They’re all junk food.
Or at least, almost all of them.
Don’t be fooled by brands like Cascadian Farm Organic, Kashi, and Nature’s Path. Sure, they have wholesome sounding names and many flavors are non-GMO, organic and all that good stuff… but that doesn’t automatically make them good for you.
Not all, but many products from those and similar brands are loaded with added sugar. So much that their nutrition facts don’t look much different than the bad cereals with stigma attached.
For example, you may assume Lucky Charms is evil.
With 110 calories and 10g of sugar per ¾ cup serving, is Lucky Charms really less sinful than Kashi Organic Blueberry Clusters Heart To Heart oat cereal? Because that has 8g of sugar and 170 calories.
Granted, the serving sizes aren’t identical and one uses artificial coloring, while the other doesn’t. But take a look at the ingredients for Kashi’s Blueberry Clusters…
Do you see blueberry anything in there?!
Aside from not being made with actual blueberries, know that “dried cane syrup” is really just a clever marketing name for sugar. All cane sugars are made by drying liquids from the plant! According to the FDA, lingo like that is misleading and discouraged. (1)
If you want a low sugar and high protein cereal for bodybuilding or weight loss, there’s Nutritious Living Hi-Lo maple pecan. It has 12g of protein and only 1g of sugar. The catch is that it’s sweetened with Splenda and the amino acids come largely from soy grits, wheat gluten, and other processed, non-organic ingredients.
As far as vitamins are concerned, for both the bad and “natural” brands, often times they’re fortified with synthetically created versions.
This is the story of the cereal aisle. Even with online selection, you basically are often picking the lesser of evils.
The same holds true for the following list. Not all are perfect. There are drawbacks. However, all are healthier than most of what you will find for this breakfast food category.
Reviews of the top 5 healthy cereals
1. Quinoa Queen Organic Unsweetened
When was the last time you saw a cereal that only had one item listed on the ingredients label?
Probably never. Until now.
It’s made with only one ingredient, which is 100% Ecuadorian grown organic quinoa. This means it’s gluten free, nut free, soy free, non-GMO, vegan, and compliant with pretty much any diet.
With zero added sugar, Quinoa Queen is the best breakfast cereal for type 1 and 2 diabetics to eat that’s organic. Although the glycemic index (GI) of it hasn’t been tested, other published research on quinoa suggests it’s a low GI food, often ranking in the 50’s. Even without diabetes, all grown women and men should appreciate this advantage. (2) (3)
Bodybuilders and adults will appreciate the higher protein content versus corn flakes and wheat-bases, which have a lower percentage. There’s 4g of protein per 120 calories serving, which equates to 13% protein content. Plus, quinoa has an excellent amino acid profile.
Obviously the number of grams aren’t a lot given the serving size, but add a high protein almond milk and some pistachios or cashews to easily make a bowl that’s 20-25g of protein with almost no sugar content. If you want sweetness, consider adding the fruits with the most protein.
We have yet to see it in stores, though you can buy Quinoa Queen on Amazon.
2. Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Cereals
You’re probably familiar with Ezekiel bread. Did you know they also make breakfast cereal?
For adults we would recommend their lowest sugar varieties, which are the Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted almond flakes and whole grain cereals.
The flakes have 6g of sugar, 8g of protein, and 210 calories coming from sprouted wheat, barley, millet, lentils, soybeans, spelt, and almonds. The sugar is from organic agave.
If you’re okay with 9g of sugar from agave, then the flax and chia flavor are a source of healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
The Ezekiel sprouted whole grains with almond are healthiest. They’re 200 calories, 8g of protein, and have less than 1g of sugar. With 6g of fiber – 24% of DV – it’s great for losing weight by helping you feel full. You can buy them on Amazon.
Ezekiel cinnamon raisin is a yeast-free cereal made with whole grains of sprouted wheat and others. It has no sugar added but does have sweetness from the raisins and organic cinnamon; 8g of sugar per 190 calorie serving. This is a good cereal for kids because you’re getting unrefined natural sweetness from fruit. Here’s the link for it.
3. Grain Berry Original Toasted Oats
Which cereal has the most antioxidants?
There’s a strong possibility that the brand Grain Berry is the highest antioxidant cereal. They make toasted oats, bran flakes, and shredded wheat that includes Onyx sorghum as a main ingredient.
