25 Worst Cereals to Stay Away From Right Now
If you like to grab a bowl of cereal to kick off your morning—or, as a convenient snack throughout the day—then you're definitely not alone. Over 283 million people in the United States ate cold cereal in 2020, according to Statista (which used numbers from the U.S. Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey). That tasty trend is unlikely to end anytime soon, which is why more than 290 million Americans are expected to be shopping for cereal in 2024. Unfortunately, despite their popularity, some types of cereal are relatively unhealthy. In fact, cereal might be much worse than you thought. But how do you know which ones are potentially problematic?
"The grams of sugar and fiber in a breakfast cereal will usually indicate right away whether it's a healthy option or not," Danielle McAvoy, Culinary RD and senior manager of nutrition at Territory Foods, tells Eat This, Not That! "Sugar should never be the first or second ingredient listed. A cereal with more than 7 grams of sugar per serving, especially added sugar, is not a very healthy breakfast food. And while no sugar is healthy, it's best from natural sources like honey and maple syrup. Avoid processed sugars like corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, etc."
Beyond that, McAvoy says that you "want to aim for at least 4 grams of fiber," while noting that "cereal made with refined grains rather than whole grains will have less fiber, so look for whole grains in the ingredient list." Finally, she points out that "cereals with other additives such as oils, preservatives, and artificial colors are also not the best choices."
With that in mind, you'll want to check out the following cereals that you'll want to avoid when you can. Then, for more healthy breakfast tips, make sure to check out 15 High-Fiber Breakfasts That Keep You Full.
Post Oreo O's
"Post Oreo O's have 17 grams of sugar per serving and only 1 gram of fiber," says McAvoy, while pointing out that this is one particular option that definitely isn't ideal when it comes to what it might offer you health wise. Beyond that, McAvoy notes that "Sugar is the second ingredient listed, followed by various refined oils, artificial flavors, and titanium dioxide" which isn't exactly the kind of combination you want in a cereal.
When you're craving cereal, you might want to grab something other than Kellogg's Krave. Although it promises to "satisfy your inner chocovore" with a chocolate center inside of a crunchy exterior, it won't satisfy your nutritional needs. While noting that it "has sugar and soybean oil listed as the first ingredients, as well as palm oil and brown sugar syrup," McAvoy points out that "it has 15 grams sugar per serving and only 2 grams of fiber."
Post Sour Patch Kids Cereal
"First of all, why?" McAvoy asks while mentioning Post Sour Patch Kids Cereal. Undoubtedly a questionable creation, it's a quirky cereal that was clearly inspired by the classic candy. That's why it shouldn't surprise you to find out that it's packed with sugar. In fact, McAvoy notes that it "has sugar listed as the very first ingredient, followed by hydrogenated oil, corn syrup, and tons of artificial colors." She adds, "With 13 grams sugar and less than 1 gram fiber, this is definitely one to avoid."
Chips Ahoy! Cereal
If you love Chips Ahoy! cookies, then you might also adore the cereal version of this tasty treat. Using "cookie bits" and cocoa to achieve the desired crunch and sweet flavor, it unfortunately also includes 11 grams of sugar and caramel color, but only 1 gram of fiber.
Apples and cinnamon are a delightfully delicious combination, and when it comes to Apple Jacks, Kellogg's uses three different grains and claims that this cereal is "an excellent source of 8 vitamins and minerals." However, Krutika Nanavati RD, registered dietitian and nutritionist practicing in New Zealand and a medical advisor at Clinicspots, brings up the fact that it also relies on artificial flavoring along with 13 grams of sugar and 210 milligrams of sodium.
If you're a fan of Lucky Charms, then you might be aware that it now comes in a variety of options such as Chocolate Lucky Charms, Lucky Charms S'mores, and Lucky Charms Marshmallow Clusters. Although each has its own specific nutritional content, they all contain "high sugar content and artificial flavorings," according to Nanavati. It's also a kind of cereal that Kiran Campbell, RD, suggests taking off of your grocery list if you would rather have something that benefits your health.
Kellogg's Fruit Loops may be a beloved classic, but it's a cereal that uses potentially problematic ingredients. This includes butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), which is a food preservative that General Mills removed from their cereals back in 2015 due to a stir caused by the fact that BHT had been connected to cancer in rodent studies. Fruit Loops also uses artificial colors to achieve their vibrant shades such as red 40, yellow 5, blue 1, and yellow 6, which may not be ingredients health-conscious consumers want to see in their cereal.
