For a very, very long time, breakfast cereal has been divided into two camps: fun, kid-approved cereals like Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, and Fruit Loops, and “healthy” cereals like Grape Nuts and Oat Bran. (Anyone else consider the latter strictly “dad cereals”?)
If you wanted a cereal that actually had some protein and fiber in it—and wasn’t loaded with sugar—it seemed like you basically had to cash in your personality and reach for something bland. Even cereals that have branded themselves as “nutrient-rich” often don’t contain enough protein to make them sufficiently well-rounded or filling. Honey Nut Cheerios, for example, have only three grams of protein (and 12 grams of sugar). Remember how important it is to consume sufficient protein at breakfast? It’s no wonder that when registered dietitians are asked for breakfast recs, they’re far more likely to recommend eggs or avocado toast than cereal.
Until perhaps now. Recently, breakfast cereals have been made over to be *actually* nutritious while still being fun and delicious—and they definitely deliver on the protein front. Included here are six high-protein cereals, with a registered dietitian’s expert take on each one. The only thing that would make ’em sweeter is if a toy was hidden in each box.
6 high-protein cereals that taste delicious
What’s in it: Milk protein blend (casein whey protein concentrate), sweetener blend (allulose, monk fruit extract), oil blend (high oleic sunflower oil, avocado oil), tapioca starch, inulin (from chicory root), natural flavor, salt, turmeric extract, spirulina extract, vegetable juice.
What the brand says: Magic Spoon co-founder Gabi Lewis says the brand experimented with many different protein sources (including collagen and pea protein) before landing on a blend of milk protein isolate and whey protein isolate. “We chose them because these protein sources are extremely high quality, containing all the essential amino acids,” Lewis says. “They also created the best taste and texture for our cereal, adding a subtle background flavor that pairs perfectly with milk.”
For sweetener, Lewis says they picked allulose (found in figs and raisins) and monk fruit over cane sugar. “Both of these sweeteners are totally natural, and won’t spike blood sugar,” he says. The end result is a cereal that’s nutrient-rich while still tasting sweet.
What an RD thinks: Registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD, confirms Lewis’s statement about the protein sources being good quality, although she does point out that if someone is vegan or sensitive to dairy, this isn’t the best cereal option for them. While she does say it’s a great high-protein cereal, she does say the fiber content is low, with just one gram. Up the value by adding fruit on top!
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What’s in it: Chickpea, pea protein, tapioca, organic cane sugar, cinnamon, salt, monk fruit.
What the brand says: “We chose pea protein and chickpea as the protein sources because they created the right taste and texture that we wanted in order to mimic classic cereal in a healthier way,” CEO and co-founder Margaret Wishingrad says. “When most people complain about ‘better-for-you’ products, it has to do with a mismatch in what they get and what they expect in texture. We spent two years formulating and love when we get the feedback that we got that texture just right.”
What an RD thinks: Rifkin personally loves Three Wishes, both in terms of nutrition and taste. “The light ‘O’ shapes are delicious and are dairy and soy free, making this a great option for those with allergies or sensitivities,” she says. Rifkin says that while the fiber and protein aren’t super high (three grams and eight grams, respectively), it’s still more than what most traditional breakfast cereals have.
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What’s in it: Multigrain flakes, rolled oats, almonds, cane sugar, cassava flour, pea protein, rice flour, almonds, rice flour, oat flour, pumpkin seeds, high oleic sunflower oil, dried blueberries, palm kernel oil, almond butter, milled flaxseed, almond meal, rice starch, sea salt, natural flavors, mixed tocopherols, sunflower lecithin, barley malt extract.
What the brand says: Clif’s brand new cereal line is made with many of the same ingredients you’ll find in their bars: nut butter, seeds, and oat flour. “We’d heard from consumers that they wanted a truly satiating cereal but were having trouble finding options that offer lasting energy to power their days. At the same time, they wanted less sugar in their cereal,” says Shaunte Mears-Watkins, the brand’s chief commercial officer. “To provide that sustainable energy, we focused on including enough fiber and protein to keep consumers satiated. And with only six to seven grams of total sugar, it’s made with 30 to 40 percent less than other leading cereal brands.”
What an RD thinks: While Rifkin says the added sugar content (seven grams) is higher than the other brands on this list, the high fiber and protein content (both eight grams) earns her seal of approval.
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What’s in it: Lentil protein, sunflower oil, chickpea flour, pea protein, tapioca starch, allulose, chicory root fiber, cocoa, guar gum, salt, baking soda, vanilla extract, natural flavors, monk fruit extract, mixed tocopherols.
What the brand says: Another cereal that just hit shelves, senior brand manager Roger Willis says using protein from plants was a must for the brand. “We wanted to use plant proteins that provide nutrients like fiber and minerals,” he says. “Likewise, plant-based protein is also a great option to be inclusive of a number of dietary preferences.” He says it was also important that there was a variety of sources—not just one source—which is best for both health and biodiversity.
What an RD thinks: “Love the fiber content, protein is excellent, and the sugar is just one gram,” Rifkin says. “All together, this is unbelievably outstanding!” Enough said.
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What’s in it: Pea protein, potato fiber, non-GMO corn fiber, chicory root fiber, guar gum, tapioca flour, organic high oleic sunflower oil, baking powder, natural flavors, sea salt, calcium carbonate, stevia extract.
What the brand says: CEO and founder Krishna Kaliannan says the brand landed on pea protein because it’s a great protein source with a mild taste. The cereal doesn’t have any sugar or artificial ingredients at all—something that was important to the brand but hard for them to figure out. “We spent years trying to make the cereals taste sweet without added sugar,” Kaliannan says. “We scoured the world and found that many folks in Thailand sweeten their tea with monk fruit. Monk fruit is naturally sweet but doesn’t contain sugar, making it a great fit for folks who are ditching sugar but still want to eat sweets.”
What an RD thinks: Rifkin is into the protein and fiber sources in this cereal, but she does say it has a lot of fiber, so if you aren’t used to a lot of the nutrient in your diet (or at breakfast time), start with a small serving to avoid any gas, bloating, or digestive distress.
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What’s in it: Soy protein isolate, coconut oil, erythritol, rice flour, inulin (from chicory root fiber), oat fiber, fruit and vegetable concentrate, salt, natural flavors, vitamin E, soy lecithin, reb a, turmeric concentrate.
What the brand says: When formulating their plant-based cereal line, co-founder John Gibb says the brand landed on soy protein isolate because they were looking for an ingredient that was gluten-free, non-GMO, and high in protein. The biggest obstacle when formulating the cereal, he says, wasn’t the taste—it was actually the texture. “We have developed a deep understanding of how to compensate for the taste of sugar; but it is often its other properties which are harder to make up for,” he says. But the team worked on it until it was perfect, resulting in the cereal you see on shelves today.
What an RD thinks: “I like that it’s high in protein and low in sugar,” Rifkin says. She does say that erythritol can cause digestive distress in some people, so if you’re sensitive to sweeteners, it’s something to be aware of.
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With these high-protein cereals, you don’t have to decide between a delicious breakfast and a nutrient-rich one. One thing’s for sure: they definitely aren’t your dad’s cereal stash.
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