Healthy Cereal vs. Sugar Bombs: Is Cereal Good for Breakfast?

It’d be nice to be that ideal parent who somehow manages to make their children a home-cooked breakfast every morning, but let’s face it: For most of us, that’s not gonna happen. We’ve got to get ready, walk the dog, and get our kids off to school, all while trying to miss the morning rush. So, we resort to breakfast cereal. 

Most of us know that cereal isn’t the best option, but many of us may not realize just how unhealthy it can be.

If someone told you they ate candy soaked in milk for breakfast, you’d never look at them the same again; yet, many of us do exactly that every morning. Case in point: A one-cup serving of Captain Crunch has as much sugar in it as two fun-sized packets of M&Ms!

So where did we get this bizarre (and unhealthy!) custom of starting the day by shoveling desert down our throats? 

Cereal Origins: Why We Eat It

In the 1890s, entrepreneur, inventor, and all-around weirdo J. H. Kellog proposed that a bland, whole grain-based diet could cure many of the health issues that plagued increasingly sedentary Americans. To make a whole grain breakfast more edible, Kellogg invented corn flakes.

Charles W. Post took Kellogg’s idea and ran with it. Post, a talented businessman with a limited knowledge of nutrition, is largely responsible for the popularity of cereal today. He made ridiculous claims about the benefits of healthy cereal products, including that they could cure blindness. Yup. Blindness. By eating cereal.

While no one today believes that cereal cures blindness (hopefully), it’s now a fixture in our culture. Plus, it’s so damn easy! For better or worse, cereal’s here to stay.

Here’s the good news: it’s not all terrible for you! You just need to know a few tricks for identifying healthy cereal.

Healthy Cereal: Is There Such a Thing?

There is such a thing as healthy cereal! Unfortunately, food companies nowadays aren’t much more scrupulous than Charles Post. Just because a product is advertised as “healthy cereal” doesn’t mean that it actually is.

Here are two keys to identifying a healthy cereal:

— Healthy cereal should have a minimum of five grams of fiber per serving. Fiber will help keep your kid full throughout the day.

— A healthy cereal should have fewer than 21 g of sugar per 100 g — or about 7 g per serving. Too much sugar can cause a spike in energy followed by a crash. In other words, sugary cereal will have your kids bouncing off the walls on the bus — but tired by the time they start class.

On top of making sure the “healthy” cereal you buy isn’t just mostly sugar and food coloring, you can boost the nutritional value of even healthier cereals with add-ons.

Healthy Cereal Add-Ons

Seems like the healthier a cereal is, the less kids like it. Ain’t that the way? Fortunately, you can trick them into eating healthy cereal with some tasty add-ons (that are also good for them!). Here are just a few:

— Greek yogurt: In addition to being a tasty treat, greek yogurt is packed with protein and calcium. Swap traditional milk for some greek and make a parfait!

Fruit: Fruits and berries are probably the most popular healthy cereal add-on among youngsters because they’re sweet. Your kids won’t even realize that you’re sneaking fiber and vitamins into their breakfast! Sprinkle them liberally on top of any bowl of cereal.

Nuts: Cashews, almonds, and walnuts are all great cereal add-ons. Plus, they’re loaded with protein and heart-healthy fat. Again, just sprinkle them on top!

Cereal-Free Breakfast: Quick, Healthy Alternatives

While cereal will always be the quickest and easiest breakfast option out there, there are other healthy foods you can whip up in just a few minutes. For instance:

— Whole wheat toast: This has more fiber and whole grains than any cereal, and it can be ready in a couple of minutes.

Oatmeal: It’s another excellent source of whole grains. If your kids don’t like it, you can try adding fruit or a little honey. All it takes is a minute and a half in the microwave and a little water or plant milk.

Outstanding Foods: Healthy Cereal vs. Sugar Bombs: Is Cereal Good for Breakfast?

— Eggs, over easy: I know, I know. You’ll have a pot or pan to clean afterward, but eggs are among the fastest to cook of all the classic breakfast foods. They’re also a tasty source of protein and vitamin D. Add some rosemary and drop them onto a toasted, buttered slice of bread for some healthy carbs, too!

Cottage cheese with fruit: A bowl of cottage cheese with fruit is about as easy to prep as cereal, and it’s good for you. If your kids don’t mind cottage cheese, it’s a great option.

If Healthy Cereal Doesn’t Cut It

Even a breakfast with healthy cereal and other filling foods might not keep your kids full all morning. Rather than giving your kids sugary snacks to keep them quiet until their next meal, give them Outstanding snacks!

Outstanding Foods makes snacks that are delicious, plant-based, healthy, and — drumroll — even popular with kids!

Find Outstand Foods snacks in stores near you.