10 best cold cereal picks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince we’re reportedly eating cereal all day and all night, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about which cold cereals are the best choices, from a nutritional standpoint.

First off, I will never recommend Special K for philosophical reasons: it’s promoted as a wonder food, because it has the Recommended Daily Intake of every vitamin known to nutrition science, plus a few minerals.  Where is it written that all your nutrients come from a breakfast cereal?  What about the nutrients in all the other food you eat?  It’s a stupid idea, used strictly for marketing purposes.  Basically you’re buying a crunchy vitamin pill.  I don’t buy it.   Even worse, now we have extra-sugary variations on Special K.  Think the Fruit and Yoghurt version must be healthy?  It has more than 21 different listings for sugar in the ingredients’ list.  The “yoghurt” is heat-treated yoghurt powder; heating bacteria deactivates it, so don’t count on this as a source of healthy probiotics.  If the sugary cereals aren’t bad enough, there are Special K cereal Bars, little better than a candy bar, but with that breakfast Health Halo.  A Snickers bar has more protein.  Not anything I recommend for breakfast.

So what are good choices?  Realistically, lots of people aren’t going to chew on pure unsweetened whole wheat flakes.  In general, the low sugar cereals, preferably made with at least some whole grains, are your best choice.  Most of what you see on the cereal aisle is loaded with sugar and not very substantial.  Another tip: these Health Halo words do not automatically equal Healthy: fruit or berries, granola, “high fiber” (may mean added inulin, not whole grains), oats, multigrain.  Here are ten ideas, in alphabetical order:

  1. Barbara’s: High Fiber Original and Puffins Original
  2. Cheerios: lots of manufacturers have some version of toasted O’s.  Avoid the sugar-flavored ones.  Sadly the Cheerios Multigrain is super sweet.  And they look suspiciously like doughnuts on the package label.
  3. Chex: non-sugared varieties
  4. Cornflakes: plain
  5. Kashi: Go Lean (regular), 7 Whole Grains, Good Friends
  6. Muesli: original version, not the sugary Americanized ones
  7. Quaker Oatmeal Squares (plain)
  8. Raisin Bran and plain All Bran-type cereals
  9. Shredded Wheat — lots of cereal makers have shredded wheat varieties.  Avoid the sugar-coated ones.
  10. Wheaties (or other wheat flake products): plain
Bonus Recommendation: Wheat Germ: I know, not a mainstream choice.  But this has to be the healthiest cereal going: no added sugar, loaded with protein and fiber, and a significant source of many  vitamins and minerals.  I love the toasty flavor.  If you don’t want to eat a whole bowl of wheat germ, sprinkle it on your main cereal.

Since none of these are high sugar, you’re free to add your own sweeteners, or not.  Adding fruit is a better idea that adding plain sugar.  With milk and added fruit, cereal can be a mainstay of a quick, convenient healthy diet.

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