Taste Test: Whole-Grain Cereal

by in Taste Test, September 29, 2009

cereal
We filled you in our tips for picking the healthiest cereal, and you weighed in with your favorites. We took five of your most popular suggestions and gave them a whirl.

For this taste test, we stuck to whole-grain cereals without dried fruit or nuts. Toby and I sampled them with nonfat (skim) milk and left them plain. On a typical morning, I’d add in some fresh seasonal fruit.

To determine our 1 to 5 rating (5 being the highest), we paid close attention to flavor, texture and nutrition content. When it comes to cereal, our biggest concerns are calories, fiber and sugar. We also looked at the average cost — boxes of cereal can get really pricey!

Special K
Rating: 3
Price: $3.29
Nutrition Info (per 1 cup): 120 calories, less than 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar
Our Take: With a nice crunch but cardboard-y flavor, this cereal didn’t rank very high with our tasters. The fact that it’s sweetened with both sugar and high-fructose corn syrup didn’t help it’s rating either.

Multigrain Cheerios
Rating: 3.5
Price: $4.39
Nutrition Info (per 1 cup): 110 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar
Our Take: This was the sweetest tasting cereal of the bunch, which makes sense because it was among the highest in sugar. Despite the healthy sound of the word “multigrain,” these don’t offer any nutritional advantage. Stick to regular Cheerios — they have the same amount of fiber and only one gram of sugar per serving. You can add your own sweetness with fresh fruit.

Total
Rating: 3
Price: $4.49
Nutrition Info (per 3/4 cup): 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar
Our Take: Total has a great crunch at first (it gets soggy fast) and decent flavor but disappointed us most. The cereal promises “total” nutrition, but it’s basically made from three ingredients (in order): whole grain wheat, sugar and corn syrup. The “total” nutrients come from adding fortified vitamins and minerals (four of the five cereals have these added nutrients). While not “unhealthy,” fortified vitamins and minerals are just like adding a crushed-up multivitamin to your cereal. We prefer that the majority of our nutrients come naturally from wholesome foods.

Kashi Go Lean
Rating: 4.5
Price: $3.39
Nutrition Info (per 1 cup): 140 calories, 10 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar
Our Take: This cereal has a great crunch and sweetness from honey and evaporated cane juice. That matched with nutrition facts made it the big winner. Though higher in calories, a serving has 10 grams of fiber and a whopping 13 grams of protein (more than double the others). Most of the other cereals are made with rice, oats, wheat and corn; Go Lean mixes in different grains such as triticale, buckwheat, barley and rye.

PS: This was also the only cereal that didn’t have a bunch of extra vitamins added — the nutrients here come straight from the whole-grain ingredients.

Grapenuts
Rating: 4
Price: $3.79
Nutrition Info (per 1/2 cup): 200 calories, 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar
Our Take: I have a soft spot for Grapenuts, a childhood favorite. It does have a healthy whole-grain flavor and is VERY crunchy (too crunchy by some standards). Instead of sweeteners such as corn syrup, sugar or even honey, its slight sweetness comes from malted barley flour. Its whole-grain wheat provides the second highest amount of fiber.

Caution: This was the smallest portion but highest in calories — so stick to 1/2 cup portions (Grapenuts are very filling). Supplement it with fruit or mix it with another lower-calorie cereal.

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