Ah the cereal aislse. All of nutrition’s complexities and the smokes and mirrors of food marketing in one place. No wonder it’s so hard to chose a healthy breakfast cereal the family will like.
I’ve scoured the shelves (detoured to the health food aisle) and looked past the marketing on the front of the packs to find my top 10 breakfast cereals. The criteria I looked for were quite simple; minimal processing, simple ingredients, high fibre and not too much added sugar or sodium (salt).
If you want to see how your family’s favourite breakfast cereal stacks up, here’s the criteria I use for choosing an everyday breakfast cereal.
Fibre: 10g per 100g
Sugar: Less than 10g per 100g*
Sdoium: Less than 350mg (but really this is quite a bit and they don’t need to add any)
Sugar in Breakfast Cereals
The top 7 of my pick don’t have much (or any) added sugar. If you prefer a sweeter cereal, try adding chopped fruit, dried fruit or even a tiny drizzle of honey to these plainer ones. You’ll be surprised at how little you need to get it sweet enough. Even if you opt for honey (or sugar) you will use less than many sweet cereals contain (most sweet cereals are 20-40% sugar!) plus you have the benefit of a great wholegrain cereal.
Look for less than 10g of sugar per 100g. If you have a muesli with dried fruit that is a little higher, that’s fine as long as you don’t see added sugars hiding in the ingredients list as well.
The last two cereals on my list are slightly higher than 10g of sugar per 100 (but are less than 15g per 100g). They have been included still as they are both excellent sources of fibre (higher than the others on the list) which is important for a breakfast cereal, and for those of you that need to boost your fibre intake.
Fortified Breakfast Cereals
Many cereals claim to be fortified with B vitamins. Don’t let this be your deciding factors as many with this claim are heavily processed to begin with which strips the naturally occurring nutrients (and fibre) away. Being able to claim a cereal is high in certain nutrients can be used as a diversion for their high in sodium and/or sugar content.
A decent wholegrain cereal that has also been fortified can be useful though, if you have fussy eaters in your household who may be lacking in nutrients by not eating a varied diet. They are also useful if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or in the case of iron, if you are vegetarian or vegan. I have indicated on the list below which have been fortified.
The Top 10 Healthiest Breakfast Cereals
- Rolled Oats
- Uncle Tobys Shredded Wheat
- Sanitarium Weet-Bix*
- Sunsol Muesli Almonds, Cashews, Macadamias & Walnuts
- Uncle Tobys Vita Brits and Uncle Tobys Weeties
- Freedom Foods Active Balance Buckwheat and Quinoa
- Jordan’s Low Sugar Granola
- Be Natural Mini Bites
- Kellogg’s Guardian*
- All Bran Wheat Flakes*
*Indicates cereals that have been fortified with iron and B vitamins. See the descriptions for more information.
1. Rolled Oats
Plain unflavoured rolled oats are my top pick for a breakfast cereal. Not only are they a versatile pantry staple, they are minimally processed and one single ingredient. Like the name brand in the red box, Home-brand are 100% rolled oats so save your pennies, skip the nice brand name box and grab them from the bottom of the shelf. You’ll notice that rolled oats get a 5 health star rating.
Rolled oats are naturally low in sugar and fat and high in fibre. They help to keep you full while also containing slow releasing carbohydrates to moderate your energy levels for hours after eating them. You also get the added bonus of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre that can help manage blood cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
Plain oats are better than flavoured quick oats which have added sugars and other ingredients. They are also more filling and take longer to digest, which means they’ll keep you fuller for longer.
It’s no wonder that oats get my top place and a 5 health star rating.
2. Uncle Toby’s Shredded Wheat
This classic cereal isn’t a big seller, hidden on the bottom row of the cereal aisle. Like rolled oats, Shredded Wheat has one single ingredient, wheat! Minimally processed and wholegrain, Shredded Wheat is high in fibre and the B vitamins in the wheat. It’s a filling start to the day. Add chopped fresh fruit for sweetness and extra flavour.
Interestingly, Shredded Wheat is manufactured in the UK, not Australia.
This minimally processed cereal also gets a 5 health star rating.
3. Sanitarium Weet-bix
This great Aussie breakfast staple comes in at a healthy number 3; it’s a great choice for breakfasts. Weet-bix do have some salt and sugar added for flavour, but it is minimal. They’re also fortified with niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate and iron. This makes them a great choice for fussy eaters who may not be getting everything they need throughout the day. They’re also great for pregnant women who could do with a boost of folate, iron and fibre.
Homebrand “wheat biscuit” varieties are remarkably similar. So if you want to save some money or you have a lot of mouths to feed, they’re a great option. In fact, the Woolworths brand have no added sugar, just a little salt. However, like most homebrand versions, they aren’t fortified with iron or B vitamins. So check the labels if the added nutrients is important to you.
Add variety for those a little bored with Weet-Bix by mixing up toppings of dried fruit, almond flakes, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and fresh fruit.
This minimally processed cereal also gets a 5 health star rating.
4. Sunsol Muesli Almonds, Cashews, Macadamias & Walnuts
Muesli’s can be difficult to chose as they all vary so much. Some have dried fruit added, but also added sugars, some have nuts but added fats too.
