13 Healthy Cereals Nutrition Pros Swear By
Your favorite “healthy” cereal may not be as nutritious as you think. Pour a better bowl with these nutrition expert-approved options
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How to find a healthy cereal
Even though there are plenty of healthy breakfast recipes to pick from, sometimes a cold bowl of cereal is just what you need. That doesn’t mean you should reach for the favorites from your childhood. “Ninety-eight percent of available cereals are junk, so it’s actually pretty easy to pick a healthy one,” says Tamara Duker Freuman, a New York City-based dietitian who works with a gastroenterology practice. High sugar content disqualifies most brands, she says. Even many whole-grain kinds of cereal with healthy-sounding names may be lower in fiber or higher in sugar than you’d think; you really have to look at labels and ingredients. To save you time, we rounded up the top picks that nutrition experts actually eat.
Uncle Sam Original Whole Wheat & Flaxseed Cereal
“For me, criteria for a truly healthy cereal are 100 percent whole grain, with at least 3 grams of fiber (and ideally 4 to 5), 2 grams or less of added sugar, and a recognizable and reasonably short ingredient list, devoid of lots processed ingredients and artificial preservatives like BHT. I also prefer cereals whose fiber comes from whole grains/bran rather than functional/added fibers like inulin/chicory root fiber, which can be very gassy for some people and are the mark of a more processed food. Uncle Sam’s is one of a few cereals that meets these rules. Others include: Erewhon Quinoa & Chia, Uncle Sam Original, Original Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, and Arrowhead Mills Kamut Flakes.” — Tamara Duker Freuman, RD, New York
Nutrition info per 3/4 cup serving: 190 calories, 5g fat, 10g fiber, 7g protein, 1g sugar
Barbara’s Bakery Original Puffins
“Since so many of my clients have blood sugar and obesity issues, I recommend cereals with 5 or more grams fiber per serving and 5 or fewer grams of sugar per serving. As you can imagine, this is not a wide playing field! Barbara’s Puffins cereal fits my criteria perfectly.” — Cheryl Forberg, chef and nutritionist for NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Here’s how to build the perfect healthy cereal bowl.
Nutrition info per 3/4 cup serving: 90 calories, 1g fat, 5g fiber, 2g protein, 5g sugar
Cascadian Farms Purely O’s Cereal
“Cascadian Farms makes great kid-friendly cereals with organic ingredients. Similar to Cheerios in taste, these come in different flavors including chocolate, honey, and fruitful O’s, which are colored naturally (unlike that yucky artificial stuff) using ingredients such as elderberry juice and turmeric.” — Joanna Li, nutritionist at Foodtrainers in NYC.
Nutrition info per 1 1/4 cup serving: 120 calories, 1.5g fat, 3g fiber, 3g protein, 1g sugar
Erewhon Corn Flakes
“I love the flavor of corn, which is a whole grain, and Erewhon’s corn flakes are organic, gluten-free, and unsweetened. In fact, the only ingredients are organic corn and sea salt, but the sodium is quite low at 60 mg per cup, 3 percent of the daily value. Because it’s not high in fiber and it’s easy to digest, it makes a great pre-exercise breakfast or snack, along with a little almond milk and banana slices.” — Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian and author of the New York Times bestseller S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Don’t miss these hacks to make your bowl of cereal even healthier.
Nutrition info per 1 cup serving: 130 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, 3g protein, 0g sugar
Kashi Go Lean Crunch Honey Almond Flax
“This Kashi cereal is a great combination of healthy ingredients providing a powerhouse breakfast for busy people. It’s a good source of protein with 9 grams per serving—about the same amount in an egg. The average American gets only 10 to 13 grams of fiber per day, so this cereal’s 8 grams per serving can be an important source. Almonds and flax boost levels of omega 3 fatty acids. By some estimates, Americans eat almost 10 times the amount of omega 6 fatty acids versus omega 3 fatty acids, an imbalance that may contribute to inflammation.” — Roberta Anding, clinical dietitian & director of sports nutrition, Baylor College of Medicine.
Nutrition info per 2/3 cup serving: 200 calories, 5g fat, 8g fiber, 9g protein, 12g sugar
Purely Elizabeth Ancient Grain Granola Cereal
“Not all gluten-free cereals are created equal, but Purely Elizabeth is a great one. It is slightly sweetened with coconut palm sugar (not evaporated cane sugar like most are). Chia seeds add a boost of omega-3s. The fat from the coconut oil contributes to making you feel full and also helps you burn fat.” — Joanna Li, nutritionist at Foodtrainers in NYC. Try adding some blueberries to your cereal bowl for these benefits.
