Best Cereal To Buy According To A Registered Dietitian

Have you ever wandered down the cereal aisle thinking about the best cereal to buy? Or if cereal is healthy? Will it keep you fueled for sports? Should my kids be eating cereal? I’m a Registered Dietitian, here to answer all of these questions and end the cereal debacle. Let’s dive in.

Is Cereal A Healthy Option For My Family?

A bowl of cereal flakes dumping into a white bowl on a gray background

Cereal is a convenient, easily accessible, and quick breakfast that many families rely on. It is also delicious for dessert or convenient as a grab and go dry snack. However, going down the cereal aisle at the grocery store can feel overwhelming as a parent who is wanting to feed their child well. The children are drawn to the brightly colored cartoonish packages, while the parents are typically concerned about the food dyes in the processed cereals or the health of the cereal in general.

So what do I think as a non-diet RD? I think it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy all foods at home with your kid’s. I would suggest opting for the sugar heavy cereals less often than the nutrient dense ones and enjoy all foods without guilt. Food enjoyment and variety are key steps to raising intuitive eaters.

How To Neutralize A Food

A bowl of multicolored cereal pieces in a white bowl


Rather than labeling something “good” and “bad” for us, we use the name of the food. This takes away any morale ties that these foods could have. Children are concrete thinkers, which means they don’t know how to think abstractly just yet. If we’re using language like “good “and “bad” or “healthy” and “not unhealthy”, they may feel like they’re bad for eating cheerios and good kid for eating broccoli. If the child internalizes these beliefs around themselves and food, it could potentially lead to disordered eating down the road. It is our job as the parents to be the nutritional gate keepers of our homes, but that also means exposure to “processed foods” which they’ll inevitably have exposure to at friends homes or at school. We could restrict their foods to only “good” foods but that could lead to sneaking food they “shouldn’t” be eating or binging when outside of the home.

Being The Nutritional Gate Keeper Of Your Home

Being the nutritional gate keeper of the home as a parent means that we are the ones who choose what, when and where the food is being eaten for our kid’s. We chose what types of foods we bring in to the home. Remember moderation is key, and choosing nutrient dense foods has benefits that support proper growth and development of your littles. It’s true that some foods are more nutrient dense than others and gentle nutrition is certainly a point of intuitive eating for yourself and raising your littles! When i’m writing this article, the best cereals are referring to the nutrient dense choices.

How To Choose Nutrient-Dense Cereals

As an RD, this is how I choose a nutrient-dense choice for cereal.

The Best Cereals Have Whole Grains

Opting for half of our grain sources to be from whole grain sources is essential for optimal nutrition. Only 2/3 of Americans are good at making half their grains whole grains! Whole grains are important for everyone to include in their diet because they provide essential nutrients like b vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium and phytochemicals and antioxidants. Children need these for optimal growth and adults benefit from them as well! Typically whole grains in cereals are quinoa, whole wheat, oatmeal, corn and rice.

Sugar In Cereal

When I’m looking at a cereal I ensure whole grains are the first ingredient and sugar is not. The higher towards the top it is on the ingredient list the more of it there is by weight in the product. 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. According to AHA, we should aim for less than 24-36 grams or 6-9 teaspoons a day depending on gender.

There are so many different names for sugar on a food label, over 65 to be exact. Some of those can be identified as: cane juice, agave, brown sugar, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, fructose, corn or rice syrups, honey, glucose, invert sugar, and more.

The Best Cereal To Buy Have Fiber!

Fiber in foods helps to keep us full for a longer period of time and a whole lotta other health benefits. I’m looking for more than than 5 g per serving. Fiber needs depend on the person but range from 25 grams-38 grams/day.

To Fortify Or Not?

Fortification of cereals has been occurring since there were a lot of nutritional deficiencies in the 1900s. Fortified foods help us to fulfill nutritional gaps. Most people aren’t eating everything they need nutritionally in a day and fortification helps with that! Cereal is fortified with folate (essential for pregnant or planning to be pregnant mamas), b vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, vitamin A and iron.

