About 56 percent of people start their day with cereal, per a September 2021 OnePoll report. Sure, breakfast cereals are convenient, but many are also mostly made up of added sugars. While that may give you energy, the buzz won't last.
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"When I'm looking for a cereal, I like to aim for options that have around 10 grams or less of added sugar, 3 grams or more for fiber and 8 grams or more for protein," says Monica Nedeff, RDN, a clinical outpatient dietitian and owner of The Traveling Dietitian.
"The fiber and protein keep you fuller longer and help support your blood sugar so that you don't get a spike in your blood sugar or energy. It'll help fuel you better in the morning."
Choosing a high-protein breakfast cereal is also more likely to lead to longer-lasting fullness. Protein helps you feel fuller than carbohydrates and fat do, per a July 2017 issue in Food Hydrocolloids. Translation: Eating a high-protein breakfast may make you less likely to overeat, which may benefit your weight.
While most Americans get enough protein throughout their day, breakfast is a common meal lacking in the macro. That's why fueling up with a healthy, high-protein cereal is a smart choice.
How We Chose
There is a lot of variety when it comes to cereal brands. Cereal is notorious for often being loaded with less-nutritious ingredients like added sugars. After chatting with other registered dietitians in combination with our own research, we chose the healthiest high-protein breakfast cereals based on the following criteria:
- Protein content
- Ingredient list
The Best High-Protein Cereals
- Magic Spoon Peanut Butter ($39 for a pack of 4, Magic Spoon)
- Catalina Crunch Maple Waffle ($11.36, Amazon)
- Kellogg Special K Protein ($32.95 for a pack of 4, Amazon)
- Premier Protein Chocolate Almond ($21.95, Amazon)
- Three Wishes Cinnamon ($42.99 for a pack of 6, Amazon)
- Kashi GO Honey Almond Flax Crunch ($12.48 for a pack of 4, Amazon)
- Clif Chocolate & Peanut Butter Flavor ($7.69, Clif Bar)
1. Magic Spoon Peanut Butter
Nutritional info per serving (1 cup): 170 calories, 9 total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 10 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein
Magic Spoon's mission is to take you back to your childhood days. They've redesigned flavors you love with "grown-up" ingredients. Because it's grain- and gluten-free, this cereal is suitable for many different types of dietary needs and preferences.
Magic Spoon cereal provides an "excellent source of high-quality milk protein," says Noah Quezada, RDN and CEO of Noah's Nutrition. It has a heaping 14 grams of protein per serving — that's about six times more protein than other popular cereal brands — and zero grams of sugar per serving.
Magic Spoon uses a natural blend of monk fruit and allulose for sweetness. Allulose is a unique sugar found in figs and maple syrup. It tastes like regular table sugar but has almost zero calories and doesn't affect your blood sugar, per a March 2010 study in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry
2. Catalina Crunch Maple Waffle
Nutritional info per serving (½ cup): 110 calories, 5 total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 14 g carbs (9 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 11 g protein
Catalina Crunch is a newer brand that claims to offer "a better snack for every kind of craving," according to their website. Their cereals are keto-friendly and provide 9 grams of fiber per serving, which is between 1/3 and 1/2 of what most people need each day.
The Maple Waffle flavor has zero grams of added sugar and 11 grams of plant-based protein per serving. It's also non-GMO and provides 8 percent of the daily value for iron. This pick will satisfy your tastebuds while keeping you full and your blood sugar stable for hours.
3. Kellogg's Special K Protein
Nutritional info per serving (1 ⅓ cup): 210 calories, 1.5g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 39 g carbs (5 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 15 g protein
Kellogg's Special K Protein cereal is one of the highest protein breakfast cereals on the market, with 15 grams of protein per serving. This cereal is fortified with many B vitamins, vitamin D and provides 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron for most people.
"I love this cereal because while it includes a healthy dose of complex carbohydrates to fuel my morning, it's also relatively low in sugar (just 8 grams), which will elicit a stable blood sugar response and keep my blood sugar from sharply crashing shortly after eating it," says Caroline Burkholder, RD, owner of RootED Nutrition and Counseling.
"The complex carbs paired with 15 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber is the perfect combination to provide energy and to keep me full and alert so I can focus on all that the morning throws at me between breakfast and lunch."