Nutrition info per 1/3 cup serving: 140 calories, 6g fat, 2g fiber, 4g protein, 6g sugar
Bear Naked Granola
“When I don’t have time to make my own granola, Bear Naked is one of my favorite brands. To keep the servings large and the calories low I serve my cereal bottoms up! I fill my bowl with fruit, then I add 1/3 cup of fat-free milk or almond milk and top it with 1/3 cup of granola cereal for a perfectly portioned bowl that keeps me satisfied until lunch.” — Gina Homolka, author, photographer, and recipe developer of Skinnytaste.com.
Nutrition info per 1/4 cup serving of Protein Granola Honey Almond: 140 calories, 7g fat, 2g fiber, 10g protein, 5g sugar
Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal
“The sprouted factor makes this Ezekiel cereal a win. Sprouting makes grains easier to digest and the nutrients more easily absorbed. It also provides a protein and fiber punch, with 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber plus no sugar.” — Joanna Li, nutritionist at Foodtrainers in NYC.
Nutrition info per 1/2 cup serving: 190 calories, 1g fat, 6g fiber, 8g protein, 0g sugar
Natures Path Q’ia Superfood Chia, Buckwheat & Hemp Cereal, Original Flavor
“This is my favorite cereal—and I don’t like many. I love it with warm almond milk or as a granola substitute on top of yogurt or cottage cheese. It has no added sugar, is high in protein (6 grams per serving), organic, non-GMO, and filled with fiber and omega-3s. What more could you want from a cereal?” — Brooke Alpert, a registered dietitian and the founder of B Nutritious in New York City.
Nutrition info per 2 tbsp serving: 140 calories, 7g fat, 4g fiber, 6g protein, 0g sugar
Kashi Good Friends
“I always recommend Kasha Good Friends this to clients. It’s Kashi’s original cereal and in my opinion, their best. It tastes good and is super high in fiber (12 grams per serving), which makes it extremely filling. Have a little bit on top of some Greek yogurt with some berries for breakfast. You will not be hungry before lunch!” — Rachel Meltzer Warren, a registered dietitian and the author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian.
Nutrition info per 1 cup serving: 160 calories, 1.5g fat, 12g fiber, 5g protein, 10g sugar
“A hot cereal that has fallen under the radar, Wheatena has 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per serving and zero sodium. It’s a great alternative to oatmeal. Whole grains like whole wheat may help protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers and help keep your gastrointestinal tract running smoothly.” — Samantha Heller, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Cancer Care Center at Griffin Hospital in Derby, CT.
Nutrition info per 1 cup serving: 130 calories, 1g fat, 7g fiber, 5g protein, 0g sugar
Nature’s Path SmartBran Cereal
“Unlike many other commercial high-fiber bran cereals, this one does not contain high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. The whole grains provide a mildly sweet, nutty flavor and it maintains its crunch. I add fresh berries or use it in a yogurt parfait.” — Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian and the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice in New York City.
Nutrition info per 1/2 cup serving: 80 calories, 1g fat, 13g fiber, 3g protein, 6g sugar
Arrowhead Mills Steel Cut Oats Hot Cereal
“We love this oatmeal because it’s thick, hearty, and satisfying. Plus, a warm breakfast is calming. This is made from the whole grain organic cereal. What’s more, it has 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber in the 160-calorie serving. It’s also sodium-free. Think oatmeal is bland? Stir in peanut butter to make the oatmeal feel more buttery and rich. You can also add sliced apple chunks for additional nutrients, fiber, and a sweet flavor burst.” — Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse (“Lyssie”) Lakatos (The Nutrition Twins), authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure.
Nutrition info per 1/4 cup serving: 160 calories, 3g fat, 4g fiber, 6g protein, 0g sugar
Next, don’t miss these high-protein breakfast ideas.
- Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, a New York City–based dietitian
- Cheryl Forberg, RD, chef and nutritionist for NBC's The Biggest Loser.
- Gina Homolka, author, photographer, and recipe developer, Skinnytaste.com.
- Joanna Li, RD, nutritionist.
- Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of the New York Times best seller S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.
- Roberta Anding, MS, RD, clinical dietitian & director of sports nutrition, Baylor College of Medicine.
- Annabel Adams, Feed Me, I'm Cranky.
- Brooke Alpert, RD, founder of B Nutritious
- Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN, author of The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian.
- Samantha Heller, MS, RD, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Cancer Care Center at Griffin Hospital in Derby, CT.
- Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse ("Lyssie") Lakatos (The Nutrition Twins), authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure.