Which cereal is best for you and your children?

Why is there TSP and BHT in cereal?

Join me as I tackle the crack cereal aisle
(updated April 2014)

It’s strange really. In my travels through Greece, France, and Italy I don't recall ever seeing a bowl of cereal.  Every morning we ate fruit, fresh bread, fruit preserves, honey and hard boiled eggs.   Here in North America cereal is like crack for breakfast.

What's even stranger is that most cereal have earned an official looking "health check logo". This gives parents a nice feeling of if they are making good choices for their children.  However, most of these cereal have little fiber, are full of preservatives, and have between 10 to 20 grams of sugar.  That’s 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving!

My children and husband aren’t ready to give up their cereal yet, so it was important that I found better choices.   At first, my aim was to find cereal with less than 3 grams of sugar per 30g serving.

What I didn’t realize is that chemicals and preservatives would become my primary concern. The big problem is that most of these cereal  have an unnecessary ingredient called BHT used to give cereal a long shelf life.  Because of its risks, many countries have banned BHT, whereas the US and Canada have simply issued advisory warnings.

Here are 5 tips for buying cereal with options for everyone, including the super picky cereal addicts. (All servings have been adjusted to 30 gram)

1.  Always read the ingredients!

Fibre 1 cereal boast that it has “no sugar added”. But a closer look reveals that it’s sweetened with the artificial sweetener, sucralose (splenda).  No Thanks!  Always check your ingredients for artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols and sugar!

There are sugar-free and low-sugar cereal ...

Rice Krispies 3g Sugar, 0g Fiber
Corn Flakes 3g Sugar, 0g Fiber
Special K 3g Sugar, 0g Fiber
Rice Chex 2g Sugar, 0g of Fiber
Rice Krispies Brown Rice 1g Sugar, 1g Fiber
Quaker Muffets 0g Sugar, 3.5 grams of Fiber - SUGAR-FREE
Post Shredded Wheat 0g Sugar, 3.8g Fiber - SUGAR-FREE
Post Spoon Size Shredded Wheat 0g Sugar, 3.8g Fiber - SUGAR-FREE

However, these cereal are full of preservatives, like BHT to give them a long shelf life.

Cheerios contains Trisodium Phosphate, also known as TSP … Yes....the cleaner you use to wash your walls before you paint!

It's true that vinegar and salt are also considered abrasive but have you ever seen TSP as an ingredient in a recipes?

It can be hard for kids and adults to think about the consequences of long-term, daily consumption of these unnecessary chemicals.  I argued for hours with my son about this.  Breakfast cereal really is like crack!  The trick here was to reach a compromise that we could both live with. Preservatives and chemicals were not negotiable.

2. Buy cereal with very few ingredients

Nature's Path Organic Rice Puffs, Kamut Puffs, Millet Puffs, and Corn Puffs have one ingredient and all have 0g of sugar and 1-2g of fiber.

President’s Choice Wheat Square have 3.6g of sugar and 3g of fiber.

This cereal only has 4 ingredients besides the added vitamins and minerals!

3.  Choose cereal that has more fiber than sugar

Nature's Path Corn Flakes and Heritage Crunch have 2-3g of sugar and 3 grams of fiber.

PC Organics – Ancient Grains & 7 Reasons multigrain – 2-3g of sugar and 3g of fiber.

Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 – Almond & Golden Flax  are made with sprouted grain.  Both Ezekiel cereals are “no-sugar-added” and have 6g of fiber.

Holy Crap & The Skinny breakfast cereal contains all natural ingredients like:  organic chia, organic hulled hemp hearts, organic buckwheat, organic cranberries, organic raisins, organic apple bits, organic cinnamon.

Contains 1-3 grams of sugar (some of it is naturally occurring) and 4-5 grams of fiber (plus it's Non-gmo, Vegan & Gluten Free).

Kellogg’s - All-Bran Bran Flakes3.5 grams of sugar and over 4 grams of fiber.   Another Kellogg's  preservative-free cereal!  This was the only All Bran product to make my list. 

Ingredients:  Whole wheat, wheat bran, sugar, salt, malt (corn flour, malted barley), vitamins and minerals.

