Fiber-rich cereals have made progress on the road to tastiness.
Fourteen years ago, Consumer Reports found that most high-fiber cereals “tasted more like straw than grain.” But in its latest tests of 26 cereals, most with at least 6 grams of fiber, more than two-thirds tasted very good or better.
Consumer Reports’ testers have advice on how to get the best for breakfast:
• Based on the results, you can buy shredded wheat and raisin bran by price. Within those categories, many of the cereals taste quite similar, and there’s a CR Best Buy for each type: Market Pantry Frosted shredded wheat (Target) and Great Value raisin bran (Walmart).
• Four cereals were both very tasty and very nutritious based on calories, fat, sodium, sugars, iron, calcium and fiber: Kellogg’s All-Bran Original, Post Grape-Nuts The Original, Post Shredded Wheat Original Spoon Size and Post Shredded Wheat Wheat ’n Bran Spoon Size.
• The only cereal that was excellent for taste was Bear Naked Fruit and Nut granola. But its overall nutrition was fair, and it has just 2 grams of fiber per quarter-cup serving.
Market Pantry, the best-tasting of the shredded wheat cereals, is frosted, has larger biscuits than others and isn’t as crunchy. Post Original Spoon Size is unfrosted and much less sweet than others.
All of the four very good raisin brans have tender, sugar-covered raisins, and toasted bran and malt flavors. Although their flakes became less crisp after 2 minutes in milk, they didn’t get soggy.
Post Grape-Nuts, the top “other high-fiber” cereal, has pebblelike wheat bits that soak up milk, which softens and improves their texture. They have a nutty grain flavor and no sweetness. And that excellent tasting Bear Naked granola has it all: large and small clusters with pecans, walnuts, almonds, raisins, cranberries, sesame seeds, coconut slivers, brown sugar, honey and cinnamon.
Despite the benefits of fiber – it can help control appetite and weight, and might help lower the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes – the Department of Agriculture says American adults consume an average of just 15 grams a day. That’s far below the 25 grams recommended for women and 38 for men.
Many foods are naturally high in fiber, but cereals are one of the most convenient ways to get it. Some cereal makers add inulin (usually from chicory-root fiber or extract) to boost fiber.
Although cereal manufacturers often tout fiber levels, Consumer Reports notes that you’ll hear other boasts, too. Claims for the tested cereals include “as much protein as an egg” (Kashi GoLean Crunch and Kashi GoLean Fiber Twigs), and “no GMOs,” referring to genetically modified organisms (Cascadian Farms Organic Oats and Honey as well as Nature’s Path Organic Flax).
A misleading claim for Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats – that it was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20 percent” – recently resulted in the company’s agreement to pay $4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit.
The tested cereals can also be distinguished by their calorie counts, ranging from 60 to 260 per serving. Granolas, often thought of as healthful, are among the highest in calories and fat – up to 10 grams per serving in the tested granolas compared with 1 gram in the other types of cereals. Sodium and sugars also range widely. Some cereals include artificial sweeteners, which minimize sugar content.
Bottom line: Overall, 18 cereals tasted very good or excellent; 11 were very good or excellent for nutrition. Consider serving sizes, too. They range from a quarter-cup to 1¼ cups depending on the cereal’s density, so be careful how much you pour. Overdose on a whole cup of Bear Naked Fruit and Nut granola, and you’ll consume 560 calories, more than a fourth of the number most people should have in a day.