When I’m hungry for a snack, few things can satiate my hunger like sweet, crunchy breakfast cereal with cold milk poured over the top. Unfortunately, many breakfast cereals that are rich in taste are quite poor in nutrition. In fact, many of them are so awful that it might be more apt to title this post Killer Cereals instead of Cereal Killers.
Boxed cereals and nutrition
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 1 cup of any of 3 popular children’s cereals (Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp, and General Mills Wheaties Fuel) contains more sugar than a Twinkie. One cup of any of 44 children’s cereals (including Honey Nut Cheerios, Apple Jacks, and Cap’n Crunch) contains more sugar than 3 Chips Ahoy! cookies.
In addition to all that sugar, most breakfast cereals contain food dyes. Food dyes are among the most poorly researched ingredients placed in processed foods today (the FDA does not require manufactures to prove food dyes are safe, they only have to show evidence that establishes with “reasonable certainly” that harm will not result from the color additives). Researchers and health officials are becoming increasingly concerned that various food dyes allowed in foods may be carcinogenic, genotoxic, and neurotoxic (you can read more about these concerns here). The dearth of research on food dyes means these suspicions cannot be conclusively confirmed or denied. What’s irrefutable is this: Food dyes are inessential. They influence the cosmetic appeal of foods, but nothing more.
There are additional concerns associated with the nutritional value of boxed breakfast cereals, but I won’t delve further into them because they have been discussed at length by others (see the two links provided above and visit the Cereal FACTS and Kitchen Stewardship websites for more information).
Affordable, convenient alternatives to boxed cereals
There are plenty of alternatives to boxed breakfast cereals but many of them lack two of the greatest draws of the cereals: convenience and affordability. Generic cereals cost around $0.16 per serving and all the preparation they require is tipping over a box and splashing some milk. Are there affordable and convenient alternatives that can be a death knell for breakfast cereals in your home?
- Biscuits (Fluffy wheat biscuits, buttermilk cheese biscuits, sweet potato biscuits, etc.)
- Breakfast cookies (Giant breakfast cookies, chocolate walnut breakfast cookies, pumpkin breakfast cookies, pecan maple breakfast cookies, etc.)
- Freezer biscuits
- Freezer French toast sticks (See examples here and here.)
- Homemade poptarts
- Muffins, breads, and cakes (Pancake and sausage muffins, carrot apple breakfast cake, honey cinnamon muffins, banana bread, etc.)
- Whole wheat butterhorns
- Whole grain cereals (Maple cinnamon breakfast farro, oatmeal, bulgur and coconut breakfast cereal, etc.)
- Baked oatmeal or slow cooker oatmeal
- Oatmeal in jars (See examples here, here, and here.)
- Homemade breakfast cereals that mimic boxed varieties (See examples here and here.)
- Homemade granola (See examples here and here.)
- Decent boxed breakfast cereals (Both the EWG and Cereal FACTS websites feature lists of boxed cereals that are better options.)
- Breakfast casserole bites
- Egg in a hole
- Eggs for breakfast sandwiches
- Make ahead breakfast sandwiches (See examples here and here.)
- Mini quiches or mini frittatas
Yogurt, fruits, and smoothies
- Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt cups
- Fruit salads (Fresh fruit salad with honey vanilla yogurt, autumn apple salad, etc.)
- Slow cooker yogurt and Greek yogurt
- Smoothies (Groovy green smoothie, peanut butter smoothie, strawberry banana smoothie, etc.)
If you’d like even more ideas, check out OF THE HEARTH’s Pinterest page.
Despite our enjoyment of boxed breakfast cereals, my husband and I have begun using more of these alternatives. Had you considered the nutritional value of boxed breakfast cereals before? Did it surprise you that there’s so much sugar in many of them? What convenient, affordable foods do you serve for breakfast instead of cereal?