Breakfast Cereal: 8 Healthy, Great Tasting Picks (cont.)

The U.S. Government's Dietary Reference Intakes recommend that added sugars not exceed 25% of total calories (to ensure sufficient intake of micronutrients). And while there isn't a specific guideline for cereal, it makes sense to aim for a cereal that gets 25% or less of its calories from sugar. (If the cereal contains dried fruit, this could be a pinch higher.)

To calculate the percentage of calories from sugar in your cereal:

  • Multiply the grams of sugar per serving by 4 (there are 4 calories per gram of sugar).
  • Divide this number (calories from sugar) by the total number of calories per serving.
  • Multiply this number by 100 to get the percentage of calories from sugar.

While you can find plenty of cereals with 5 grams of fiber per serving or more, some of them go a little bit over the "25% calories from sugar" guideline. But if the percentage of sugar calories is still below 30%, the first ingredient is a whole grain, and the cereal tastes good, it may still be a good choice overall. Here are two examples:

  • Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats Strawberry Delight, with 5 grams of fiber and 12 grams of sugar per serving (about 27% calories from sugar). The first three ingredients are whole-grain wheat, sugar, and strawberry-flavored crunchlets (sugar, corn cereal, corn syrup are the first three ingredients for these). A pleasant surprise: The strawberry coating creates a strawberry-flavored milk when you pour milk in your cereal.
  • Kashi GoLean Crunch, with 8 grams of fiber and 13 grams of sugar per serving (27% calories from sugar). The first three ingredients are Kashi Seven Whole Grains & Sesame Cereal (whole oats, long grain brown rice, rye, hard red winter wheat, triticale, buckwheat, barley, sesame seeds); textured soy protein concentrate; and evaporated cane juice. This is basically a kashi-fied version of granola, and 3 grams of the 8 grams of fiber is from soluble fiber (thanks to the oats and barley).

Choosing a Healthy Breakfast Cereal: 8 Good-Tasting Picks

After some taste testing and input from acquaintances, I came up with eight picks for the best-tasting healthful breakfast cereals. The cereals on my list had to have a whole grain as the first ingredient and 5 grams of fiber per serving. Sugar had to be around 25% calories from sugar or less, unless dried fruit was among the top three ingredients. I also tried to choose cereals that are easily found in the supermarket.

  1. Post Grape-Nuts Trail Mix Crunch: 5 grams fiber, and 22% calories from sugar. The first three ingredients are whole grain wheat, malted barley, and sugar, followed by raisins and wheat bran.
  2. Fiber One Bran Cereal: 14 grams fiber, 0% calories from sugar. First three ingredients are whole-grain wheat bran, corn bran, and cornstarch. This cereal only appeals to some people. I would suggest enhancing the flavor with cinnamon, fresh or dried fruit, and/or roasted nuts.
  3. Fiber One Honey Clusters: 13 grams fiber, 15% calories from sugar. The first three ingredients are whole-grain wheat, corn bran, and wheat bran.
  4. Quaker Oatmeal Squares: 5 grams fiber, 19% calories from sugar. The first three ingredients are whole oat flour, whole-wheat flour, and brown sugar.
  5. Shredded Wheat: 6 grams fiber, 0% calories from sugar (for a generic brand). The only ingredient is 100% whole grain cereal. I enjoy this with added fresh or dried fruit and nuts. If you opt for the frosted variety, it has 6 grams fiber and gets 23% of its calories from sugar.
  6. Frosted Mini Wheats: 6 grams fiber, 24% calories from sugar. The first three ingredients are whole-grain wheat, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup.
  7. Raisin Bran: 7 grams fiber, 40% calories from sugar (in Kellogg's brand). The first three ingredients are whole wheat, raisins, and wheat bran). Sugar is listed fourth in the ingredient list, but many of the calories from sugar come from the raisins.
  8. Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat Cereal: 5 grams fiber, 18% calories from sugar. The first three ingredients are whole oat flour, oat bran, and evaporated cane juice. This is a higher-fiber alternative to Cheerios. I think they taste better, too. But that may be because there is more sweetener added (the evaporated cane juice).

Medically Reviewed July 3, 2007.


SOURCES: Sandra G. Affenito, PhD, RD, CDN, associate professor, department of nutrition, Saint Joseph College, West Hartford, Conn. Jensen, M.K., et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2006; vol 83, No. 2: pp 275-283. Affenito, S.G., Journal of the Dietetic Association, April 2007; vol 107(4): pp 565-569. Liu, S., et al., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003; vol 77: pp 594-599. Barton, B.A., et al., Journal of the American Dietetic Association, September 2005; vol 105(9): pp 1383-1389. Coyle, E.F., et al., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2003; vol 78(4): pp 742-748. Jensen, M.K., et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2004; vol 80(6): pp 1492-1499. Rimm, E., et al., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2004; vol 80(5): pp 1237-1245. Liu, S., et al., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2003; vol 78(5): pp 920-927.

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