Half of all Americans start their day with a bowl of cereal for breakfast, according to the National Cereal Council. And while it is typically a healthy breakfast choice (better than sugary doughnuts, giant muffins, even carb-loaded bagels), your favorite cereal might not be as healthy as you think.

Study after study has shown that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast has been shown to help people maintain a healthy weight, concentrate better, and even live longer. Cereal can be a great go-to option. However, certain cereals can do more harm than good to your waistline (and your health). Here, a look at the best and worst breakfast cereals.


Worst Breakfast Cereals

These cereals might contain more artificial ingredients than real ingredients.

A Sugar Situation

If sugar is the main ingredient in your cereal of choice, you're heading toward a diet disaster. One 1-cup serving of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes ® contains 8 grams of sugar-about the same amount you'd get by eating two and a half lollipops. Even worse, these sugar-coated flakes are also brimming with an endless list of preservatives.

Fake Fruit

Some of the most popular cereal brands deceptively boast the word fruit in their names, but as a general rule of thumb, if it turns the milk fluorescent pink, stay away. Kellogg's Fruit Loops® gets its fruity flavor and neon hues from a slew of (often unpronounceable) artificial colorings and flavorings. In addition, it contains high amounts of sugar: 12 grams in a single cup serving.

Salt Shockers

It's not surprising that sugary concoctions and bright colors are red flag offenders, but high amounts of sodium could be lurking in your cereal as well. To find out if your favorite cereal is saltier than you think, make sure to read the label. Despite being low in fat and made with whole grains, Post Raisin Bran ® cereal boasts 300 milligrams of salt in one serving. That's nearly 15 percent of the amount you should consume all day.


Best Breakfast Cereals

The cereals listed here are a great way to get your day started.

Fiber Friendly

It fills you up, lowers cholesterol, and can even help protect against conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Why not make fiber a main ingredient in your cereal? Start your day with a bowl of General Mills Wheaties® to get four of the 20 to 30 recommended grams of daily fiber in each 1-cup serving.

How to Get Enriched

Zinc, calcium, and iron are among the many minerals that are essential for improving health and maintaining functions within the body. Fortified cereals may help fill nutritional gaps in both children and adults. If your diet could use a boost, try switching to General Mills Total® for your morning cereal. One cup of provides 100 percent of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium, iron, and zinc--not to mention 100% of your RDA of vitamins A, C, E, B6, and folic acid.



Not So Sweet

Many popular cereals on the market are loaded with refined sugars, making breakfast a little too much like dessert. Read the labels carefully and aim for a brand that contains 5 grams (or less) of sugar per serving. Nabisco Shredded Wheat® and Kellogg's All Bran® will get your morning started without a sugar rush-and will even pack a decent fiber punch, too.