Is cereal bad for you? Why I don't buy Cheerios.

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I don’t buy Cheerios. I know this seems crazy as every household with a toddler has Cheerios, right? They are an American staple kid food right up there with Goldfish and fruit snacks. I actually don’t buy these items either. I don’t buy them because we simply don’t need them. They don’t provide anything for us. I know general society says “they are gluten free” and a “healthy whole grain” but remember these are unregulated marketing terms, they mean very little when talking about the health benefits of a food. Just because the product says it is gluten free, natural, whole grain or organic does not mean it is good for you.

Maybe I should back up a moment and say for starters I am not one who follows diets or food fads. I believe in eating healthy nutritionally dense foods that taste good. What I consider a healthy food is one that is unprocessed or minimally processed (whole milk after all is still a processed food). Foods I consider healthy have high nutritional density providing high quality fat, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Now not to say that cereals are “bad” for you I just like to bring awareness to other alternatives that may be a better option for you. Most breakfast cereals provide very little nutritional value.

Just because it says "gluten free, natural, whole grain or organic" does not mean it is good for you,

Just because it says “gluten free, natural, whole grain or organic” does not mean it is good for you,

You see my husband for one will sit down to a large bowl of cereal every morning and did so for years. Going through a box of $4.00 cereal every single week. Now $4 for 5 simple breakfasts is not too expensive. However, what are you are actually getting in the bowl? Most breakfast cereals are made of ultra processed simple grains and a variety of sugars and flavors. I would rather pay $4 for eggs than $4 for glorified sugar.

The main ingredients in Cheerios for example are oats, cornstarch and sugar. Oats in moderation are ok, they are mostly carbohydrate, with small amounts of protein, fiber and fat. But if I want to eat oats I will eat unprocessed oats, cooked oatmeal or use it as flour for some gluten free baking. Cornstarch is essentially a highly processed carbohydrate. It packs about 30 calories or 7 grams of carbohydrate per tablespoon. Also note that 4 grams of carbohydrates equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. There’s no protein, fat, vitamins, minerals or fiber and sugar gives us a quick burst of easy calories but also provides no nutritional value. When you break it down Cheerios and most breakfast cereals are just fancy ways to introduce more refined sugars. Yes, Cheerios and many other cereals do fortify the food so it has some redeeming qualities of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A,C,D, B, Iron Calcium and zinc for example but the truth of the matter is if you eat whole foods that naturally contain these vitamins and minerals your body can better digest and absorb them while getting the quality nutrition you really need.

The main ingredients in Cheerios are oats, cornstarch and sugar.

The main ingredients in Cheerios are oats, cornstarch and sugar.

For example take the simple walnut; they are a high quality fat and protein. Remember your brain needs fat to grow and function a breakfast that starts with carbohydrates and sugar is leaving your brain starving.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, approximately 1 ounce of raw walnuts about ¼ cup contains

185 calories, 3.89 grams of carbohydrate , 0.74 grams of sugar, 1.9 grams of fiber, 4.32 grams of protein

One ounce of walnuts also provides the following percentages of recommended daily nutrient intake:

  • 48 percent of manganese
  • 22 percent of copper
  • 11 percent of magnesium
  • 10 percent of phosphorus
  • 8 percent of vitamin B6
  • 5 percent of iron


  • Raisins are a good source of carbohydrate but also B Vitamins Iron, Potassium and magnesium. Dried cherries have vitamin a, calcium, and iron.

You don’t need to fortify your foods if you eat a healthy balance of whole foods to begin with. Real foods contain real nutrients.

Our daily healthy start cereal

Our daily healthy start cereal

So what do we eat for quick on the go breakfasts? My husband still loves his bowl of cereal in the morning but I refused to continue buying cereal at $4 a box that provides very little value to our daily health. I stated mixing together our own. Each batch is always a little different depending on what I have on hard but it is always some combination of nuts, seeds, oats, and dried fruits. Once every 3-4 weeks I mix up a big batch made with real whole foods and we are set with high quality fuel for the day. Note that some dried fruits are artificially sweetened and flavored look for ones that are in their natural state. The package should just say, raisins or blueberries on it, for cranberries, which are naturally tart, look for apple juice sweetened ones rather than sugar sweetened. Try to choose foods that as close to the natural form as possible for best nutritional value and easy digestion.

