10 "Healthy" Cereals, Ranked by Nutritional Value

Amanda Montell
PHOTO:

Damon Fourie

Breakfast cereal represents everything hardworking Americans enjoy in a food item: It's quick, convenient, tasty, and as long as you avoid the sugary stuff, it's pretty healthy too. Right?

I always thought cereals boasting muted packaging and labels like "high fiber!" and "protein!" fell squarely into the health food category. But a few months ago, I spoke to certified nutritionist Dana James about the dangers of hyper-processed foods, and that's when I started to question everything.

According to James, healthy boxed cereal doesn't even really exist. "The only truly healthy cereal is muesli made with oats, dried fruit, and nuts," she says. "Anything with added protein or fiber is questionable." As in, it likely contains controversial additives and preservatives. "High-protein and gluten-free cereals are all the rage lately, but buyer beware!" warns registered dietitian Jenny Champion. "In order to get products to have more protein or less gluten, extra handling is happening at the factory level, and when it comes to food, the fewer hands involved in production, the better." We should also be wary of "whole grain" labels. Champions says, "Even Lucky Charms boasts 'whole grains,' but almost every other ingredient after that is not something you should be eating, especially to start off your day."

That said, not all cereals are out to get you. In general, you can tell a healthier cereal by a short ingredient list, low sugar content, and high fiber content, says Champion. Look for whole grains or oats, vitamins, and minerals, as well. "Read the ingredient list first!" she says. "If it's long with words you can't pronounce or aren't sure what they mean, it belongs back on the shelf, not in your mouth."

With this information in mind, we evaluated 10 popular "health" cereals based on the following criteria:

  • Sugar content
  • Fiber content
  • Vitamin and mineral content
  • Length of ingredient list
  • Unpronounceable ingredients

The result is the following ranked list. Keep scrolling to find out how healthy your favorite cereal really is!

Instead of cereal from a box, try one of these delicious breakfast recipes!

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