sugar spike and subsequent crash. And they still come in under eight grams of sugar.
Managing diabetes or tracking your blood sugar? Follow your individual food plan, or check with your doctor or dietitian about any food guidelines to follow.
Nutrition per ¾-cup serving: 120 calories, 2.5 grams fat (0 grams saturated), 65 milligrams sodium, 22 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams sugar, 4 grams protein
Healthy Cereal #8: Nature’s Path Smart Bran
“This is the number-one cereal I recommend to clients,” says Amanda Baker Lemein, R.D. With 17 grams of fiber per serving, it’ll help keep you feeling full and also keep you regular.
If you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber, you may want to try a smaller portion at first and drink plenty of water.
Nutrition per ¾-cup serving: 110 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 170 milligrams sodium, 32 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, 4 grams protein
Healthy Cereal #9: Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat Cereal
This cereal is a little heavier in sugar than many other healthy options, but it’s made primarily with whole oat flour. Plus, it delivers on fiber and protein.
“It’s my go-to recommendation for anyone who knows they won’t be truly satisfied with an unsweetened cereal,” says Jessica Levinson, R.D.N., author of 52-Week Meal Planner.
Nutrition per 1-cup serving: 150 calories, 2.5 grams fat (0 grams saturated), 115 milligrams sodium, 34 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 7 grams sugar, 4 grams protein
Healthy Cereal #10: General Mills Cheerios
This classic cereal made the list on Levinson’s recommendation. Whole grain oats are the first ingredient, and it boasts three grams of fiber and just one gram of sugar per serving. Just note that Cheerios are pretty low in protein, so it might be worth adding in a tablespoon of nut butter or some plain yogurt.
Also, be sure to choose the original version of Cheerios. Honey Nut and other flavors come with a dose of added sugar.
Nutrition per 1-cup serving: 100 calories, 2 grams fat (0.5 gram saturated), 140 milligrams sodium, 20 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 3 grams protein
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