Many breakfast-cereal concoctions come and go (R.I.P., Donkey Kong Crunch; adios, Urkel-O’s). Then there are the beloved stalwarts―raisin bran, corn flakes, crispy rice―that will be breakfast staples forever. But which brands in these traditional categories are best? Real Simple testers ate their way through 42 boxes to find out. (Note: All cereals tested in this story were free of high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.)
The Best O's
The pure oaty flavor and the hearty crunch of these whole-grain rings, which contain just one gram of sugar per serving, easily won over testers. “No wonder my toddler can’t get enough of them,” one enthused.
Made with brown rice (a nice twist on the traditional white), these delicate puffs have “a pleasing nutty flavor,” a staffer raved. “Topped with strawberries, they would make a great light breakfast.”
To buy: $4 for 10 ounces.
3 of 18 Quaker Oats
The Best Shredded Oats
Mikey liked it back in the 1970s, and Real Simple testers feel the same way today. The thin oat squares strike a tasty balance of salty and sweet.
To buy: $4 for 15 ounces.
4 of 18 Cascadian Farm
The Best Raisin Bran
Cascadian Farm Organic Raisin Bran
“The plump, juicy raisins aren’t overwhelmed by the number of flakes,” said a fan. “Plus, the fruit is free of that awful coating of sugar so many companies use.”
To buy: $4 for 14 ounces.
5 of 18 Trader Joe's
The Best Corn Flakes
Trader Joe’s Organic Corn Flakes
“These large, sturdy flakes hold their shape, have a strong corn flavor even when drowned in milk, and don’t develop a slimy film like some other versions,” said one appreciative tester.
To buy: $2.50 for 12 ounces.
6 of 18 Three Sisters Cereal
The Best Frosted Wheat
Three Sisters Sweet Wheat
These bites have a dusting of icing on one side that adds a touch of sweetness to the milk. Bonus: The resealable plastic bag cuts down on wasteful packaging.
To buy: $3.40 for 15.5 ounces, Whole Foods Market.
7 of 18Kashi
The Best High-Fiber, Low-Fat
Cereals touted for their nutritional profile can’t always make the same claim for taste. Real Simple staffers sampled 77 options―all containing at least 3 grams of fiber, no more than 10 grams of sugar, and less than 2 grams of fat, as recommended by Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, a registered dietitian and an American Dietetic Association spokesperson. Here are the breakfast champions.
The Best High-Fiber
Kashi Go Lean
A medley of bran twigs, honey whole-grain puffs, and mini soy graham crackers, this won praise for being hearty and delicious. One of the healthiest of all the winners, it packs 13 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber into a single serving.
To buy: $4 for 14.1 ounces.
8 of 18Kashi
The Best Shredded Wheat
Kashi Autumn Wheat
Passionate shredded-wheat devotees raved about how the squares “absorb the milk just enough, without soaking it up like a sponge.” Said one of them, “It’s tightly woven and yet has a lovely, airy crunch.”
To buy: $4.20 for 17.5 ounces.
9 of 18General Mills
The Best Crispy Whole Grain
Molasses perks up the flavors of corn, wheat, and rice in these woven brown crisps. “Forget toast in the morning. This reminds me of my favorite wheat bread, but with a more robust, nutty flavor,” a panelist said.
To buy: $3.30 for 14 ounces.
10 of 18 The Weetabix Food Company
The Best Whole Wheat Flakes
Organic Weetabix Crispy Flakes
This flake version of a popular English cereal has a pleasant, grainy texture and a slight sweetness, thanks to cane juice and a touch of sea salt.
To buy: $4.50 for 12 ounces.
11 of 18 General Mills
The Best High-Fiber Twigs
Fiber One Original
Many twigs are thin and brittle, said a taster. “This sturdy example stands up well to milk and fruit.” For an afternoon snack, try the cereal solo or sprinkled on yogurt. Half a cup contains a whopping 14 grams of fiber.
To buy: $4.20 for 16.2 ounces.
12 of 18 Nature's Path
The Best Flax
Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus Multibran
It’s easy to get more heart-healthy omega-3s in your diet with these golden flakes. “They have a cute, cuplike shape that holds the milk,” commented a fan.
To buy: $4.60 for 13.25 ounces.
13 of 18 Nature's Path
The Best Kids'
Remember when you loved visiting Susie Schumacher’s house because her mom bought “sugar” cereal? It’s still a special treat today. A panel of 32 elementary-school testers munched their way through 93 contenders, none exceeding 15 grams of sugar (the limit for registered dietitian Tanner-Blasiar). These picks hit the sweet spot.
The Best Puffs
EnviroKidz Organic Gorilla Munch
“Super crunchy!” one youngster said of this gluten-free corn cereal with 8 grams of sugar (the lowest per serving of the bunch). “I’d eat them during recess as a snack,” another noted.
To buy: $4.60 for 10 ounces.
14 of 18 General Mills
The Best Cinnamon Squares
Total Cinnamon Crunch
The “fresh cinnamon-stick taste” of these small, ultra-crispy squares enticed many panelists to go back for seconds.
To buy: $3.90 for 15.4 ounces.
15 of 18Three Sisters Cereal
The Best Marshmallow
Three Sisters Marshmallow Oaties
Testers liked that the white, pink, and purple marshmallows in this addictive cereal didn’t dissolve. “They keep their shape until the very end,” one noted.
To buy: $3.40 for 12.5 ounces, Whole Foods Market.
16 of 18 General Mills
The Best Honey-Nut O's
Honey Nut Cheerios
“Drinking the flavored milk is the best part,” one tester proclaimed after sampling this honey-and-almond classic made with whole-grain oats.
To buy: $3.80 for 12.25 ounces.
17 of 18 Kellogg's
The Best Fruity
Red flecks of dried apple cover these frosty-hued O’s. Made of corn, wheat, and oats, this cereal gets extra sweetness from apple juice and cinnamon.
To buy: $3.80 for 12.2 ounces.
18 of 18Erewhon Natural Foods
The Best Cocoa
Erewhon Organic Cocoa Crispy Brown Rice
“I could eat these all day,” said one 10-year-old panelist of the airy rice pebbles. “They stay crisp in the milk but seem to melt in your mouth. And they taste like hot chocolate.” (For a fourth grader, that’s a good thing.)