How Do I Choose the Best Natural Cereal?

Sherry Holetzky

Natural cereal encompasses a huge assortment of ingredients, flavors, packaging, and price ranges. There are many issues to consider before choosing the best natural cereal for you. First, if you are engaged in any special type of diet, see if there is a cereal — or more than one — specially formulated with those dietary needs in mind. Low sodium, low sugar, sugar free, gluten free, and whole grain, are just some of common offerings.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Reading the ingredients list on a package of natural cereal may be helpful. Look for whole grains, real fruit, and other words that you can pronounce easily. The shorter and simpler the list, the better many people feel about a product, especially when shopping for food. At the same time, keep in mind that names or descriptions that contain the word “natural” may not guarantee that the product is 100% natural.

The terms "natural" and "organic" are not interchangeable. Certified organic foods must meet particular guidelines, while the term "natural" is used rather freely. You may find a lot of things in natural cereal that you would find in many other offerings, including grains or fruits that have been grown with pesticides. There may also be synthetic or genetically modified ingredients.

Reports have been released that indicate some well-liked brands may not be as healthy or natural as consumers believe them to be. Sometimes, including the word “natural” simply means that no artificial color or flavor has been added or that there are no preservatives. A company’s definition or description of natural may or may not appear on the packaging, so you may need to dig deeper.

While some commercial products labeled as natural cereal may be quite good, keep in mind that homemade cereal is also an alternative. Whether it is hot cereal or cold, you will know for certain what goes into every helping of cereal you or your family members eat when you make it yourself. You can make up a bunch ahead of time to enjoy all week if you don’t have time each day during those busy morning hours.

Many foods, including natural cereal, are now available in recycled or biodegradable packaging as well. This is also a concern for many consumers, especially those working toward environmentally healthy lifestyles. While all natural foods and friendlier packaging may cost a bit more than the general offerings, many people find it well worth the additional cost. If cost is a big concern, try to stock up on your favorite products when they are on sale.

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Discussion Comments


It seems to me that hot cereal is more natural than packaged cold cereal. Packaged cereal will always have a whooole lot of ingredients, even "natural" brands. But oatmeal, for instance, has only one ingredient! Especially if you like steel cut or Irish oats, you can even cook your oatmeal overnight in the crockpot and have it hot and ready for the whole family the next morning.

Another option is to make your own granola. Since granola needs a bit of sweetener, it's a good thing to make yourself because that way you can control exactly how much sweetener you use and what kind.

If you will be adding dried fruit to your cereal, read the label on that as well - many kinds of dried fruit are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup! Raisins are generally unsweetened, but most other kinds of fruit available in the supermarket do have added sweetener. If you hunt around, you can find a wider variety of unsweetened dried fruit to make your homemade cereal tastier.

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