Best breakfast cereals

From Cheerios to granola, seven ways to get your child's school day off to a healthy start.

By GreatSchools Staff

Oats

Humble cereal grains, take note: Sometimes a classic can't be beat. Available in both rolled and (classier) steel-cut varieties, oats are healthy — not to mention dirt-cheap.

They're ubiquitous too. When you're shopping, check the bulk bins of health food and upscale grocery stores, where they often sell for around a dollar a pound. (Compare that to the price of boxed cereals, and it's not hard to see why the breakfast cereal industry has 45% profit margins.) Steel-cut oats take about 20 minutes to cook; rolled oats, roughly 5; and "quick," about 1.

For rolled, try Quaker ($5.49 for 42 oz, or $0.13/oz), and for steel-cut, try McCann's ($7.69 for 28 oz, or $0.27/oz) or Bob's Red Mill ($5.49 for 24 oz, or $0.23/oz). Also available in bulk (steel-cut go for $1.49/lb., or $0.09/oz, at Whole Foods).

Ingredients: Oats

Shredded Wheat: Spoon Size Original

Invented in 1893 and originally manufactured by the Natural Foods Company in Niagara Falls, N.Y., these crunchy squares are an American breakfast staple.

Sure, Shredded Wheat ($2.99 for 16.4 oz, or $0.18/oz) might be a little on the bland side, but the cereal is low in fat and — at 6 g per serving — a great source of fiber. You can add flavor with a handful of fresh or frozen strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries.

Ingredients: Whole-grain wheat; to preserve the natural wheat flavor, BHT is added to the packaging material.
Nutrition: 6 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugars

Cheerios

Packed with whole-grain oats, these simple Os are a childhood standby. In fact, they're so innocuous you can feed them to babies.

But even if Cheerios ($4.79 for 18 oz, or $0.27/oz) are healthier than most cereals, don't fall for the "it lowers your cholesterol" hype. That claim is based on a study commissioned by General Mills, in which participants replaced almost a quarter of their daily calories with bowl after bowl of the cereal.

Ingredients: Whole-grain oats, modified cornstarch, sugar, oat bran, salt, calcium carbonate, oat fiber, tripotassium phosphate, cornstarch, wheat starch; vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) added to preserve freshness.
Nutrition: 3 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugars

Kashi Go Lean

As cereals go, this one's hard to beat. Though the brand clearly targets a diet-conscious group, Kashi Go Lean ($3.99 for 14 oz, or $0.29/oz) is a healthy cereal that's not just for hardcore dieters and athletes. It's also not as gimmicky as the packaging might lead you to expect.

Very high in protein and fiber, Go Lean is a mix of red wheat, brown rice, oats, triticale (a rye-wheat hybrid), barley rye, buckwheat, and sesame seeds, lightly sweetened with cane sugar and honey.

On top of its health benefits, the cereal has a sweet but not-too-sweet nutty, grainy taste, while packing a nice crunch.

Ingredients: Soy grits, Kashi seven whole grains & sesame (hard red wheat, brown rice, whole-grain oats, triticale, barley rye, buckwheat, sesame seeds), evaporated cane juice syrup, cornmeal, corn flour, soy protein, wheat bran, oat fiber, corn bran, honey, evaporated cane juice, natural flavors, calcium carbonate, salt, annatto color.
Nutrition: 10 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugars

Cascadian Farm Pomegranate Raspberry Clusters

Cascadian Farm Pomegranate Raspberry Clusters with flax ($3.99 for 8.5 oz, or $0.47/oz) is what happens when food trends hit breakfast cereal. But that's to not say a trend can't be a good thing. This cereal is organic and healthy, with a slight pomegranate taste that puts it in a flavor category a few steps above, say, Cheerios.

All in all, it's a unique cereal we'll venture to call pome-great.

Ingredients: Whole-grain wheat*, cornmeal*, cane juice*, whole-grain oats*, evaporated cane juice*, whole flaxseed*, crisp rice* (rice flour*, malt extract*, evaporated cane juice*, sea salt, and rice extract*), brown rice syrup*, sea salt, malt extract*, tapioca starch*, maltodextrin*, dried raspberry juice concentrate*, dried pomegranate juice concentrate*, natural flavor, dried cranberry juice concentrate*; vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) added to preserve freshness.
Nutrition: 4 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugars

* denotes organic ingredients

Bear Naked Fit: Triple Berry Crunch

Bear Naked ($4.49 for 12 oz, or $0.37/oz) makes a popular line of natural granolas and heavily promotes its natural cred: "No artificial flavors, no cholesterol, no hydrogenated oils, no high-fructose corn syrup, no preservatives, and 0 g trans fat."

So what's actually in this cereal? Oats, rice, freeze-dried berries, a little bit of sweetener, and — perhaps to satisfy the more spiritually inclined consumers among us — luo han fruit concentrate. (The Chinese fruit is named for the luóhàn, Buddhists who have reached nirvana.)

Fans of Triple Berry Crunch would do well to try Bear Naked's other flavors, which range from Flax to Banana Nut.

Ingredients: Whole-grain oats, brown rice syrup, whole-grain crisp rice (whole-grain rice, barley malt), oat bran, evaporated cane juice, ground flaxseeds, freeze-dried raspberries, freeze-dried strawberries, freeze-dried blueberries, natural flavors, luo han fruit concentrate.
Nutrition: 3 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugars

Dorset Cereals Simply Delicious Muesli

This new-ish cereal comes from a small company with headquarters in Dorset, England. Dorset Simply Delicious Muesli ($7.99 for 19 oz, or $0.42/oz) is a tasty, if expensive, muesli.

Packed with three types of raisins along with hazelnuts and Brazil nuts, Simply Delicious is an inspired take on a Swiss recipe.

Ingredients: Oat flakes, wheat flakes, barley flakes, sultanas (7%), raisins (6%), Chilean flame raisins (5.5%), toasted and malted wheat flakes (wheat, malt), sunflower seeds (4%), dates (3.5%), Brazil nuts (2.5%), whole roasted hazelnuts (1.5%).
Nutrition: 4 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugars