Cereal is one of the most common breakfast choices in America, and for all ages. With so many cereal brands and varieties on the market shelves, it can be difficult to know which cereals make for wholesome options.
Most cereals are made up of primarily carbohydrates. Carbs are an essential macronutrient that is your body and brain's main energy source. When carbs are digested, they are broken down into glucose, which is used for brain functions like memory, thinking and learning, according to Harvard Medical School.
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But too many carbs coming from added sugars can lead to health issues like weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to a November 2016 article in Nutrients.
"Keeping your carb intake low at breakfast can help set you up for more stable blood sugar throughout the day and prevent that mid-morning crash that has you reaching for high-carb snacks and another coffee refill," says Heather Ayala, RD, CKNS.
How We Chose
After chatting with other registered dietitians, doing our own research and taste-testing cereal brands, we chose the best low-carb cereals based on the following criteria:
- Total carbohydrate content (the ones below clock in under 30 total grams per serving)
- Fiber content
- Ingredient list
The Best Low-Carb Cereals
- Catalina Crunch Cinnamon Toast ($34.20 for a pack of 4, Amazon)
- Magic Spoon Peanut Butter ($39 for a pack of 4, Magic Spoon)
- Premier Protein Mixed Berry Almond ($7.29, Amazon)
- Cheerios ($4.78, Amazon)
- Kashi GO Keto Dark Cocoa ($9.79, Amazon)
- Primal Island Grain-Free Blueberry Granola ($11.99, Primal Island)
1. Catalina Crunch Cinnamon Toast
Nutritional info per serving (1/2 cup): 110 calories, 5 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 14 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 0 g sugar (0 g added sugar), 11 g protein
Catalina Crunch has a passion for developing "delicious snacks made healthy," according to their website. While their cereals are formulated to be keto-friendly and may be one of the best keto cereals, they can also be enjoyed by anyone.
This cereal brings back the nostalgic cinnamon toast cereal flavor that you may have grown up eating. It's primarily made with a protein and fiber blend and is sweetened with the natural and calorie-free sweeteners stevia and monk fruit, giving it zero grams of sugar. One serving provides between 1/3 and 1/2 of the amount of fiber most people need each day, which can benefit gut health, weight management and more.
Catalina Crunch ($49 for a pack of 4); Amazon ($34.20 for a pack of 4)
2. Magic Spoon Peanut Butter
Nutritional info per serving (1 cup): 170 calories, 9 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 10 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugar (0 g added sugar), 14 g protein
Magic Spoon creates cereals that are high in protein and low in carbs — a perfect combination to keep your blood sugar stable and your appetite satisfied for hours. Their cereals are also grain-free, gluten-free, and contain no artificial colors or sweeteners.
They offer a variety of flavors to match nearly all of your cravings, such as Peanut Butter, Fruity, Blueberry Muffin and more.
Magic Spoon ($39 for a pack of 4); Target ($9.99 per box)
3. Premier Protein Mixed Berry Almond
Nutritional info per serving (1 cup): 180 calories, 5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 14 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar (4 g added sugar), 20 g protein
This cereal contains a high amount of filling protein while also being low in carbs, making it suitable for anyone who is watching their carb intake. It features many whole-food ingredients like strawberries, raspberries and sliced almonds and is sweetened with stevia, giving it only 5 grams of total sugar per serving.
Nutritional info per serving (1 ½ cup): 140 calories, 2.5 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 29 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 2 g sugar (1 g added sugar), 5 g protein
While many people may have tried it, not as many may know that the carbs in Cheerios are relatively low at just 29 grams per serving. And with 4 grams of fiber per serving, the net carbs come down to 25 grams as fiber is not digested and can be subtracted from the total carb count. It is also extremely low in sugar and contains no artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors.
The first ingredient in Cheerios is gluten-free whole-grain oats, followed by just a few other simple ingredients. This popular cereal is fortified with a variety of vitamins and minerals to help meet daily nutrient needs. While it has more of a plain flavor, it can be easily dressed up with other low-carb toppings like nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, cinnamon or a combination of all.
5. Kashi GO Dark Cocoa
Nutritional info per serving (1 ¼ cup): 150 calories, 6 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 19 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 1 g sugar (0 g added sugar), 12 g protein
"This cereal provides almost a third of your daily fiber needs. To make things better, it also provides 12 grams of protein per serving, which comes from lentil protein, chickpea flour, and pea protein," says Caroline Burkholder, RD, owner of RootED Nutrition and Counseling.
"This cereal also doesn't contain sugar alcohols, as many low-carb cereals do, which can cause discomfort in the digestive tract for some sensitive people. As a bonus, it doesn't contain any of the top eight allergens, so it can work well in families that need to be allergy-conscious," Burkholder says.
6. Primal Island Grain-Free Blueberry Granola
Nutritional info per serving (1/2 cup): 220 calories, 17 g total fat (8 g saturated fat), 16 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 10 g sugar (5 g added sugar), 4 g protein
You may not initially associate granolas with being low-carb, but this one fits the bill. "If you want to skip out on the more processed sweeteners like sugar alcohols, the best option could be Primal Kitchen's Grain Free Granola, which is sweetened with dried fruit and honey," Ayala says.
"Slightly higher on the carb count at 11 net grams per 1/2-cup serving, you get the benefits of a crunchy, sweet bowl of cereal. The Blueberry version is full of dried coconut, a variety of nuts and seeds and beneficial spices like nutmeg and cinnamon." Ayala says.
Primal Island ($11.99 for a bag)
How to Choose a Healthy Low-Carb Cereal
When choosing a low-carb cereal, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure you select a nutritious option:
1. Low in Sugar
If you're looking for a low-carb cereal, you'll definitely want to also make sure it is low in sugar. Eating too much sugar has all sorts of negative health effects including weight gain, diabetes, inflammation, high blood pressure and more, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
It is best to stick to cereals with 10 grams or less of added sugar per serving. This will help you stay within the added sugar limits recommended by the American Heart Association.
2. High in Fiber
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate. However, it's not digested, so it doesn't raise blood sugar or provide any calories. There are so many health benefits to eating more fiber, including better gut health, better blood sugar control and a healthy weight.
It's best to choose low-carb cereals with ideally 3 or more grams of fiber per serving. If you want to add even more fiber to your bowl, try sprinkling some nuts or seeds on top.
3. Good Source of Protein
A combination of fiber and protein will help keep you full for hours by keeping your blood sugar stable, rather than causing a blood sugar spike followed by a crash. This combination is also best for weight management.
"If you can find a cereal with 3 or more grams of fiber and 10 or more grams of protein, you'll find the cereal is much more satisfying and will keep you full longer," Burkholder says.
4. Simple Ingredients List
Typically, the shorter the ingredients list, the better. This makes it less likely to contain things like preservatives and artificial ingredients.
"Ingredients are listed by weight, so if the first ingredient is a whole grain, for example, you'll know that most of the cereal is derived from whole-grain ingredients, which are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals," Burkholder says.
As another rule of thumb, look for mostly whole-food ingredients you can recognize.