Dietitian Choices For The Best Cereal To Buy At The Grocery Store

  • Organically Purely O’s Cereal
    First ingredient is Whole grain oats, <1 gram of added sugar per serving, 4 grams of fiber per serving, 4 grams of protein
  • Barbaras Multigrain Original Spoonfuls Cereal-
    First ingredient is whole grain oats, added sugar per serving is 7grams and the fiber content per serving is 5 grams.
  • Raisin Bran Original Cereal
    First ingredient is whole grain wheat, 9 grams of added sugar per serving, 7 grams of fiber per serving and 5 grams of protein a serving.
  • Kellog All Bran cereal
    First ingredient is Wheat bran, 8 grams of added sugar per serving, 12 grams of fiber per serving, 5 grams of protein.
  • Fiber One
    First ingredient is Whole grain wheat, 0 grams added sugar per serving, 14 grams of fiber per serving, 2 grams of protein per serving.
  • Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon Oat Cereal
    First ingredient is whole oat flour, 4 gram of fiber per serving, 5 grams of sugar per serving,3 grams of protein per serving.
  • Kashi GO cereal
    First ingredient is soy protein concentrate because this is a higher protein cereal, then yellow corn flour, added sugar is 8 grams per serving, 13 grams of fiber per serving and 11 grams protein per serving
  • Total Cereal
    First ingredient is whole grain wheat, 3 grams of fiber per serving, 2 grams of protein, 5 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Quaker Oatmeal Squares
    First ingredient is Whole Grain Oat Flour, 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein and 9 grams of added sugar per serving
  • Wheaties
    First ingredient is Whole Grain Wheat, there is 5 grams of added sugar, 3 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal
    First ingredient is Organic Sprouted Wheat, there is 6 grams of fiber per serving,8 grams of protein and 0 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Uncle Sam Wheat Berry Flakes
    The first ingredient is Whole wheat kernels, there is 10 grams of fiber, <1 gram of sugar and 9 gram of protein per serving.
  • Qia Coco Coconut Superfood Flakes
    First ingredient is rolled oats, there is 5 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar and 6 grams of protein per serving.
  • Moms Best Cereal Toasted Wheatfuls
    The first ingredient is whole grain wheat, there is 7 grams of fiber, 0 grams of added sugar and 6 grams of protein per serving
  • Love Grown Power O’s
    The first ingredient is a bean blend (navy beans, lentils, garbanzo beans), there is 5 grams of fiber per serving, 6 grams of protein and 0 grams of added sugar.
  • ArrowHead Mills Organic spelt flakes
    The first ingredient is organic whole grain spelt (wheat) flakes, there is 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Natures Path Flax Plus Raisins
    The first ingredient is whole wheat meal, there is 9 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein and 6 grams added sugar

If Unsweetened Cereal Is Not Your Jam

If you don’t enjoy unsweetened versions of these cereals above, you can try doing a 50/50 bowl of cereal. For example, half a bowl of honey nut cheerios and half bowl of unsweetened cheerios. Or try adding unsweetened cereal to your morning yogurt for crunch and the sweetness of the yogurt will blend it!

Adding Protein To Your Cereal

A pitcher of milk pouring into a cup of milk on a brown table.

A high protein breakfast can help curb appetite later in the day, as well as stabilize blood sugar levels which is important for everyone but especially those with diabetes and PCOS. Adding a cup of milk to your cereal boosts its protein content by 9 grams-13 grams depending on the brand. Soy milk will add about 9 grams. If you choose a higher protein cereal you’ll likely be getting 14-20 grams of protein, which is sufficient for most people!

Fats

Opting for a cereal with nuts and seeds like hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, etc can also help to balance blood sugar levels. Healthy fats also help to support happy hormones, optimal brain function and support pregnancy nutrition. For toddlers age 1-3 whose need for fat totals 30-40% of their intake, this is especially important! You can always add some nuts and seeds on top of any cereal of your choice.

Highlights From Best Cereal To Buy

In total, the best cereal to buy at the grocery store will have a good amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates, as well as fiber! If you want to read more about macronutrients, read my article here. If you have any questions or would like to know more about improving your nutrition, you can work with me here. If you liked this article, please let me know by leaving me a comment below!