The Top 5 Best and Worst Cereals

best-worst-cereals

Did you know that cereal is the top breakfast food in our country?  And it’s no wonder.  It’s easy, it’s convenient, it can be eaten in a bowl with milk, put in a little travel cup for kids, heck it can even be eaten for dinner.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I’m not so sure I subscribe to that theory but I do agree it can set the tone for the rest of the day.

If you eat a breakfast consisting of coffee (with that nasty creamer filled with preservatives) and a donut, your insulin levels shoot through the roof and come right back down around … oh…. 10:00 right?  But what if you had a breakfast consisting of an omelet with some veggies and whole wheat toast?  You’re probably wouldn’t be hungry at 10:00 because the protein would sustain you longer.

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But we all know that already, right?  So why am I doing this post you ask?

Because even though we all know this, there are still some days when cereal feels like the only option.  The kids got up late, you’re running late.  Or maybe you just don’t feel like being a short order cook that morning.

Whatever the reason, we’ve all had those days.  So I decided to compile a list of the Top 5 Cereals and the Worst 5 Cereals (in my humble opinion).

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Nutrition experts say in order for a cereal to be healthy it should have:

  • more than 3 grams of fiber,
  • fewer than 2 grams of saturated fats,
  • NO trans fats and
  • less than 10 grams of sugar.

So with that criteria, let’s hit the shelves!!

THE TOP 5 COLD CEREALS

  • Nature’s Path  All Nature’s Path cereals are USDA Organic as well as Nature’s Path being a founding member of the Non-GMO Project.  Foodfacts.com gave them a rating of B as their products are low in calories, low in fat and contain fiber.  They also DO NOT contain any controversial ingredients.
  • Cascadian Farms – I’m on the fence with this brand  because it is now owned by General Mills (2000) and although Cascadian Farms is dedicated to a 100% organic product and Non-GMO, General Mills is not.  Their cereals consistently get B ratings from Foodfacts.com.
  • Barbara’s Shredded Wheat~ There was a toss up for me in the shredded wheat category.  This is the NON sugar coated kind, mind you.  It was between Barbara’s and Post.  I chose Barbara’s because Post has a controversial ingredient in it called BHT.  I was unfamiliar with this so I looked it up.

According to www.2ndgreenrevolution.com, Butylated  hydroxytoluene (BHT) is a phenolic compound that is often added to  foods to preserve fats, it is also commonly added to cosmetics.   BHT  is also known as a stabilizer in pesticides, gasoline, lubricants, and soaps.”

If there is a choice between 2 cereals that have identical ingredients and one adds a preservative that is used in …. oh… gasoline, the one with less gasoline additive is the way to go, don’t you agree?

I fell short of the Top 5 mark.  I just couldn’t find cereals that met this criteria.  Now for the shocking part of this post ….

THE WORST 5 COLD CEREALS

This list wasn’t too hard to come up with.  Finding 5 healthy cereals was nearly impossible to do.  All these cereals are extremely high in sugar, empty calories and preservatives.  But the worst offending cereals are those that contain food dyes, like Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops Lucky Charms.

  • Kellogg’s Corn Pops – Kellogg’s describes this cereal as “sweetened corn cereal” and we all know what corn is –  A GMO.
  • Cocoa Krispies – this stellar example is over 40% sugar by weight!  And since when is it ok to have chocolate for breakfast?
  • Reeses Puffs – this cereal is roughly 41% sugar – this is more sugar than in a glazed donut!
  • Apple Jacks – if you are at ALL concerned about food dyes and colors (which you should be) than this product should NEVER enter your home
  • Fruit Loops – Kellogg’s website says this about their Fruit Loops cereal “A colorful breakfast cereal with incredible taste and aroma made with corn, wheat, whole grain oats and natural fruit flavoring.”  They apparently left out the other 14 ingredients.

WHAT I FOUND

After doing some research on breakfast cereals I learned that ALL cold, boxed breakfast cereals (including the organic ones) go through a process called extrusion.  Again, I was unfamiliar with this term like BHT and discovered there is come controversy surrounding this (what else is new right?).

But in a nutshell all boxed cereals start out by being made into a slurry from all the grains and are then put in a machine called an extruder.  The grains are forced out at high temps and a shape is born (an O, a puff etc).

The controversy is stemming from a study (which was never published) but was written in a book called Fighting the Food Giants, by Paul Stitts involving rats.  I don’t know much about it so I will continue to research it more before I make any comments.