4. Premier Protein Chocolate Almond
Nutritional info per serving (1 cup): 180 calories, 5 total fat (1 g saturated fat), 14 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 20 g protein
Premier Protein is one of the highest-protein cereals with 20 grams of protein per serving. The protein comes primarily from wheat gluten as well as wheat protein isolate and pea protein.
It contains real almonds and only a small handful of other ingredients. It's naturally flavored and sweetened with a combination of sugar and stevia, making it very low in added sugar. With only 14 grams of carbs per serving, it is also stellar for people following a low-carb diet.
5. Three Wishes Cinnamon
Nutritional info per serving ( ¾ cup): 120 calories, 2 total fat (0 g saturated fat), 18 g carbs (3 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 8 g protein
"Three Wishes cereal is very low in added sugar, is high in protein and has a decent amount of fiber," Nedeff says.
"It's a great option for those that need a gluten-free or vegan option or for those with food allergies to corn, soy or peanuts as their flavors don't contain those ingredients. Their flavors are delicious and the cereal has a good texture. You don't get a chalky aftertaste that often comes with high-protein products."
Three Wishes is sweetened with a little bit of cane sugar plus monk fruit, a natural plant sugar that provides no calories or added sugar.
6. Kashi GO Honey Almond Flax Crunch
Nutritional info per serving (¾ cup): 200 calories, 5 total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 35 g carbs (8 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 9 g protein
"Kashi GO Honey Almond Flax Crunch provides 9 grams of protein and a whopping 8 grams of fiber per serving," Burkholder says.
"For an added benefit, Kashi GO Crunch also has 4.5 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. I love this cereal because you can get it at any grocery store rather than needing to order it."
"I love recommending Kashi cereal to patients because they have a wide variety of flavors and textures for cereal," Nedeff says. While the sugar content is a bit higher than some of the other comparable high-protein cereals, the balance of protein and fiber will help keep blood sugar levels from rising too much.
7. Clif Cereal Chocolate & Peanut Butter
Nutritional info per serving (¾ cup): 250 calories, 8 total fat (2 g saturated fat), 38 g carbs (8 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 8 g protein
Clif, the beloved protein energy bar brand, also makes hearty cereals! Clif's cereal actually contains 40 percent less sugar than comparable leading brands. And with 8 grams of fiber and protein each, it'll leave you feeling full for hours, with a satisfying chocolatey peanut butter taste.
It's made with organic grains and granola along with real peanut butter and seeds like flax and pumpkin, which all provide healthy fats and fiber. The end result is a crunchy cereal that can help you power through your day.
How to Choose Healthy Cereal
When selecting from the many different cereal options out there, it's best to choose brands that meet the following criteria:
1. Low in Sugar
Many kinds of breakfast cereal contain too much sugar, which can spike your blood sugar and lead to energy crashes not long after eating it.
Try to choose cereals with 10 grams or less of added sugar per serving to help keep energy levels stable and to support your overall health by sticking to the added sugar limits recommended by the American Heart Association.
2. High in Fiber
Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate that can support gut health, promote normal bowel movements, balance blood sugar, help manage weight and more.
Aim for cereals that contain at least 3 or more grams of fiber per serving to help meet your daily needs. If your cereal doesn't contain enough fiber, try sprinkling chia seeds, hemp seeds or ground flax onto your bowl.
3. High in Protein
We consider a high-protein cereal to be one that has at least 8 grams of protein per serving. This will help fill you up while also helping stabilize blood sugar.
4. Easy-to-Read Ingredients List
Look for cereals that contain mostly recognizable, whole-food ingredients, without a long list of preservatives and artificial ingredients.
Even regular cereals that are not marketed or specially created to be high in protein can still serve as a great breakfast. Pairing your cereal with wholesome additions like flax or chia seeds, nuts and naturally high-protein milk, such as cow, soy or pea protein milk can easily help to boost the protein content of your breakfast or snack.
- Greater protein intake at breakfast or as snacks and less at dinner is associated with cardiometabolic health in adults
- Revisiting the role of protein-induced satiation and satiety
- Study on the postprandial blood glucose suppression effect of D-psicose in borderline diabetes and the safety of long-term ingestion by normal human subjects