The Best Whole Grain Cereals

whole grain cereal

The term whole grain has become a lot more complicated than it sounds.  A quick walk down the cereal aisle of the grocery store would make you believe that practically every packaged product is made from whole grains.  This is not the case – and not all whole grain products are created equal.  Here’s what you need to know when shopping for cereal.

Statements like these don’t mean much:

“Now made with whole grains!”

“10 grams of whole grains in every serving”

“Includes whole grains in every bite!”

These types of claims usually appear on the least nutritious sugar cereals like Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Trix, etc.  While these cereals do include some sort of whole grain, they are are not 100% whole grain and don’t contain much heart healthy fiber – plus they’re still loaded with sugar.

Processed Whole Grains vs. “Intact” Whole Grains

Some cereals are made from whole grains that have been ground into flours and combined with thickeners, flavorings, vitamins, and other ingredients during the cereal-making process.  These cereals may still be very healthy, but anytime you heavily process something you lose some of the nutritional benefits.  Studies have shown that “intact” grains – grain kernels that are eaten in their pure form – are better at lowering cholesterol and maintaining heart health than highly processed whole grains.  Here are a few (tasty!) cold cereal options made from intact whole grains:

  • Uncle Sam (ingredients: whole wheat kernels, flax seed, salt, barley malt)
  • Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice (ingredients: organic brown rice, barley malt, sea salt)
  • Bob’s Red Mill Meusli (ingredients: whole wheat, dates, sunflower seeds, raisins, whole grain rye, whole grain barley, whole grain oats, whole grain triticale, flaxseed, almonds, walnuts)
  • Kashi Autumn Wheat (ingredients: organic whole wheat, organic sugar, natural flavor)
  • Kashi Simply Maize (ingredients: organic corn, organic sugar, salt, organic molasses)
  • Barbara’s Shredded Wheat (ingredients: 100% whole wheat)

How to Pick Out a Healthy Cereal

There are many kinds of whole grains – wheat, oats, corn, brown rice, rye, barley, quinoa, etc – that can be turned into hot and cold cereals.  Thus you have many delicious whole grain cereal options to choose from.  Aim to buy and try a variety of cereals, so you get a wide variety of nutrients from these tasty grains.  Here’s what to look for when shopping for a cereal:

  • At least 3 grams of fiber per 100 calories (so if a cereal has 200 calories per serving, it should have at least 6 grams of fiber) – this is a sign that the cereal is truly whole grain
  • 6 or less grams of sugar per serving (cereals with raisins or other dried fruit will have more, which is OK)
  • Organic or natural brands that are made with responsibly grown ingredients (the word “natural” on a food label doesn’t mean much, but many brands in the natural foods sector offer healthier cereals made with healthier ingredients)
  • Some other healthy cereals I recommend
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5 Responses to The Best Whole Grain Cereals

  1. The only grocery store with in 20 miles of our office is a small town econo-box. (20,000 sf). They don’t carry Uncles Sam, Barbara or Kashi.

    We get Post and Kellogg. I’m currently lunching a 50/50 mix of Post Great Grain and Kellogg Original All Bran. I throw a couple raisins in the mix also. 2% milk.

    Any suggestions on a healthier alternative, that I might still be able to get at the local store? I don’t mind mixing my own.

    I’d appreciate any help you could offer.

    • I think the cereals you’re selecting are good options, given your grocery store constraints. Shredded Wheat is also a good option, since it’s very simple, ingredients-wise. Regular hot oatmeal or other hot cereal would also be good options.

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