Taste Test: Whole-Grain Cereal

by in Taste Test, September 29, 2009

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.

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.

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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Comments (68)

  1. lin says:

    Grape nuts are fantastic in yogurt!!

  2. Dianne says:

    I eat a cereal called BarleyMax made by Goodness Superfoods. It was created by the CSIRO scientists who grew a superior supergrain called Barleymax & oats. I eat it with goji berries, banana, honey, cinnamon & almond milk…you can feel it doing you good.

  3. Beverly says:

    I mix Grapenuts into vanilla yogurt and some fresh fruit for a really good breakfast. If I am running late I sometimes mix it into a fruit at the bottom yogurt; stir it up, eat it and go.

  4. mr state the obvious says:

    the very fact that u surveyed a selection of absolute shit shows that you think cereal means boxed sugar treats…

    CEREAL, is muesli…anything else is only cereal if you are under 10 years old.

    but then 10 seems to be the new benchmark for peak intelligence.

  5. Lynn says:

    The only cereal I will eat is Wheeties.

  6. Beth says:

    What do you think about Fiber One?

  7. Nancy says:

    Every morning I eat 1/4 c. All Bran, 2T. ground flax seed & 1/2 c. Fiber One w/rasins with low fat milk. Love it!

  8. check it out says:

    Looking forward to reading more. Great article post. Much obliged.

  9. Katie says:

    Did anyone else notice that the flavored Special K cereals have a different flake in them than the tasteless ones in the original flavor box?

  10. Cathy says:

    You are so right about the Special K protein! It has more protein than any of the Kashi's and doesn't taste like your eating grass. It has more fiber and less sugar and whole grains.

  11. Joan says:

    I love special K protein! The taste is awesome and it is so easy to pack a small bag as an afternoon snack. All that protein is wonderful. Some will not like that the protein comes from soy, but it doesnt bother me.

  12. Shirley says:

    I have been eating fiber one cereal every day for the past year and I think its great!!!

  13. Ruth says:

    I use fiber one and love it also. I mix it with other cereals also like total raian bran ot the multigrain chereos. Alittle good with the bad.

  14. shellie says:

    Have you ever read Nutrition Action Newsletter? It is like the Consumer Reports of food. The newsletter always takes a long list of like foods and compares them for you and shows you the best ones! It is inexpensive and non-profit as well…

  15. Gina says:

    Yes, I agree! I've been reading "Nutrition Action" for years. It is the best source of wisdom on prepared foods as well as diet. I wish more people knew about it and subscribed. We would all be a lot healthier! "Nutrition Action" is published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a completely independent source of research, and therefore ultimately reliable. Google it! And Shellie, thanks for mentioning!

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