Is Breakfast Cereal Healthy?

Despite a big nostalgia for the breakfast cereals of our childhoods, it’s time to put on our big kid pants and face the facts: the majority of our most beloved breakfast cereals just aren’t that great for us.  Sugar--the not-so-secret ingredient to making anything palatable for a child — is a primary ingredient in most breakfast cereals.

But what about your bowl of Wheaties, you ask? Is that as sugar-laden too? Should we put our spoons down, and give up on breakfast cereal altogether? Well, BodyRockers that's what we're here to find out: is breakfast cereal healthy?

How’s It Made

Let’s learn how cereal goes from a pile of grains to what we see lining the aisle of the grocery store. It all begins with de-germinated grain--regular or organic--that's ground down into a flour and mixed with things like sugar or cocoa before it's extruded (heated at high heat, sapping it of its nutritional benefits). While your doughy mixture is being processed, it's colored, texturized and shaped.

Cereal crops are considered staple crops. In 2019 global demand for grains hit 2 685 million tonnes. Manufacturers are quick to capitalize on this global want because of the low cost--thanks to extrusion--of production. 

And that number is on the rise. Just food for thought. 


Whether you’re gluten-free or wheat-friendly, staple cereal crops encompass a wide range of grains. Corn, wheat, rice, oats, barley and sorghum are the usual refined carb suspects  in your box of cereal. You'll find other less popular grains like millet, amaranth or rye, make an appearance in the more adult-centric cereals like Honey Bunches of Oats.

What else is there? Good question, and you already know the answer: sugar! After all the healthy parts out of the grains have been sucked out and then hit with a blowtorch, manufacturers have to add flavor. Otherwise, you're left with dog kibble - yup fun fact, Fido's food is also extruded!

So far we’ve got a double-shot of sugar because don’t forget refined carbs are high glycemic foods, which means they blast your insulin levels off the charts in the same way sugar does. Which increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and other diseases.

Fine, but what about options like dairy-free milks cereals that are enriched and supplemented with vitamins and minerals? Doesn't this make breakfast cereal healthy? Or at least, healthier? That's a grey zone. Insufficient studies have been done to see if fortified or enriched foods improve your health. If you're worried about deficiencies, eat more whole, healthy foods or take a multivitamin instead of relying on fortified foods, which can lead to overconsumption of certain vitamins and minerals--a seemingly innocuous threat that can have serious repercussions ranging from stomach upset to hair loss to death. 

So where does that leave us on our perusal of whether cereals are healthy for us? Ah yes, what the perfect cereal looks like - here’s a hint, it doesn’t contain marshmallows!

The Trix To Healthy Cereal

By now we've figured out that:

  1. Cereal is predominantly composed of sugar and refined carbs.
  2. Cereal crops are staple crops.
  3. Kids Cereals are sugar enriched and fortified Frankenfoods that will "Bring out the Tiger in you," aka the sugar-crazed monster, that isn't something anyone appreciates.

Here are our recommendations when you're out shopping for your next convenient box of cereal:

  • Most Important: Low-Carb & Low Sugar (no sugar added is even better)
  • High Fiber and Protein Packed is ideal
  • Scoop out the ones with the least ingredients
  • IF sugar is on the menu, let it come from a healthy natural source like honey, not corn syrup and let it be last on the ingredient list

Toss These Brands Into Your Shopping Cart: Post Grape Nuts, Barbara's Bakery (Non-GMO, no refined sugar), Cascadian Farm (Non-GMO, USDA organic), Kashi (Non-GMO, USDA organic), Nature's Path (Non-GMO, organic) and Kellogg's All Bran.

Be the Answer to Your Own Question!

Alternatively, you can make your own breakfast cereal. This is always the surest, healthiest way to ensure you’re eating clean, whole, healthy foods. If you don’t know where to start, pick up a copy of our new Fast & Furiously Fit ebook. Brimful of 40+ delicious meals, snacks and dessert, this is your guide to cleaner eating for a leaner, healthier body. You can use promo code FASTED30 for 30% OFF when you buy now!

The Verdict: Is breakfast cereal healthy?

At this point, you've likely reached the same conclusion that we have: it’s just easier and better to skip the cereal aisle altogether. Even the 'organic' cereals have sugar, and they still feature refined carbs. No matter what label you slap on the box, it's still a fortified cereal. Sure, there are probably some exceptions to the rule, but it's not easy finding non-extruded cereals.

In cereals defense we say this: it's convenient, and every bowl is like a trip down memory lane.

But honestly, if you're looking to supercharge your body with the best fuel, there are so many great breakfast alternatives: overnight oats, oatmeal, muesli (nuts, toasted oats, seeds & fruit), eggs, smoothies or nut butter on toast--all meals for which you can find recipes in our newest ebook. Nobody is telling you to swear off cereal for life, but from a nutritional standpoint, a glycemic spike is not the kind of wake up call your body deserves after some quality sleep.

Alas, BodyRockers we hate to burst your break-y bubbly, but cereal is not 'The Breakfast of Champions' no matter how many health claims the label totes. But once in a while, if you just 'Gotta have those Pops' because 'They're G-r-reat' then by all means, enjoy a bowl. But otherwise, steer clear of the cereal aisle.

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