The Best and Worst Breakfast Cereals


Breakfast cereals are a quick, easy and sometimes inexpensive way to get your day started. However, if you don’t pay attention, they can be packed with sugar and trigger a day full of sugar and carb cravings.

So how do you tell between types of cereal that will either fuel your day or will set you up for cravings? The secret lies in the sugar; more specifically, the ratio of sugar, fiber and protein.

You see, it’s not that sugar is a terrible thing. It can add flavor and a quick form of energy to start your day. It’s when there’s nothing to slow the sugar down. It then becomes a freight train of energy rushing into your system. This energy is processed very quickly, making it more likely to be stored as fat and less likely to keep you satisfied for very long.

The two speed bumps for the sugar freight train are fiber and protein. A good rule of thumb when looking at a breakfast cereal is to see if it has more fiber than sugar or more protein than sugar.

After looking at the fiber, sugar and protein, the next step is to check out the ingredients. If there are artificial ingredients or the refined grains are before the whole grains on the ingredient list, it is best to find another option.

Below I have listed three of the best and worst cereals on the market. For the worst list I chose cereals that give the impression of being healthy. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that if there is a cartoon animal on the front and the cereal is either neon or encased in sugar, it belongs on that list as well!

Best Breakfast Cereals


Calories: 100/cup
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 1g
Protein: 3g

Summary: Cheerios is an old reliable brand that is low in sugar and calories. However, since the protein and fiber are both under 8g, you may find that it is not as filling as some other brands. Try pairing it with Greek yogurt or a hard-boiled egg if you find that you are getting hungry too quickly.

KIND Health Grains

Calories: 210/ ½ cup
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 8g
Protein: 10g

Summary: The KIND Healthy Grains are packed with ancient grains, which make it a really nutrient dense option. The higher amounts of sugar is balanced out by the higher amounts of protein. However, watch the serving size. Although the ingredients should make it a very satisfying meal, the portion may leave you wanting more!

Kashi GoLean Original

Calories: 180/ 1 ¼ cup
Fiber: 13g
Sugar: 8g
Protein: 12g

Summary: Due to the high fiber, protein and larger portion size, this may be the most satisfying of the cereals listed!

Worst Breakfast Cereals

Fiber One

Calories: 210/cup
Fiber: 10g
Sugar: 9g
Protein: 4g

Summary: Looking at the fiber, sugar and protein you may be surprised that this is on my worst breakfast cereal list. However, when you look at the ingredients, it not only has 9g of sugar but also High Fructose Corn syrup, two types of artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors on top of that.

Special K Oats & Honey

Calories: 100/ 2/3 cup
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 8g
Protein: 2g

Summary: Sugar is the third ingredient in this cereal and honey is WAY on the bottom of the ingredient list. Although Oats & Honey may sound wholesome, it is important to distinguish between healthy marketing and healthy ingredients.


Honey Bunches of Oats

Calories: 120/ ¾ cup
Fiber: 2g
Sugar: 6g
Protein: 2g

Summary: Although this is high in sugar, what got it on the “worst” list was the ingredients. Most of the grains are refined and the many of the ingredients are sugars in different forms as well as artificial sweeteners.


Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist with a private practice in San Diego, CA. She speaks nationally on the topics of health and nutrition and has been cited as a nutrition expert by media such as NBC, FOX, SELF, Cosmopolitan and Dr. Oz The Good Life.Download her FREE 4 Step Nutrition Quick Start Guide and start feeling better today!

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