Choosing a Healthy Breakfast Cereal in Canada

There are hundreds of cereal brands on the market today!!

Is there a way to quickly look at a cereal box and see if it’s a better choice? The answer is YES!

Scroll down to the bottom of this post to check out our pick for the top 10 Breakfast Cereals in Canada based on nutrition and taste

Before reviewing the five steps, here are some fun cereal trivia facts:

  • Post Shredded Wheat and Grape- Nut cereal has existed since the 1890s. Both contain no added sugars. 
  • Kellog’s Corn Flakes was patented in 1898 and made available commercially in 1906. It contains minimal added sugars.
  • Pre-sweetened cereals have been available since the 1940s.

Breakfast cereal is a kitchen staple in more than 20% of Canadian households. Ready-to-eat cereal is convenient, shelf-stable and economical. It can be put together quickly, with or without milk of choice, and eaten as a meal or a snack. Fortified Ready-to-eat cereal contains essential nutrients such as iron, thiamin, vitamin B6, and folate. 

How to Choose a Healthy Cereal?

Choosing a healthier option involves reading the nutrition label and the list of ingredients on the package.  We want to be choosing a breakfast cereal that is low in added sugars, high in fiber, and tasty! Let us walk you through what to look for and scroll down to find out our top recommendations on the market for breakfast cereals. 

 

1) Check Serving sizes

On the top left side of the nutrition table is the serving size.  This serving size determines the nutrition information that follows. The values will change if you eat more or less than this.  When comparing cereals, be sure to take a note of the serving size, different products may use different serving sizes for their nutrition labels so we want to make sure we are comparing the same amount to start.

 

2) Check Total Sugars

The nutrition label contains specific information on the number of added sugars in the serving size of packaged food. If you read the nutrition labelling of Captain Crunch, you will see that a serving has 12 grams of sugar which equals four teaspoons of sugar. (One teaspoon of sugar contains 4 grams.) The Kellogg’s Corn Flakes label indicates that a serving contains 4 grams of sugar.

 

If you are looking for a cereal with a low sugar content, this section provides the information to help you decide. Look for less than 5-10%DV of sugars on the nutrition label (this DV is based on 100g sugars, hence less than 5-10g sugars per serving).  According to the Health and Stroke Foundation, added sugars should be no more than 10%  (12 teaspoons) of your calories, and less than 5% (6 teaspoons) is the ideal amount based on a 2000-calorie diet.

 

Health Canada is requiring %DV on the nutrition label for total sugars and are requiring a symbol on the front of packages indicating that a food is high in saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium with their new nutrition labelling regulations for packaged foods.  This will help us identify cereals that are high in sugars more easily. The food industry has been given until January 1, 2026, to make this change.

 

3) Look for Fiber

It is hard to get enough fiber in a day – we need approximately 25-38 grams of daily fiber as an adult. Fiber helps with digestion, improves gut health, alleviates constipation, lowers cholesterol, regulates blood sugars, keeps you full longer and more. 

 

 A serving size containing 4g or more of fiber is considered a high source of fiber. Another way of determining this is to look at the Daily value. If it is higher than 15% (based on 25g fiber), it is a good source of fiber. 

 

4) Choose Whole Grains

Opt for whole grains when choosing a cereal.  Along with higher fiber, these cereals contain other nutrients that all work together to help lower risks of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular.

Examples of whole grains are oats, brown rice, millet, whole wheat, and quinoa. Look for these ingredients near the top of the ingredient list (The list starts with the ingredient that weighs the most and ends with the ingredient that weighs the least.)

  

5) Be Cautious with Sodium 

Most Canadians consume too much salt. The ideal amount is less than 1500mg; eating less than 2300mg is recommended. One teaspoon of salt already has 2850mg of sodium! 

The sodium in our diet comes mostly from processed foods, as it enhances flavour and helps as a preservative. The top three processed foods high in sodium are soup, cheese and breakfast cereals. 

It’s hard to believe, but you must check the cereal’s sodium levels. Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. Remember that by looking at the daily value  (DV) on the label, look for less than 5%DV for sodium (based on 2300mg sodium).

 

What are High Fiber Foods and Why is Fiber Important?

Fiber is found in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. The general recommendation for fiber is about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, most people eat less than this amount.


Fiber has many benefits to our health, including:

  • Digestive Health: Fiber helps with digestion and prevent constipation by adding bulk to the stool and promoting regular bowel movements.
  • Weight Management: High-fiber foods tend to be more filling, which can help reduce overall calorie intake by making you feel full for longer.

  • Blood Sugar Control: Fiber, especially soluble fiber, can slow the absorption of sugar and improve blood sugar levels

  • Heart Health: A high-fiber diet has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. It can improve cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.

  • Colon Health: A diet rich in fiber can reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer and other gut issues

  • Overall Health: Eating a high-fiber diet can also contribute to better overall health

Top 10 Breakfast Cereals in Canada (based on nutrition and taste) :

  1. Alpen Muesli No Sugar Added
    • 5g fiber, 5g sugars (1/2 cup serving)
    • Whole grain oats, whole grain wheat first 2 ingredients

  2. Kashi* GOLEAN* Crunch Cereal
    • 3g fiber, 9g sugars (1/2 cup serving)
    • Hard red wheat, brown rice, barley, triticale, oats, rye, buckwheat as first ingredients

  3. Hemp Hearts Granola
    • 4g fiber, 9g sugars (1/2 cup serving)
    • Whole grain rolled oats as first ingredient

  4. KIND Cinnamon Oat with Flax Seeds Granola
    • 9g fiber, 10g sugars (65g serving)
    • Oats as first ingredient

  5. Granola Girl
    • 3g fiber, 8g sugars (1/2 cup serving)
    • Gluten-free oats as first ingredient

  6. Oatmeal Crisp Almond Cereal
    • 3g fiber, 7g sugars (1/2 cup serving)
    • Whole grain oats, Whole grain wheat as first 2 ingredients

  7. Nature’s Path – Heritage Crunch
    • 3g fiber, 3.5g sugars (1/2 cup serving)
    • whole grain oats, wheat flour, wheat bran as first 3 ingredients

  8. Nature’s Path – Pumpkin Flax Granola
    • 4.5g fiber, 8.5g sugars
    • whole grain oats as first ingredient

  9. Nature’s Path Qi’a Organic Cocoa Coconut Cereal
    • 3g fiber, 3g sugars (1/2 cup serving)
    • brown rice flour as first ingredient

  10. PC Organics Organic Honey Almond Granola
    • 4g fiber, 8g sugars (1/2 cup serving)
    • organic whole grain oat flakes as first ingredient

Conclusion

When choosing a healthier breakfast cereal, there are several factors to consider. One of the first things to look at is the portion size. Be mindful of how much grain you consume, as portion sizes vary significantly between brands.

 

Next, take a closer look at the nutritional content, particularly sodium and sugar levels. Cereals with lower sodium and sugar content can support a healthier diet. High sodium levels can contribute to high blood pressure, while excessive sugar intake has been linked to various health issues.

 

Additionally, consider the fibre content in your cereal choice. Fibre is an essential nutrient that aids in digestion and helps keep you feeling full throughout the morning. Look for cereals with higher fibre content to promote better overall health.

 

Following these tips, you can make an informed decision when selecting a healthier breakfast cereal that aligns with your dietary goals and supports your well-being. If you need more help, book a call with a dietitian who can work with you to tailor your choices. 

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