Eat Real Food: Cereal

Eat Real Food: Cereal

I’m sure that most of you, like me, grew up eating boxed breakfast cereals. Actually up until a year or so ago, I still was. While I had graduated from the frosted cereals and the ones with marshmallows, to the ‘whole grain’ or ‘healthy’ cereals, I still didn’t realize how how unhealthy they could be.

As I started to eat more whole foods, I started thinking about my cereals more and more. Especially the ones I was giving to my young son. It seemed so normal to feed him cheerios as breakfast and snacks. They’re touted as a great first finger food, and I was just doing what most mothers before me had done.

And I realize that food manufacturers have been putting more nutrition into the cereals, and in fact, a lot of them aren’t as bad as they used to be. So why talk about it at all? Weel, let me share an excerpt from the Weston A Price Foundation:

Dry breakfast cereals are produced by a process called extrusion. Cereal makers first create a slurry of the grains and then put them in a machine called an extruder. The grains are forced out of a little hole at high temperature and pressure. Depending on the shape of the hole, the grains are made into little o’s, flakes, animal shapes, or shreds (as in Shredded Wheat or Triscuits), or they are puffed (as in puffed rice). A blade slices off each little flake or shape, which is then carried past a nozzle and sprayed with a coating of oil and sugar to seal off the cereal from the ravages of milk and to give it crunch.

In his book Fighting the Food Giants, Paul Stitt tells us that the extrusion process used for these cereals destroys most of the nutrients in the grains. It destroys the fatty acids; it even destroys the chemical vitamins that are added at the end. The amino acids are rendered very toxic by this process. The amino acid lysine, a crucial nutrient, is especially denatured by extrusion. This is how all the boxed cereals are made, even the ones sold in the health food stores. They are all made in the same way and mostly in the same factories. All dry cereals that come in boxes are extruded cereals.

Let me also share just a couple unpublished studies with you. The first contained 4 sets of rats.

  • The first group was fed plain whole wheat, water and synthetic vitamins and minerals. These rats lived about a year.
  • The second group of rats consumed a diet of only water and proceeded to live about a month.
  • A third group was fed only water and chemical nutrients, they lived about 2 months.
  • The fourth group of rats was fed as much puffed wheat as they wanted, water, and the same vitamins and minerals as the first group. This group lived only 2 weeks. That’s not even as long as the ones who were fed only water! Could this not mean that something changes in the actual grain of wheat while going through the extrusion process?

Another unpublished experiment was done at U of M in the 1960’s with 18 rats. They were split into 3 groups.

  • Group one was fed rat chow and water (the control group). They remained in good health throughout the experiment.
  • Group two was fed corn flakes and water.
  • Group three was fed the box the corn flakes came in as well as water.

Now get this, all of the rats eating the corn flakes died before the rats eating the box! And supposedly their behavior changed dramatically to the point of going insane and then into convulsions. So does the cardboard box really have more nutrients in it, or is the cereal really that bad?

Besides the fact that boxed cereals have improperly prepared grains, or are made with refined grains (white flours), comes the fact that they have added refined sugar in them as well. On average, cereals that are most aggressively advertised to kids (think toys, cartoons, etc.) had 1/3 of their weight devoted to sugar. Another sad average is the fact that most Americans consume about 175 pounds of sugar each year when our total shouldn’t be much over 5 pounds. A study was even done in 2005 that showed on average 2-3 year olds were consuming about 14 teaspoons of added sugar a days while 4 and 5 year olds were consuming an extra 17 teaspoons.

Here’s even more statistics recently released from Consumer Reports:

  • 58% of “kids” cereals are actually comsumed by the 18 and over crowd
  • One serving of Honey Smacks, along with 10 other cereals, had as much sugar in them as a glazed donut from Dunkin Donuts.
  • 23 out of the 27 kids cereals that were tested, were rated only good or fair for nutrition
  • Most people, kids included, pour themselves more than the recommended serving size.

So what are you to eat in the morning?
If it seems odd to not have cereal in the house, you’re not alone. I’m betting a very large percentage of homes have at least one box in their house right now. Not mine. I cut out cereal over a year ago and never even think of buying it anymore. Not only is it healthier to eat fresh, whole foods for breakfast, it’s cheaper! I used to go through a box a week by myself and if I fed my toddler the same and my hubby, we’d probably be more along the lines of 2-3 boxes. T full price that’s at least $8 – $12 a week on boxed cereal.

