With coffee in hand and phone on “do not disturb” mode, you’re ready to conquer the day. You’re writing to-do lists, firing off a series of texts, and signing up for a 6 p.m. fitness class to blow some steam off at the end of the day. And to power you through all of it, you’re going to need a healthy breakfast — wait, a healthy cereal.
But as you’re already well aware, what may appear healthy on store shelves may be lacking in the nutrition department. These days, so many cereals advertised as healthy are really high in carbs, low in protein, and often list sugar in the top three ingredients.
To set the record straight, we’re taking a closer look at so-called healthy cereal brands that you might want to put back on the shelf.
12 Healthy Cereals That Aren’t as Healthy as You Think
The nutrition label on these 12 cereals leave much to be desired. Not that we’re judging — OK we’re heavily judging — but you may want to pick an alternative for the most important meal of the day.
Ah, the classic. Touted as a cereal that reduces cholesterol, Cheerios seems like a healthy choice, considering it’s gluten-free, has vitamins A, C, and D, and clocks in at just 100 calories per one cup serving.
But although a bowl of Cheerios is low-fat — with just 2 grams per cup — it has only 3 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbs. Not exactly ideal when you’re trying to stay full and avoid a major energy crash later in your day.
2. Smart Bran
Disclaimer, folks: There’s no guarantee Nature’s Path Smart Bran will make you smarter. But we can assure you this: With 17 grams of fiber in each bowl, it’ll fill you up for quite a while.
The downside? At just 4 grams of protein, you might feel a bit sluggish through the morning. You might want to top it with nut butter, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, and almond milk to add a bit more substance to your morning bowl.
3. Special K
Special K may have more types of cold, crunchy breakfast cereal (17!) than just about any other brand. The Special K Original is a low-sugar, whole grain cereal option that has been praised for its supposed weight loss benefits. Unfortunately, when you take a closer look at the nutrition label, the lack of protein and fiber leaves much to be desired.
If you can’t resist a bowl of Special K, stick to Original rather than varieties loaded with dried fruit or vanilla clusters. On average, most types of Special K have 10 grams or more of sugar per serving than the original.
4. Bear Naked Granola
If there was a queen of perceived healthy breakfast foods, granola would be sitting on her high throne. Unfortunately, Bear Naked Granola has more calories than ice cream sprinkles. (Seriously.)
High in calories, fat, and carbs, you should be wary of filling up an entire bowl of this stuff. Instead, try to use granola sparingly, as a topping for Greek yogurt, homemade parfaits, or mixed with fresh fruit.
5. Kashi Go
When it comes to high fiber and high protein, Kashi Go has a lot to offer — not as much to offer as others, but we digress. With 8 grams of protein in your average serving, Kashi looks like a viable option — until you see the 13 grams of sugar.
6. Frosted Mini Wheats
OK, so you might not have thought anything frosted would be considered healthy. But if you believe the marketing, Frosted Mini Wheats are loaded with nutrition. True, they do contain 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving, so we’ll give them a little credit there.
Not surprisingly, these frosted treats come with a whopping 11 grams of sugar per serving. With the frosting outweighing the shredded wheat portion of this cereal, they're certainly sweet, but they won’t be winning any “healthy cereal” awards.
7. Quaker Instant Oatmeal
You might assume oatmeal is automatically good for you, but it's by no means the healthiest option on this list. Maple & Brown Sugar, a Quaker crowd favorite, has 250 mg of sodium (11% of the daily value) and 7 grams of sugar per serving size.
While the primary ingredient is whole grain oats, the high sugar content may not be worth the extra calories. You’d be much better off making your own steel-cut or rolled oatmeal, then topping it with flax seeds, almond butter, and a non-dairy milk.
8. Fiber One
Instead of buying Fiber One plain cereal, you could pick up something slightly more intriguing — say, Fiber One Honey Clusters, which tastes like a cross between Corn Flakes and Honey Nut Cheerios.
This cereal carries about 210 grams of sodium per serving, 10 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of sugar. While fiber is good for you, consuming so much sugar and sodium in your morning bowl is probably not the best way to start your day.
9. Barbara’s Puffins
At first glance, Barbara’s Peanut Butter Puffins don’t seem half bad. They’re gluten-free (always a bonus in our books), non-GMO verified, and vegan.
But once you get into the nitty gritty on the nutrition label, this box leaves much to be desired. The second ingredient listed is cane sugar, resulting in 6 grams of sugar per serving and 23 grams of carbs.
10. Cascadian Farms Hearty Morning
Hearty Morning is a bona fide fiber cereal: Made with organic whole grain oats, crisp rice, honey, and 8 grams of fiber per serving, this non-GMO cereal might seem healthy in appearance.
Unfortunately, cane sugar is listed as the third ingredient, right after whole grain wheat and oats. If you're looking for a healthy, no-sugar cereal to fuel you through your day, this isn’t it.
11. Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs
It’s true Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs is rich in protein and fiber. Made with wheat, brown rice, oats, barley, and rye, 80% of Kashi's ingredients are organic. And with zero grams of sugar, this looks like a viable healthy breakfast bowl.
That is, until you take a peek at the carb content. Weighing in at 32 grams of carbs per serving, this bowl might not give you a sugar crash, but it will most likely give you a carb hangover.
12. Kellogg’s Raisin Bran
It’s a classic for sure, but Kellog’s Raisin Bran isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That iconic purple box may be an alluring bit of nostalgia, but with each one-cup serving comes a spoonful of sugar — a whopping 17 grams, in fact.
Overall, reading the nutrition label of this raisin bran is more like looking at the contents of a crunchy oatmeal raisin cookie rather than a healthy, protein-rich, nutrient-dense, good-for-you breakfast.
Cereal School Is the Healthy Cereal That’s Actually Healthy
When it comes to healthy cereal options, it’s hard to measure up to The Cereal School. (We don’t like to boast. On the other hand, humility has never been one of our strong suits.)
Made with all-natural ingredients (there’s nothing artificial ever) and containing 16 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbs, and exactly zero grams of sugar per serving, the Cereal School is the protein-packed, zero-sugar cereal that can help you start your day right.
Plus, we ship our cereal straight to you door, making it the most convenient, healthy breakfast you've tried yet.