Onyx sorghum is the trademarked name for a high-tannin variety of sorghum that was developed by Texas A&M University. It’s a non-GMO grain, naturally cultivated from ancient black sorghum and other varieties rich in tannins.
When it comes to ORAC values testing of antioxidant activity, pure Onyx sorghum ranks extremely high; 227,302. To put that in perspective, its value is almost 50x higher than the same weight of blueberries, which measures at 4,669.
To be clear, Onyx sorghum is only one of the grains used to make Grain Berry cereal. The others used have only a tiny fraction of the antioxidant activity. ORAC values for these cereal formulations have not been tested or published. That said, being that Onyx sorghum is a major ingredient, it would be expected that Grain Berry is a cereal with antioxidants in plentiful amounts.
The biggest disadvantages of Grain Berry cereals are that none of the varieties are gluten free and most have added sugar.
These are the nutrition facts for Cinnamon Frost and Multi-Grain Bran Flakes, which were the only two varieties for sale at Ralph’s (that’s Kroger’s California chain). The Multi-Bran have 5g of sugar, which Grain Berry markets as being 70% less sugar than competing cereals. Better, but not ideal.
For toddlers and young kids, the sugar content in Grain Berry Honey Nut O’s and Multi-Grain Bran Flakes isn’t the worst, with 6g and 5g per serving, respectively. For adults and children who aren’t too picky, try their Original Toasted Oats which have just 1g. Top with fresh blackberries to sweeten.
4. Kay’s Natural Protein Cereal
What is a high-protein, low-carb cereal?
Kay’s Natural protein cereal offers 12g of protein per 120 calorie serving. There are as few as 19g of carbs, which is only 6% of the adult daily value. Minimal sugar is added since stevia is used.
The protein source is soy protein isolate. It’s not organic but it is non-GMO, which is rare to see for soybeans. While not a whole food recipe, it is low glycemic and packed with protein and fiber. A great gluten free cereal for bodybuilding, dieting, diabetics, and even kids since it has sweetness.
The flavors for Kay’s high protein cereal are Apple Cinnamon, French Vanilla, and Honey Almond. The latter is not vegan but the other two are plant-based and don’t use honey. The best tasting is Apple Cinnamon; it’s like a muffin of the same flavor.
Finding where to buy Kay’s cereal in-store is a difficult task. Here in Los Angeles, according to Kay’s the only physical stores which carry it are non-chain like Mar Vista Natural Foods and a couple doctors’ offices out of all places. The pattern of limited in-store availability for Kay’s is typical throughout the US, Canada, and UK. Fortunately, you can buy it on Amazon.
5. Make Your Own
The healthiest cereal is the one you make yourself. That way, you can custom tailor the exact amount of calories, protein, carbs, and sugar it has. Try using a base of unsweetened Cheerio-like organic cereal and add protein, nuts, dried berries, and other superfoods.
Here’s what one vegan gluten free bodybuilder here eats on a regular basis for breakfast. The links to each ingredient on Amazon are included below.
Superfoodly’s GF High-Protein Healthy Cereal
- 1 cup Love Grown Original Power O’s cereal
- 1 cup Orgain unsweetened high protein almond milk
- ¼ cup raw organic pistachio kernels
- 1 Tbsp raw heirloom pumpkin seeds
- 1 Tbsp Terrasoul Superfoods organic mulberries
- 1 Tbsp Navitas Organics dried goji
- 1 Tbsp Navitas Organics dried golden berries
- 1 tsp Pascha sugar-free 100% cacao chips
- ¼ tsp Ceylon cinnamon
- Sweeten to taste with Lakanto zero calorie monk fruit
Add and stir drops of liquid monk fruit to a 1 cup glass of cold almond milk, until desired sweetness is reached. Combine all dry ingredients in cereal bowl and pour the milk on top. Enjoy.
Pistachios are the highest protein nut. Orgain’s milk has 10g of protein per cup. Goji is the highest protein fruit. Plus, there are a few grams coming from the other berries and pure cacao chips.
In total, the above recipe yields 28g of protein for 480 calories. For those wanting less sugar, reduce the fruit.
For less calories, reduce the nuts and seeds. Cutting them out entirely will shave off 190 calories, making it a low calorie cereal that’s good for weight loss, at just 290 (and that includes the milk and fruit).
Whatever way you decide to make it, this is a delicious low sugar cereal that’s packed with protein-rich superfoods to start your day off right.