According to registered dietitian Holly Layer, RD, if you don't have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance, there's really no need to cut ties with gluten (which refers to the proteins found in wheat and some other grains). "Just because something is gluten-free doesn't mean it's healthy," Layer says. "There are a lot of gluten-free cereals—and gluten-free foods in general—that are still highly processed."
But to her point, if you do have a sensitivity or allergy, it takes a bit more label reading than just buying products that scream GF on the front of the packaging to ensure you're getting something that's nutritious, too. Once you've established that the product is indeed verified gluten-free, she says to check out the sugar content. "Ideally, you want to stick with gluten-free cereals that have less than 10 grams of added sugar per servings," she says.
Here's the low-down on gluten (and why people shouldn't fear it):
If the added sugar content passes the test, then Layer says to see how much protein and fiber are in a serving. "Ideally, it will have at least three grams of fiber and three grams of protein per serving," she says. Layer explains that these two nutrients are not only important for providing the body with energy, but will also ensure that your breakfast actually fills you up. The last factor Layer says to consider is the sodium content, recommending sticking with cereals that have less than 200 milligrams per serving.
"It may seem like a lot of work to look at all of this, but once you have your go-tos, you really only need to do it for the cereals that you're unfamiliar with," she says. "And you don't have to stick with the guidelines exactly; they are just good ballparks to aim for." You can also bookmark this article and pull it up when you're heading to the grocery store. Below is a list of both cold and hot gluten-free cereals that all meet Layer's nutritional requirements. Also included are some recipes for how to make your own nutrient-rich gluten-free cereals at home.
7 gluten-free cereals with a registered dietitian's stamp of approval
This cereal has three grams of protein, three grams of fiber, and is under 10 grams of sugar per serving—and it's organic. If you want to make it a bit sweeter without upping the sugar content, sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. It's an anti-inflammatory way to punch of the flavor—including your cereal milk.
Buy it now: Cascadian Farm Organic Gluten-Free Honey Vanilla Crunch ($4)
2. Three Wishes Grain-Free, Plant-Based Honey Cereal, $40 for 6
While it is one gram short of the four grams of fiber Layer likes cereals to have, this pick has eight grams of protein—double the minimum she recommends a cereal have. It also only has three grams of added sugar, but still tastes sweet thanks to the honey.
Buy it now: Three Wishes Grain-Free Plant-Based Honey Cereal ($40 for 6)
Made with pea protein, this cereal is high protein and high fiber, with 11 grams and nine grams, respectively. What about the sugar content you ask? Zilch. This is the cinnamon toast-like cereal gluten-free eaters have been waiting for. It's also keto-approved, if that's your thing.
Buy it now: Catalina Crunch Cinnamon Toast Cereal ($13)
4. HighKey Protein Cereal, $11.47
While this cereal is a bit low in fiber, one gram less than the four grams per serving Layer likes to see, it has a whopping 10 grams of protein per serving and it also has less than one gram of added sugar. The chocolate flavor makes it a pick kids will love just as much as you will.
Buy it now: HighKey Protein Cereal ($11.47)
5. Purely Elizabeth Collagen Oats Cup, $34 for 12
If you're looking for hot gluten-free cereal, this one is delicious (vanilla pecan!) and goes above and beyond the nutritional requirements Layer recommends. It's also made with collagen, which is good for both gut health and dewy skin.
Buy it now: Purely Elizabeth Collagen Oats Cup ($34 for 12)
6. Bakery On Main Gluten-Free Organic Creamy Hot Breakfast, $17 for three boxes
This hot cereal gets its fiber from a mixture of brown rice, quinoa, and flax meal. The latter two ingredients are also good sources of protein. To up the totals a bit more, add some fruit on top, which is also a natural way to sweeten up your bowl.
Buy it now: Bakery On Main Gluten-Free Organic Creamy Hot Breakfast ($17 for three boxes)
7. Wildway Grain-Free Instant Hot Cereal, Toasted Coconut, $15 for two boxes
All this cereal is made with is organic coconut, walnuts, ground flaxseed, cashews, coconut flour, pecans, dried dates, and vanilla bean. Combined, these simple ingredients taste delicious—especially when warmed up—and also provide enough fiber and protein (nine and six grams, respectively) to help you power through until lunch.
Buy it now: Wildway Grain-Free Instant Hot Cereal, Toasted Coconut ($15 for two boxes)
Gluten-free cereals you can make at home
"I'm a huge fan of making my own cereal at home because I can control the ingredients better," Layer says. One gluten-free staple that comes in handy when making your own cereal is quinoa, which is a good source of both fiber and protein. This recipe combines it with buckwheat and also includes dates, for sweetness. Have it as is, or add some yogurt or fruit on top.
Get the recipe: Quinoa, buckwheat, and date cereal
Making your own hot gluten-free cereal can be quick and easy, too. This recipe uses coconut flour as the base and also calls for unsweetened shredded coconut, cinnamon, sea salt, monk fruit, vanilla extract, and the milk or alt-milk of your choice. If you want to up the fiber, add some raisins, gluten-free granola, or nuts on top, then dig in.
Get the recipe: Coconut-vanilla "fauxmeal"
The mini-pancake trend has been all over Tiktok; here's how to bring the fun to your cereal bowl. Besides, pancake cereal is a morning meal eaters of all ages can get excited about. It's made with gluten-free all-purpose flour, almond flour, ground flax, baking powder, cinnamon, maple syrup, vanilla, apple sauce, and almond milk.
Get the recipe: Vegan, gluten-free pancake cereal
This creamy, warm hot cereal can be made in five minutes flat. The main ingredient is flaxseeds, which are full of protein and fiber. It's also made with nut butter, which ups the protein even more while making the cereal extra creamy. Nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom add flavor without sugar. The recipe also calls for vanilla almond creamer, which makes the texture even creamier while adding just a bit more sweetness.
Get the recipe: Vanilla flaxseed cereal
Pumpkin seeds are a plant-based, GF source of protein and fiber that are often overlooked—and they can make the perfect cereal base when spiced in the right way. (Pro tip: reach in the pantry for your cinnamon and maple syrup). This recipe also calls for chia seeds, pecans, and almonds, which makes it even higher in protein and fiber.
Get the recipe: Pumpkin spice cereal
If you're prepping breakfast for a whole house full of people, one smart way to do it is to cook a gluten-free oatmeal base and then set out toppings so everyone can customize their own bowl. In this recipe, gluten-free oats, banana, and cinnamon make up the oatmeal base. For your toppings, fruit, cocoa powder, chopped nuts and seeds, and spices are all great options that will still keep the added sugar content low.
Get the recipe: Banana cinnamon oatmeal
As Layer outlined, the key to ensuring your gluten-free cereal is one that's actually full of nutritional value is finding one that's low in sugar and sodium and has adequate protein and fiber—and that goes for whether you're making your own at home or buying one at the store. "If a cereal you like is a little low on fiber or protein, you can always add fruit or nuts on top to make up the difference," Layer says. "You'll still get the nutrients in the end either way!"
Get more gluten-free recipe ideas in Well+Good's Cook With Us Facebook group.
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