When I was doing research for The Unhealthiest Cereals on the Planet, one thing caught my eye: General Mills’ isn’t the only company who makes a “Honey Nut”-flavored cereal. There are almost a dozen other cereals that season their grains with this dynamic duo of flavors. And while each cereal differs in their appearance and exact recipe, there is one thing that is glaringly missing from each: nuts!
Do you see any nuts on those cereal boxes? Neither do we. So, why are all of these cereal flavors called Honey Nut? What’s the deal here?
The secret lies in the ingredients. Upon closer inspection of the Nutrition Facts panel, we found our answer: “Natural Almond Flavor.” (We later realized it actually says it on the front of the box, too, but sleuthing through a list of 11 ingredients made us feel like we were uncovering a secret.) So, yes, there are no whole nuts in these cereals—but were there ever?
This current recipe is, in fact, a change from the original 1979 formulation. The first recipe did contain real ground almonds until 2006, but the nuts were then replaced with the “natural almond flavor” you see today.
We initially guessed the company probably ditched the real almonds to accommodate those with nut allergies, but Honey Nut Cheerios boxes still bear a warning to consumers that they “Contain Almond Ingredients.” So, maybe they just switched to almond flavor to cut costs. (That’s likely the same reason why these Cheerios are sweetened with honey and sugar and brown sugar syrup.)
If you’re allergic to nuts, it may still be unwise to try this cereal. While The New York Times reports that most “natural almond flavor” is made from ground-up pits of peaches and apricots, we’ll never actually know what goes into the flavor because the FDA doesn’t require General Mills to tell us. Maybe they do really use “Almond Ingredients” or maybe they don’t. But, either way, those peach and apricot pits can also trigger a response in those with nut allergies, so it will still be safer to avoid it.
Even though Honey Nut Cheerios aren’t made with whole almonds anymore, that shouldn’t stop you from tossing a couple in your bowl. Rich in healthy monounsaturated fats that help to slow digestion and lower cholesterol, almonds are a great addition to any breakfast.