Cereal is a convenient, affordable, and familiar breakfast food. But out of the dozens of options available in a grocery store, which one is the healthiest breakfast cereal?
I delved into the websites of 3 major Canadian cold breakfast cereal manufacturers: Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Post to get the 4-1-1 on this popular food item. I reviewed the Nutrition Facts tables of all the brands to make my recommendations.
You might be wondering, what separates a healthier breakfast cereal from a less healthy choice? Three nutrients I looked at are sugar, fibre, and protein.
First, let’s talk sugar. Thanks to our industrial food system, sugar is cheap and abundant, which means manufacturers are adding it en mass to everything from ketchup to peanut butter to … you guessed it… breakfast cereal. The WHO recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total daily energy intake, or approximately 40-50 grams for someone taking in 1600-2000 kcal/day. Based on the WHO recommendation, I set a sugar limit of 13 g / 50 g serving for the cereal to be included on this list.
Second, let’s look at fibre. This non-digestible component of foods play an important role in gut health, heart health, and there’s increasing evidence to suggest that it may influence the immune system and mental illnesses through the bacteria in the large intestines. Given that most Canadian adults do not get the recommended amount of fibre (about 21-38 grams), I looked for a high fibre cereal that will provide at least 5 grams of fibre / 50 g serving.
I added one last criteria for my rating system: protein. Although this isn’t a nutrient of concern for most Canadians (not even vegetarians), having protein with a meal can slow down the digestive process, which means you feel fuller for longer. For those with concerns about blood sugar management, having some protein with your meal means your sugars are less likely to spike too. Protein may also benefit seniors, as diet higher in protein may prevent lean muscle loss. I looked for cereal that contained at least 4 grams of protein/ 50 g serving.
Tip: To quickly assess if the cereal is a health conscious choice, add up the protein and fibre. If that’s about the same as the amount of sugar, the cereal is probably a good choice for most days; if not, consider a different cereal.
To qualify for this list, the cereal must meet the following criteria:
- At least 5 grams of fibre per 50 gram serving.
- At least 4 grams of protein per 50 gram serving.
- No more than 13 grams of sugar per 50 gram serving.
The options I’ve listed are by no means exhaustive, but they provide a good starting point.
Here are the healthiest breakfast cereals:
Special K Protein Cereal
- 10 g of protein per 50 g serving.
- Also fortified with vitamin D, another micronutrient many Canadians don’t get enough of– score!
- Other cereals in the Special K line up didn’t contain enough fibre.
All-Bran Flakes & Original
- Consider adding some berries, 1/2 sliced banana, or sliced almonds for flavour!
- Consider mixing this cereal into muffins and pancakes, or use it as a coating for breading chicken or fish to increase fibre.
All-Bran Strawberry Flavour Cereal
- Also very low in sodium, only 15 mg per serving! Most other cereals contain ~100-200 mg.
Muslix Cereals: Harvest Fruit & Apple Crisp Flavours
- The other flavours didn’t have enough fibre, or were slightly too high in sugar.
Mini-Wheats: Harvest Blueberry, Raspberry, Brown Sugar, Maple, & Original Frosted
All-Bran Buds & Multi-Grain Crunch
- Add this to cereals, yogurt, or oatmeal to boost your fibre intake.
- Contains psyllium fibre, which has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol.
All-Bran Cranberries & Clusters
Edge with Protein: Maple & Honey Almond
- Another high protein option for those with more active lifestyles.
- Seniors may also benefit from this option, getting more protein can help preserve lean muscle mass as we age.
Oatmeal Crisp: Apple Crisp
- The only flavour in the Oatmeal Crisp line up that met the 5 g of fibre/ 50 g serving criteria.
- Some of the other flavours were slightly higher in sugar.
Shreddies: Original, Honey, & Banana Bread
- Honey and Banana Bread flavoured cereals are slightly higher in sugar compared to the Original.
Shredded Wheat: Original Big Biscuit, Shredded Wheat & Bran, & Original Spoon Size
- Contains no sugar or sodium!
- Consider adding flavour and nutrition with berries, nuts such as almonds or walnuts, and seeds like pumpkin or sunflower.
- A good option for those looking for lower sugar cereals (4 g sugar/ 50 g serving).
Great Grains: Nut Medley Flavour
- This flavour’s slightly higher fibre content helped it make the list, the Raisin Date Pecan flavour didn’t quite meet the criteria.
- Another option that’s great for adding to lower fibre cereals, yogurt, or baked goods to boost up the fibre content.
The next time you’re choosing breakfast cereal, check out the Nutrition Facts table to help you decide which box to take home. Depending on what your needs are, you might look for lower sugar (people with diabetes or pre-diabetes), higher protein (more active lifestyle or seniors), or higher fibre (benefits almost everyone). To boost up the nutrition content, consider adding nuts, seeds, and fruit, or mixing two cereals together to get the best of both!