Cookie Crisp is another cereal that both Nanavati and Campbell advise against eating on a regular basis due to the amount of sugar that's used, and the fact that it doesn't offer you much in the way of fiber. That's surely why, in the way that you might save cookies for an occasional snack or dessert, you may want to do the same with Cookie Crisp.
Along with listing both sugar and brown sugar among its primary ingredients as well as salt, Cap'n Crunch uses dyes to achieve its treasure-worthy golden color such as yellow 5 and yellow 6. That's not to mention the use of BHT, too.
Trix may be appreciated by silly rabbits, however, according to Campbell, you might want to leave them to the cartoon characters. In order to come up with their fruity taste, this cereal uses 10 grams of sugar and artificial flavors. It also uses a number of artificial colors to achieve its signature shades. In fact, there are so many that they don't list them all on the side of the box but merely note that along with red 40, yellow 6, and blue 1, there is "other color added."
Fruity Pebbles is a cereal that uses a range of dyes for the colors and both BHT and BHA (beta hydroxy acids). The latter is another form of food preservative, which is why Campbell adds Fruity Pebbles to her list of less-than-ideal cereal options.
Flintstones-fronted Cocoa Pebbles is a safe choice for anyone who needs to eat gluten-free food. Granted, if you choose this as your breakfast, then you have to ignore the fact that it also has 12 grams of sugar and 220 milligrams of sodium. On top of that, although it doesn't have BHA like Fruity Pebbles, it does have BHT. That means instead of yabba, dabba, do, we have to say yabba, dabba, don't!
You'll be adding 9 grams of sugar to your meal every time you sit down for a serving of Reese's Puffs. A cereal that Campbell doesn't recommend, you might also want to consider the fact that out of 120 calories in each serving, 30 of those calories come from fat.
Campbell also mentions Wheat Chex, which may sound like a healthy choice, but it happens to contain 8 grams of sugar along with 210 calories per serving. If you add half a cup of skim milk on top of that, then you need to bump the number up to 250 calories.
Plenty of people opt for Corn Flakes as their go-to choice for healthy cereal. That's likely because it only contains 4 grams of sugar per serving. On the other hand, you should note that each bowl will include 300 milligrams of sodium and 210 calories if you stick to just 3/4 cup of skim milk. Eating dry cereal will be 150 calories, but who wants to eat cereal without milk?
Frosted Flakes boasts a sweet coating that gives it both its name and its taste. As you might expect, it also means there's more sugar than other cereal options. For instance, while a serving of Corn Flakes has 4 grams of sugar, a bowl of Frosted Flakes has 13 grams of sugar.
Honey Smacks used to be known as Sugar Smacks, and although the product may have changed its name, it still lives up to its former moniker. That's because each serving contains 18 grams of sugar per serving, which Nanavati points out is undeniably a "high sugar content."
Corn Pops are both tasty and fun thanks to the fact that they, well, pop in your mouth. Unfortunately, that's not enough of a reason to overlook the fact that the cereal also contains an unhealthy amount of sugar per serving. Beyond that, it owes its color to annatto extract, which has been linked to allergic reactions such as hives and swelling, as well as anaphylaxis.
If the name Franken Berry isn't enough to scare you off, then maybe the sugar content will do the trick. With 11 grams of sugar per serving as well as 190 milligrams of sodium, this cereal may be a decent choice for a monster, but you deserve something better for your body.
Count Chocula may sound like it's the kind of cereal that will take a bite out of you, but keep in mind that it's not something that you should be taking a bite of every morning. High in sugar and sodium, it doesn't offer you much else, especially when it comes to beneficial nutrients.
Cocoa Krispies might seem like a slightly sweeter version of Rice Crispies, however, the chocolatey version snap, crackle, and pops the number of calories up significantly. While the classic option contains 4 grams of sugar per serving, the cocoa variation has an additional 9 grams.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
When you pour yourself a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, you'll end up eating little squares that are dusted with a sweet flavor. Granted, you'll also be consuming sugar, fructose, dextrose, and BHT, as well as maltodextrin, which has been connected to allergic reactions, gut issues, and weight gain.
Golden Grahams promises that it doesn't use high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors and flavors. Unfortunately, it still does include 9 grams of sugar and 230 milligrams of sodium, yet only 1 gram of fiber.
If you go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, you might want to start redirecting that enthusiasm toward another cereal option. This will help you cut out the 14 grams of sugar and 300 milligrams of sodium that you can find in every serving.
Honey Nut Cheerios
Honey? Nuts? Yum! In fact, Honey Nut Cheerios uses real honey with natural almond flavor to create the taste that you may have been savoring since your childhood. Unfortunately, that sweetness comes with 12 grams of sugar in each serving as well as 210 milligrams of sodium which is definitely a sour note.