Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
But if you’re not choosing healthy cereals when you do sit down to break your fast, then you could be setting yourself up for a day of sugar slumps, lethargy, and a seemingly endless rumbling tum.
If this sounds familiar, now’s your chance to rectify those health lulls. What are you waiting for?
Read the most healthy breakfast cereals, below, to feel great all day long.
(Note: The breakfast cereals below are ranked by ingredients list only, not nutritional information as portion sizes on cereals are generally 30g/40g which is just unrealistic. The cereals are also ranked by total percentage of oats/wheat, as this should be the core component of any healthy breakfast cereal).
Total percentage oats/wheat: 100%
I’ve mentioned the health benefits of porridge oats time and again, so it’s no surprise it’s here in the #1 spot of healthy breakfast cereals.
Good quality porridge oats should say ‘100% wholegrain oats’ in the ingredients list – and nothing else. If there is an added flavour (like golden syrup) or is packaged in a convenient way (such as in a sachet), always check the ingredients. They are usually packed with sugar and weird additives that just aren’t healthy at all.
As always, check that you’re only adding healthy porridge toppings to your bowl to ensure you don’t undo all your good work.
(Yes, I know it’s not technically an ‘out of the box’ cereal (it takes a little prep work and hob/microwavery) but as porridge only takes a few minutes to make, it’s not too dissimilar.)
2. Shredded Wheat
Total percentage oats/wheat: 100%
Shredded wheat is pure 100% wholegrain wheat. This means it’s going to be much more filling than, say, a ‘wheaties’ version which has loads of fruit puree in it (always avoid words like ‘wheaties’ and ‘wheats’, but more on that later).
As with porridge, be careful with your toppings. Many people sprinkle a few teaspoons of refined sugar on their shredded wheat – and this can cause early insulin spikes. Not good.
Instead, opt for raw sugar varieties, like honey or agave nectar. Better yet, dark fruits, like blackberries and cherries, are a healthy way to get your sweet fix.
Having said this, you should always aim for a fat/protein addition to any healthy breakfast, so peanut butter, nuts, seeds are all sound shredded wheat toppings.
Total percentage oats/wheat: 96%
The little brother of Shredded Wheat, Shreddies aren’t quite 100% wheat, with sugar included in the ingredients in various guises (sugar, invert sugar syrup, barley malt extract, molasses).
However, they still contain a good amount of wheat and will therefore serve the satiating purpose well – albeit not as well as Shredded Wheat.
As they already contain some sugar, it’s wise to avoid adding sugary toppings to Shreddies. Just let the milk do the sweetening for a healthy breakfast cereal.
4. Wheat biscuits
Total percentage oats/wheat: 97%
Wheat biscuits contain between 95-97% wheat, with some sugar included as well.
Surprisingly, the market leader, Weetabix, is at the lower end of the spectrum with just 95% wheat. In the Weetabix Protein types there is slightly less at 92% wholewheat.
Other brands like Stockwell produce 97% wheat biscuit cereal, although this variety is a tad saltier than its leading counterpart.
Top with honey, dark fruits, nuts and seeds. Yogurt is also nice for adding a protein punch.
5. Oatibix Original
Total percentage oats/wheat: 97%
Weetabix might be the most popular player, but Oatibix is just as healthy, if not healthier.
With a whopping 97% wholegrain oats and just three other ingredients (malted barley extract, sugar and salt) it’s an excellent breakfast cereal, especially if you want oats but don’t have the time to heat up a bowl of porridge.
6. Oatibix Flakes
Total percentage oats/wheat: 93%
With slightly fewer oats than Oatibix Original, Oatibix Flakes still contain a huge 93% wholegrain oats. After that, it’s sugar, so be aware that the cereal is already sugary even when there are no toppings included.
To stay as healthy as possible, just add milk or a plant-based alternative. It really shouldn’t need any more sugar – and if you feel like it should, then that’s a sign you need to redress that sugar tolerance.
Total percentage oats/wheat/maize: 88%
Yes, they’re boring. But they’re good for you.
Granted, they could be better for you; maize sits higher on the glycemic index chart than slow-release wholegrain oats and wheat. It also has less than 90% maize and then the next ingredient is sugar.
However, cornflakes are an easily digestible breakfast food, which is why they’re so popular. But you also need a hell of a lot to feel full so, if you can, opt for a whole wheat or oats alternative.
8. Rice Krispies Multigrain
Total percentage oats/wheat: 87%
Rice Krispies might sound like a surprising feature in the healthiest breakfast cereals list, but trust me – the multigrain version is so much healthier than the original.
Where the original has just rice flour (71%), the multigrain type has 54% rice flour, 28% oat flour and 5% maize flour – 87% total. There is also less sugar, as more of the product constitutes wheat flours.
We shouldn’t lose sight that there is added sugar in Rice Krispies Multigrain, though, so avoid adding anything to them. An unsweetened plant milk is also going to be better than a regular milk as regular milk contains natural milk sugars.
9. No added sugar muesli
Total percentage oats/wheat: 80%
It took me a while to realise not all mueslis are healthy. I mean, they look healthy, but many varieties come with added sugar and fruit, making them just as bad as Cheerios.
But you can stop yourself getting caught out, like me, when you shop for mueslis labelled ‘no added sugar’ or ‘sugar free’. That’s the first step. Then, check the ingredients. As we’ve learned, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘sugar free’ doesn’t mean anything if there are naturally-occurring sugars/sugary products in the base product.
For many mueslis, even the no added sugar varieties, you will likely find raisins and sultanas in the ingredients. While not the worst addition in the world, they are dried fruit – and that’s the equivalent of adding pure cane sugar to your cereal.
To remain healthy, opt for ‘nutty’ no added sugar mueslis as opposed to ‘fruity’ ones. They will organically include more protein/fat than sugar.
10. Bran flakes
Total percentage oats/wheat: 77%
Bran flakes, like granola, are often given the health halo. They sound boring, they look bland, so they must be healthy, right?
It depends. The mainstream brand is very good, with 77% total wheat, but there is still quite a bit of sugar.
Related: Are Bran Flakes Healthy?
As for Fruit & Fibre varieties (bran flakes plus dried fruit), the sugar content accelerates rapidly. (Again, always read the ingredients list rather than buying into the virtuous associations with ‘Fruit’ and ‘Fibre’. You may be surprised.)
Some more top tips for finding the healthiest low sugar breakfast cereal
Words to avoid in a cereals ingredients list
- Low fat
- Fruit (even in Fruit & Fibre)
- Granola (except for no sugar varieties)
- Cereal bars