This Sunsol nut based muesli is a great option. It’s low in sugar as it’s fruit free but it doesn’t have any added sugars or fats either. I also really like how it has wheat, barley and triticale flakes* as well as oats too! It’s giving you a great does of different nutrients and types of fibre in one bowl. The small amounts of sugar and sodium that are added are in the bran straws (which are also a great source of fibre).
*triticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye
5. Uncle Tobys Vita Brits and Uncle Tobys Weeties
Coming in fifth are both Vita Brits and Weeties. It’s not a tie so much as they’re almost identical products! Weeties are essentially Vita Brits in flake form with some added B vitamins.
Unlike Weet-Bix, Vita Brits (and Weeties) don’t have any added sugar. They do however have a little more added sodium, 395mg per 100g. It’s a little above the target I like to see in packaged foods (350mg) but not by much. Given it’s a great source of wholegrain and has no added sugar, it may be worth the compromise if you love the taste. I wouldn’t recommend them for babies or small children though, because of this sodium content.
Unlike Weet-bix, they’re not fortified with B vitamins or iron. Weeties however, have been fortified with B1, Niacin, B2, and Folic Acid.
Both have lost half a health star for the sodium content and get 4.5 health stars.
5. Freedom Foods Active Balance Buckwheat and Quinoa
You’ll find this flake style cereal in the health food aisle as it’s gluten free. That’s not what makes it a good choice though (unless you’re gluten free of course!). This cereal are a good source of wholegrain and fibre. They’re low in added sugar, less than a teaspoon in a bowl, and in sodium. As they’re wheat-free you have the added benefit of buckwheat. Now this grain isn’t ‘better’ than wheat, it is just different and variety is a great strategy for maximising your nutrition.
There is also added resistant dextrin, chickpea husks and psyllium husks which are a good source of fibre and resistant starch to feed your good gut bacteria. Don’t get excited about the quinoa, it’s only 2% of the product so quite a token amount.
Thanks to the added fibre and low sugar and sodium this one also gets 5 health stars.
7. Jordan’s Low Sugar Granola
If you prefer a crunchy granola to a natural muesli; these are the best option out there. Crunchy and tasty without the added sugar. This healthy granola comes in two varieties, almond and hazelnut and cherry and almond. Both are great options and similar nutritionally.
These granola’s do have a little bit of oil added. They also contain
These are quite expensive at $7 a bag, but are often on special for 30-50% off so keep an eye out for offers and stock up. Chicory root fibre which is a good source of fibre to feed your good gut bacteria – it can be irritating for people with IBS though.
This cereal is made in the UK.
This produce doesn’t have a health star rating (it’s not compulsory) but it would get 5 health stars if it did.
8. Be Natural Mini Bites
If you just can’t go past a sweet cereal, then these are my top pick of the sugary cereals. They’re wholegrain (like mini shredded wheat) with a little sugar sprinkled in the middle. I like these as not only is the cereal component good quality and minimally processed, they have less than 10g sugar per 100g (8.7g/100g). They also don’t have any added sodium and are high in fibre.
Better yet is to have a simpler cereal Shredded Wheat or Weet-Bix with a few of these mini bites sprinkled on top for the sugar hit.
Lunchbox Tip: Instead of Tiny Teddies or a biscuit as a lunchbox treat, try adding a small handful of Be Natural Mini Bites! Unlike biscuits they’re wholegrain and lower in sugar than biscuits.
This one also gets 5 health stars.
9. Kellogg’s Guardian
The following two cereals do contain slightly more than 10g of sugar per 100g, but are very good otherwise, so they still make my list. This amount of sugar is still substantially lower than the majority of the cereal aisle anyway.
Kellogg’s Guardian flakes are a blend of wheat, barley and psyllium (plus a little oat bran). They’re wholegrain and again, are giving you a good variety in grains and fibre. All this bran means they’re super high in fibre, 18.4g per 100g! A 40g bowl will give you almost a quarter of your daily fibre needs.
These flakes are also fortified with Vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, folate and iron.
Despite the added sugar, they get 5 health stars for all the fibre, added vitamins and iron and the low sodium.
10. All Bran Wheat Flakes
Finally, we have All Bran Wheat Flakes. Despite being last on my list, they’re still a decent choice. They’re wholegrain flakes made from wheat and wheat bran which means they’re a wholegrain cereal that’s high in fibre. They’re not quite has high as the original All Bran ‘straws’ but they’re also lower in sugar and more easily enjoyed in flake form.
Unlike the Kellogg’s Guardian flakes, All Bran flakes (and the original straws) are on the high side for sodium, just above my 350mg limit at 370mg per 100g. If you take care to chose reduced sodium options throughout the day, then there is more than likely room for this amount in your diet. As with the Vita Brits though, this amount is too high for babies and small children.
This cereal is also fortified, this time with niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, thiamin, folate plus iron and zinc.
Again, this one gets 5 health stars.
So they’re my top 10 healthiest supermarket breakfast cereals. There may be others that are just as good that I haven’t included. Compare the ingredients list and nutrition information to those listed above and see how they compare.
You may also like to see my Top 5 Healthiest Kid’s Cereals where I compare the most popular 24 cereals marketed to children.
Check out my health star rating blog for more information on how to use it.
Sarah Moore is a mum, and university qualified Registered Nutritionist with a decade of experience working with families to improve their health and well-being. Sarah has a simplistic and practical approach to family nutrition and offer private consultations and group information sessions in Perth, Western Australia. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.