Instead of pouring a bowl each morning, you do need to think outside the box. It might take a few more minutes of prep, but once you get used to it, it’ll seem normal.
Some ideas:

  • eggs (fried, scrambled, omelet style)
  • oatmeal (soak overnight first for greatest health benefits)
  • whole wheat muffins or pancakes (these can be made ahead and simply warmed up) with natural sweeteners (honey/maple syrup)
  • smoothies
  • fruit salad (again can be made the night before for a quick morning)
  • homemade sausage patties on whole wheat toast
  • leftovers from last nights dinner

So how many of you enjoy a daily bowl of cereal? And for those who don’t, what do you do for breakfast w/o cereal?

crossposted at Raising Peanuts
About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen says:

    We’re a no-cereal household. I don’t think my toddler has ever actually had any. Instead we serve soaked oat or quinoa porridge, eggs or yogurt with fruit and soaked nuts. Since most of the hens in the area are molting, we haven’t had any eggs to speak of so I’ve been serving sprouted grain sourdough english muffins with piima yogurt cheese and nitrate/nitrite-free lox. DS is a big fan.

  2. lizzykristine @ Uplifted Eyes says:

    My husband leaves the house before the crack of dawn, so all of his breakfasts need to be quick & easy. Last year we worked up the courage to ditch cold cereals. :)

    Now our options are:
    * homemade granola
    * spinach quiche (tastes fine cold!)
    * hard-boiled eggs (I boil several mornings' worth at a time and peel his the night before.)
    * homemade bread

    Since I have more leisure in the mornings, I also have the options of:
    * oatmeal with flax & honey
    * scrambled eggs or omelet

    We usually eat a piece of fruit for breakfast as well. The goal is some protein, some grain, and a fruit or vegetable.

  3. This weekend I was at a hotel and the hotel breakfast included cold cereal. I had actually forgotten about it until I saw it! We cut out boxed cereal about 2 years ago. For breakfast we do overnight-soaked oats, rice, toast, yogurt, eggs, and fruit.

  4. Beth @ The Natural Mommy says:

    Do you have links for those unpublished studies? How did you find them? My hubby’s hooked on box cereal and I’d like to read this post to him, but he’s very scientifically minded and will want to know the sources to those studies!

  5. Michele @ Frugal Granola says:

    We eat most of those items you mentioned for breakfast, too! We also like fruit & yogurt, or bread/pancakes with peanut butter.

    I remember reading about those studies awhile ago- I think it was in the book "Nourishing Traditions."

    Michele :)

  6. Beth @ The Natural Mommy says:

    Ah, Nourishing Traditions. I should just buy that book. I had to return it to the library ages ago and I wasn’t hardly even into it yet.

  7. Anonymous says:

    ok this might sound dumb, but can you use homemade granola and milk (i use rice milk) i think that might be yummy. or yogurt with granola? is that a better option? i don’t know much about yogurt and if its healthy or not…

  8. Beth – yea, my hubby’s the same way. Actually I am too! (but I was more skeptical before I started eating this way. Now if it comes from certain sources I trust, I pretty much believe it!)The link for Weston A Price in my post will bring you right to the page on the cereal. It’s also in his books as well as in Sally Fallon’s book.

    And thanks everyone for your extra ideas!

  9. Oh and anonymous –
    Homemade granola is probably a better bet than packaged cereal. Although, if you want to glean all of the nutritional benefits from it I recommend soaking and dehydrating the nuts and seeds you use first. And yogurt is SUPER healthy. It’s great nutritionally, but it also helps build a stronger immune system because of the beneficial bacteria. You do need to be careful what you buy though. The flavored stuff with added sugar will probably do more harm than good. Stick to the whole milk plain yogurt and sweeten with honey if needed.

  10. Beth @ The Natural Mommy says:

    Donielle, I saw you mentioned whole milk yogurt in your comment and wondered if you made your own? I’m about ready to start making mine, b/c I can only find fat-free and low-fat! Anyway, if you do make your own yogurt, I’d be interested in the how-to’s and tips!

  11. I find this blog post to be particularly interesting. Recently, I’ve begun to have issues of IBS, and cold cereal (all kinds) irritates me terribly for about 24 hours. It’s one of the worst foods that I’ve experimented with.

  12. Beth – I’ve got a post coming up next Tuesday on Yogurt! :-)

  13. Great post on cereal! I love cereal, so I was excited to find a recipe for nourishing, home-made, soaked grain cereal in Fallon’s book: Eat Fat, Lose Fat. I also use her recipe for granola. Between the two of them, I satisfy my cereal craving and can have a super-quick breakfast if necessary :)

  14. myenchantedgarden says:

    I keep reading that cooked grains take too much time in the morning. First of all, they take less time if they are soaked over night.
    But why I m really writing is that I found a steamer a few years ago. Mine is made by Oster and I got it as Lowes. It can steam anything from veggies to fish and rice. I put the oats and whatever soaking medium I am using in the night before. Then what makes it amazing is that I can set the timer for when it will start and we will have home made oatmeal ready right when we get up in the morning.
    I love it because my kids have no excuse to grab something unhealthy when its right there and waiting on the counter. An added benefit of soaking overnight is that it tastes so much more creamy. My hubby LOVES them. Oh and we use the steel cut oats. They are the best.