Weetabix Whole Grain Cereal – Sweetened with organic dehydrated cane.  It comes in at 2g of sugar and 4g of fiber.  Weetabix prides itself on using only 4 simple ingredients and not adding any trans fats, artificial preservatives, colours or flavours.

Weetabix Alpen - Apple Spice Muesli has 4g of sugar and 4g of fiber.  The Alpen regular has 4g of sugar and 3.3g of fiber.

Kashi – 7 Whole Grain Puffed Cereal has 0g of sugar and 2g of fiber.  It’s also one of eleven non-Gmo Kashi products.

Qia by Nature's Path - Chia, Buckwheat & Hemp Cereal

Comes in Cranberry Vanilla (3g sugar), Apple Cinnamon (3g sugar) and Original (Og sugar).  They all have 4 grams of fiber.

4.  Avoid cereal with added fruit juice or dried sweetened fruit pieces.

Some cereal is sweetened with white grape, apple, pear, dried evaporated cane, etc….  While this might seem healthier, these juices are simply concentrated, leaving just the sugar…and in the end sugar is still sugar.

When looking at cereal with dried fruit, there’s just no way of knowing, from the Nutrition Facts label, what is a naturally occurring sugar and what is not.

Add real fruit instead.

Dorset Cereals Honey Granola – Made in the U.K. this was the only low-sugar granola I could find.  It’s sweetened with honey adding up to 4 grams of sugar and has 3g of fiber.  It has a nice peanut taste, but it wasn’t something I could eat a lot of (which is a good thing!).

Ingredients: Oats (35%), honey (15%), sunflower seeds (9%), flaked almonds (8%), rye flakes (8%), grape seed oil (grape seed oil, antioxidant: natural tocopherol-rich extract*), pecans (7%), pumpkin seeds (7%), natural vanilla extract, salt.

5.  If all else fails...find a preservative-free compromise

The ingredient “Tocopherols” is a natural preservative in the form of vitamin E.

Avoid genetically modified cereal by choosing organic.

Nature's Path Whole O’s have 4g of sugar and 3g of fiber.

These are a much better alternative to the Cheerios and Froot Loops that kids love.

Nature's Path Organic Crispy Rice is a favourite family.  It has 2g of fiber and 2g of sugar, is organic and preservative free.

Friends and family all agree that these taste just like Rice Krispies!

Sugar-Free-Teen was so happy about these because she said she “missed cereal”.  Apparently cereal is like a cherished family member.  Sugar-Loving Teen said it was “okay but not the same”.  My husband thought they tasted “pretty close” and declared that Rice Krispies were “out” and Crispy Rice was “in”!

Sugar-Loving Teen eats them (which means he secretly likes them).

Kellogg’s Crispix Krispies: 3 grams of sugar and 0 grams of fiber.

Kellogg's actually makes a preservative-free cereal marketed at picky parents.  It has no BHT or TSP.  Why can’t they do this for all their cereal?

Ingredients: Corn, rice, sugar, salt, fancy molasses, barley malt syrup, baking soda, natural colour, vitamins and minerals.

Sometimes you have to pick your battles, especially when these battles involve grown adults and teenagers.  In our house this cereal is a compromise I've learned to live with.

Lesson Learned.....

This trip to the grocery store started out being about sugar.  What it did was open my eyes regarding the use of preservatives in cereal. 

The best strategy is to buy something that is low in sugar or sugar-free and add your own sweetener and fresh fruit.  That way, you have total control.   I like having total control over my food.  Don’t you?


  1. I bought one of the Ezekiel cereal it doesn't mention in the ingredients that it has 8 grams of sugar!!!!!!!!

  2. Thank you so much for this informative post and your entire blog in general! My kids & I are transitioning to a low-sugar lifestyle after watching Fed Up as part of a school lesson (we homeschool), and your blog is so helpful! I just checked the box of Cheerios that I have in the pantry and it lists Tripotassium Phosphate as an ingredient, but not Trisodium Phosphate. does not list Tripotassium Phosphate as a controversial ingredient. Do you know anything about it?

  3. I'm new to Costco - I did not see All Bran bran flakes - do they not carry this product? This is the only cereal we eat.


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