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20 Worst ‘Good-for-You’ Cereals

By Olivia Tarantino

We can’t say it’s surprising to see that cereals with the words “froot” or “chocolatey” slapped across their boxes contain added sugar and artificial colors. But did you know that certain “healthy” cereals are as equally devious?

If you’re an avid Eat This, Not That! reader, you probably know by now that some classic morning meals—frozen waffles and pop tarts, we’re looking at you—are on a mission to crush your weight loss goals. And that’s because many of these breakfast foods are high in sugar and low in good-for-you nutrients like healthy fats, fiber, and protein that can help to propel us into the day feeling satisfied and energized. But not all diet offenders are easy to point out. Take, for example, healthy cereals.

Marketers began to catch on to the fact that people wanted breakfast foods that were low in sugar and high in nutrients. While you’d think that would mean companies would make whole grain cereals that were low in sugar, that’s not exactly what happened. Instead, brands just plastered health-focused words like “antioxidants” or “whole grain” onto their cereal boxes in an attempt to catch the eye of the unassuming dieter. The result? Healthy cereals became one in a long list of foods with health halos.

Because it’s so difficult to tell which boxes of grains are actually good for you—and which ones are nothing more than a marketing gimmick to take advantage of your quest for a better diet—we sought out to find some of the most misleading cereals on grocery store shelves. Watch out for these secret diet disasters, and don’t forget that being mindful of your morning meal doesn’t just stop in the cereal aisle.

Eat This! Tip:When you’re roaming the cereal aisle, make sure your box has at least 3 grams of fiber and fewer than 10 grams of sugar. Limiting yourself to 10 grams of sweet stuff per serving will be enough to satisfy your sweet tooth without overwhelming your blood glucose levels to the point you’ll suffer a sugar crash before lunch. High fiber foods will slow your body’s digestion of the sugars to prevent any energy-draining spikes in blood sugar. And don’t forget to always skim the ingredient list. A whole grain should be listed as the first ingredient—not sugar—and ensure there are no artificial flavors, preservatives, colors, or partially hydrogenated oils.

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1. Kellogg’s Smart Start Original Antioxidants

Per 1 cup: 190 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 43 g carbs (3 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 4 g protein

What’s so smart about a high-sugar, low-fiber cereal? This box from Kellogg’s hijacks the claim, “antioxidants”—which are plant-based compounds that mop up inflammatory, cancer-causing free radicals—making the cereal sound healthier than it is. In reality, their box contains an inexcusable 14 grams of sugar per serving, as well as artificial flavors, colors, and potentially carcinogen-containing BHT. According to Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, “BHT is still highly controversial and limited research exists on whether it is harmful to the body or carcinogenic,” but she added, “it is still recommended to avoid consuming large quantities.”

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2. Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran

Per 1 cup: 267 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated), 180 mg sodium, 45 g carbs (8 g fiber, 19 g sugars), 5 g protein

It’s not just the nearly 20 grams of sugar that make this cereal less than wholesome. Cracklin’ Oat Bran also comes with a massive glut of palm and soybean oil that loads this box with inflammatory Omega-6s and saturated fats.

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3. Life Cinnamon Multigrain Cereal

Per 1 cup: 160 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 33 g carbs (3 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 4 g protein

Because it touts its 18 grams of whole grains on the front of the box, alongside words like “multigrain” and “plant foods,” you might initially think Life cereal was a safe choice—until, that is, you read the ingredient list. There you’ll see that the cereal pieces aren’t even made of whole grains, but a medley of flours (most of which, are in lesser quantities to the sugar that’s added). On top of that, Quaker also adds oil-derived artificial colors, Yellow 5 and 6.

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4. Quaker Real Medleys Cherry Almond Pecan Multigrain Cereal

Per 1 cup: 320 calories, 9 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 50 mg sodium, 55 g carbs (4 g fiber, 20 g sugar), 7 g protein

At least Quaker realizes the amount of sugar (more than five Chips Ahoy cookies) they put in this box, with their tagline “Feed your sweet tooth and your, well, wholesome tooth.” Despite having whole grain rolled oats, wheat, brown rice, and corn flakes, there are only 4 measly grams of fiber per bowl. Plus most of those 7 grams of protein come from whey protein concentrate rather than the almonds or pecans.


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