6 "Healthy" Cereals That Have As Much Sugar As a Doughnut

Plus, swaps that can help you reduce your intake.

There is no denying that cereal is delicious. Nothing hits the spot like a sweet and crunchy bowl with cold milk—whether you opt for the dairy variety or an alternative. That said, some cereals are notorious for having lots of sugar, which might not be the best thing to start your mornings.

There are several cereals that are touted as healthier alternatives to childhood classics like Frosted Flakes or Cap'n Crunch. But, you might be surprised to learn that a serving of these "healthy" cereals contains just as much—if not more— sugar than a doughnut. We found six "healthy" cereals that have as much sugar as a plain cake doughnut, which has close to 12 grams of sugar according to the USDA.

The American Heart Association recommends that most people should aim to consume at most 6 teaspoons (about 25 grams) of sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day (or about 37 grams) for men. Eating too much added sugar each day can increase your risk of diabetes, insulin resistance, dental issues, heart disease and high blood pressure. While some sugar can definitely be part of a balanced and healthy eating pattern, it's best to consume it in moderation to prevent further health complications.

When looking at nutrition labels, it's important to recognize the difference between natural sugars and added sugar. The sugar content listed as "added sugar" comes from additives to make food sweeter like high-fructose corn syrup, coconut sugar, maple syrup and corn syrup, to name a few. These sweeteners do not naturally occur in foods so they are listed on nutrition labels to let you know how much sugar was added to make your food sweet. Natural sugars are naturally occurring in foods like fruit, grains, certain dairy and starchy vegetables. When reading the total amount of sugars on nutrition labels, natural sugars are the sugar that naturally derives from the ingredients used to create the food, rather than to make it taste sweeter.

a collage of corn flakes with a plain glazed donut
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6 "Healthy" Breakfast Cereals That Have As Much Sugar As a Doughnut

These healthy cereals may be a delicious sweet treat, but their sugar content might not make them the best option for a daily morning meal. Read on for more, as well as options to replace your morning bowl.

1. Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats (12g sugar, 12g added sugar)

Everyone has a favorite way to eat Frosted Mini Wheats. Maybe you like to soak them in the milk so they're a little soggy, or you eat them straight out the box for a crunchy snack. Regardless of how you prefer your Frosted Mini Wheats, they are pretty high in sugar and might not be the option to start every day. Each serving of 25 biscuits contains 12 grams of sugar (all of which are added sugar) and 210 calories.

While they are high in sugar, Frosted Mini Wheats are also relatively high in fiber, containing 6 grams per serving, or about 20% of your daily needs. This can make them a more filling option for an occasional sweet treat.

2. Honey Nut Cheerios (12g sugar, 12g added sugar)

Honey Nut Cheerios are a sweet, crunchy cereal that's considered a classic in many American households. For years, Honey Nut Cheerios have been associated with health benefits because their sister cereal, plain Cheerios, is advertised to promote heart health.

While Cheerios cereals do contain whole grains, which are important for heart health and more, Honey Nut Cheerios contain 12 grams of added sugar per 1-cup serving. This might be more than you'd expect if you're looking for healthier, lower-sugar alternatives. Original Cheerios contain 2 grams of sugar per serving, so you could try swapping them in next time you go grocery shopping and adding in fruit for some natural sweetness.

3. Quaker Simply Granola Oats, Honey & Almonds (13g sugar, 10g added sugar)

With words like "granola," "almonds" and "oats," it might be easy to assume that this Quaker Oats cereal is a healthy breakfast option. While it does boast nutritious ingredients like whole grains and healthy fats, the cereal contains 13 grams of sugar per every ⅔-cup serving (10 grams of which are added). That's over half of the daily recommended added sugar intake, and its low protein content might not give you lasting energy.

4. Bear Naked Fruit and Nut Granola (13g sugar, 10g added sugar)

Bear Naked is known for their granola and oatmeal snacks and their natural-food brand philosophy. While these yummy granolas are great treats to have every once in a while, eating a whole bowl of this Fruit and Nut Granola each morning is going to contribute a lot of sugar to your daily intake. A ½-cup serving contains 13 grams of sugar (10 grams of which are added) and 270 calories. Instead of making this cereal the focus of your breakfast, try sprinkling some of the granola on top of some yogurt or alongside some fruit.

5. Raisin Bran Crunch (19g sugar, 13g added sugar)

Raisin Bran is traditionally assumed to be a healthy cereal packed with "good for you" ingredients. While Raisin Bran is full of vitamins and minerals, this Raisin Bran Crunch has 19 grams of sugar (13 grams are added sugar) per 1-cup serving.

6. Special K Chocolatey Delight Cereal (12g sugar, 12g added sugar)

Special K cereals are one of the most popular "healthy" cereals on shelves. Despite their claims to be lower in calories and sugar than other cereals, this Chocolatey Delight Cereal by Special K contains 12 grams of sugar per 1-cup serving, all of which are added sugar. If you're looking to lower your sugar intake, consider some other Special K cereal flavors and look at the grams of sugar on the nutrition label before committing to one. Just because a product is marketed as a healthy food doesn't mean it's the right choice for you.

Lower-Sugar Breakfast Cereal Options

If you love starting the morning with a bowl of cereal, there are still plenty of options to enjoy that can help you lower your sugar intake and meet your nutritional goals.

Here are a few cereals that are lower in sugar to keep an eye out for on your next grocery shop:

The Bottom Line

Cereal is a convenient and delicious way to eat breakfast, and you definitely don't need to cut it out completely if you're trying to watch your sugar intake. Next time you're choosing a cereal to add to your breakfast routine, look out for some of the lower-sugar brands like Kix and Multi Grain Cheerios, and always read the label for the grams of sugar per serving. With a little planning and know-how, you can enjoy a delicious breakfast that's filling, flavorful and aligns with your health goals.

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