Here are some items I include in our daily breakfast cereal.

A variety of nuts, seeds and dried fruits provide tasty high quality fats and protein to start the day.

A variety of nuts, seeds and dried fruits provide tasty high quality fats and protein to start the day.

I mix chopped walnut, almonds, cashews, pecans, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, unsweetened coconut, raisins, blueberries, cherries, apricots, mango, mulberries, goji berries. You can mix any variety of dried items together for unique combinations. By creating your own mix with real foods you have more vitamins and minerals than the average processed and artificially fortified versions and you are consuming better quality nutrient dense food with high quality fats and protein to get your day started. You can eat this with milk like muesli or top yogurt with it.

The one traditional cereal I let me son eat

The one traditional cereal I let me son eat

There is one Box I buy:

Ok just like many mothers I need a simple on the go, shelf stable, dry snack for my son to much on at times. The one box of cereal I do buy is from Love Grown. This is a gluten free cereal that is made from a bean blend so it has higher protein and fiber content then most cereals and does not contain any additional junk. They make a few varieties and flavors like strawberry and chocolate but these do contain a little added sugar. I prefer the original with no added sugar and if you want it a little sweeter you can add natural sugars like honey or real maple syrup. This way you can also control the level of sweetness. This is a great alternative to Honey Nut cheerios if you want to try and make a switch. My son prefers these mixed in with the homemade cereal and I will often pack these in a diaper bag for a quick on the go dry snack if we need something while we are out.

Annie's Organic Coco Bunnies compared to Love Grown Chocolate Power O's

Annie’s Organic Coco Bunnies compared to Love Grown Chocolate Power O’s

Eating well like so many other things in life is a process, if you try to tackle it all at once or make huge drastic changes it is often hard to sustain. Start small, take one step at a time and be patient with yourself and your family. Know that each minor shift is for the better and don’t beat yourself up when you splurge of the giant cinnamon roll or cheese curds just enjoy, as that is what life is meant for.

Our go to, favorite no junk added cereal

Our go to, favorite no junk added cereal

Our go to, favorite no junk added cereal

What foods do you substitute for healthier versions? Have questions or want other suggestions for what to do with your current favorite food? Share your thoughts below, I am happy to help.

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Frank February 23, 2018, 11:11 am

    Loved your article on cereal. I will start blending my own as well. Thanks for the tips.

  • Sarah Petzel February 23, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Hi Rachel,

    I receive your weekly email and think this homemade cereal sounds amazing, but I have a husband with a tree nut allergy. What alternatives can you suggest for a gluten-free, tree-nut-free, high nutritional density cereal? Or for that matter, food in general? We’re struggling a bit with this. His gluten intolerance isn’t severe, but we don’t do anything with tree-nuts. If I want tree-nuts, I do that on my own time. I know that some (those that I’ve read)of your gluten-free recipes substitute nuts/nut-base for the wheat flour so any suggestions you can provide are greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!
    Sarah P

    • Rachel Sherwood February 23, 2018, 1:39 pm

      Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for your note, yes I use a lot of nuts as they have good fats in them but if you have a sensitivity stay away. For cereal I would recommend keeping it more seed heavy using pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, chia, flax, etc… you can often find these at good prices in bulk bins or bulk stores like Costco. You could then mix in oats and even a box of the love grown cereal for extra crunch with a little dried fruit and be set.

      As for general nut and gluten free baking play with other flours like coconut which absorbs more liquid so note this is not a 1 to 1 replacement about also oat, cassava or even tigernut flour this is a new one I am playing with it is not actually a nut so don’t worry. I don’t use a lot of gluten free flour blends as so many contin extra fillers, starches and gums that I don’t view as good sources of nutrition.

      For other breakfast options try the spinach muffins you can leave the chocolate out of this recipe if you like or make crustless quiche also knowen as a fritatta You can make then in a 9in pie plate or muffin pans and freeze them as well. I also have a few wonderful pancake recipes one that uses quinoa flour. If you are interested I can post them too. I hope this helps, let me know if you are looking for something particular I am happy to recipe test, I am always developing new and easier ways to eat better. All the best, Rachel


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