Another thing to chew on regarding cereals is the Cornucopia Institute recently analyzed cereals and found they are contaminated with pesticides and warehouse fumigation chemical residues, genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) and ingredients grown in sewage sludge.  Yum!!!  Click here for the PDF file.  Check pages 34-36 specifically.

CONCLUSION

3 Problems with Boxed Cereals

  1.  We still haven’t required companies to label their products if they contain genetically modified ingredients.  So this means that according to the USDA, approximately 93% of corn acreage in the USA was genetically modified.

This is the type of corn used to make ANYTHING that contains corn, including corn flour, which can be found in your Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes, etc.

2.  In addition, the USDA stated that approximately 95% of sugar beets (used to make sugar) are genetically modified (USDA, 2013). Sugar beets are one of the main two crops used to produce the large amount of sugar we consume in North America. 55% of sugar is made from sugar beets.

3.  Vegetable oil is a prominent ingredient in cereals. Approximately 90% of American oilseed production comes from soybeans which the USDA indicates is almost certainly genetically engineered.

As you can see, there is a VERY high probability that the cereals we are feeding our families contain genetically modified ingredients, among OTHER things.

If you still choose to eat ready to eat cereals, Cornucopia Institute compiled a list called the Organic Cereal Scorecard that lists cereals that were produced without GMOs, toxic pesticides, or petrochemical solvents.

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Comments

  1. I appreciate this article, however I recently have learned that even so-called “organic” farmers use pesticides and fungicides that, although naturally derived, are still toxic.
    (https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~lhom/organictext.html)
    So, how is one know if ones “organic” food is actually chemical-free or not?

    • yeah unfortunately your right Andrea. It’s a step above Monsanto though. I think the only TRUE organic food is food you grow yourself

  2. Jennifer says:

    Hello, just wanted to add that not ALL breakfast cereals are extruded as you mentioned… according to some companies (like Kashi & Whole Earth), they have some cereals that are not. I emailed Kashi and they emailed me a list of their cereals that are extruded (or have extruded parts) and confirmed which ones are not extruded. I know, I know, that doesn’t mean they’re perfect… not everyone wants to support Kashi (for good reason), some of these non-extruded cereals have other questionable ingredients (like soy), some have too much sugar, most are expensive, etc, etc… and, they aren’t still probably “healthy” and the best way to start your day. Also, you mention Nature’s Path as being one of the Top 5 breakfast cereals… I’ve confirmed with them more than once by email that ALL their cereals are extruded. The fact that most/all are whole grain, actually (according to some) makes their cereals more toxic (if you believe the extrusion process to be dangerous). And, by the way, they were a bit rude and condescending in their emails, pointing out (as if pure fact) that the extrusion process is no different that what occurs in my kitchen, like when making pasta (wrong!)… they were quite defensive about it and I didn’t appreciate their ‘attitude.’ Kashi, on the other hand, didn’t defend anything… they simply gave me the lists of extruded/non-extruded cereals and thanked me for my interest. Anyway, just wanted to mention that if you are willing to contact companies, and want to take their word for it, some ARE offering non-extruded cereals.

    • thanks so much for taking the time to comment Jennifer! It always humbles me when people like you take the time to not only read our posts but digest it, have an opinion, idea or comment to share. Good for you for reaching out to these companies and putting your health first! Love to have you on our side!!

  3. Great read! Thanks for the info..I’ve been waning myself off cereals..I eat mostly Cascadia or Organics brand cereals. .Raisin Bran mail buy recently just tried their Cinnamon Crunch..ya know sometimes I taste a weird ‘roach spray’ taste occasionally with the Raisin Bran..OK..no I don’t know what Roach Spray taste like of course but it’s just a weird chemical taste..

  4. I make a box of kasha- toasted buckwheat groats and reheat in the microwave. It is a single ingredient, high protein food. My kids love the nutty flavor with just a bit of butter.

  5. Thank you very much for writing this post, esp. with the linked articles/publications! I cannot believe the kinds of things I am putting in my body every morning even with the so-called healthy options. I will now look for ways to step away from cereals altogether.

  6. Great post! Tupperware carries a “Microwave Breakfast Maker” that is so easy, anyone can use it! I love it for French toast, eggs, oats – whatever! I have also seen all sorts of things made in the Smart Steamer, including cinnamon rolls. 🙂 Good luck with the kids!

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