Cereal is a convenient breakfast choice, especially when you're in a rush trying to get out the door in the morning. But it's not always the healthiest option. So we chatted with nutrition pros to find toppings that can add fiber, protein, and other nutrients to improve your basic bowl.
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Base: 1 cup of Original Cheerios
Toppings: 1/2 cup of dairy milk, 2 tablespoons of powdered peanut butter
What it adds: Lisa Dierks, M.F.C.S., R.D.N., L.D., nutrition manager at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program in Rochester, MN, recommends Cheerios because they are low in sugar and have 3 grams of fiber per serving. They are also low in calcium and vitamin D so choosing dairy milk (for those who can tolerate it) bumps up those values. Powdered peanut butter (such as PB2) adds needed protein with less sugar than a peanut butter–flavored cereal.
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Base: 1 cup Corn Flakes
Toppings: 1 cup raspberries, 1/2 cup milk of choice
What it adds: Corn flakes are low in fiber and a bit higher in sodium, so Dierks recommends adding raspberries since they're low in sodium and contain 8 grams of fiber per cup. Feel free to switch up the milk. You could try coconut milk for a unique taste.
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Base: 1/2 cup Grape Nuts
Toppings: 6 oz. unsweetened Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup berries, 1 tablespoon chia seeds (Check out these other 15 healthy ingredients you should add to your breakfast.)
What it adds: Ilana Muhlstein, R.D., nutritionist for Explore Cuisine says she finds that people often accidentally eat as much as three times the serving size for cereal as they should because they eat from large bowls. Instead, she suggests using cereal as a topping for Greek yogurt. Grape Nuts and chia seeds add fiber while berries bring more nutrients and sweetness to the bowl.
Peanut Butter Puffins
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Base: 3/4 cup of Peanut Butter Puffins
Toppings: 1/2 cup of dairy milk, banana
What it adds: While this peanut butter–flavored cereal is lower in sugar than some sweetened varieties, it is also low in fiber, calcium, and iron. Add a banana and dairy milk to increase the fiber and calcium, says Dierks. (Don't throw out that banana peel just yet—some say it's the most nutritious part of the fruit.)
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Base: 1 cup puffed millet
Toppings: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, 1/2 cup milk of choice
What it adds: Millet puffs are low in calories (only 60 for a cup), but the cereal is also low in all other nutrients. Dierks suggests using it as a base for trail mix: Add in dried fruit, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds to increase fiber, protein, and iron. Adding milk and eating it with a spoon is optional.
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Base: 1 cup Kashi GoLean
Toppings: 1 tablespoon flax or hemp seeds, 1/2 cup berries, 1/2 cup milk of choice
What it adds: Pick a cereal high in fiber and protein (GoLean has 13 grams and 12 grams, respectively) suggests Deborah Orlick Levy, M.S., R.D., Carrington Farms health and nutrition consultant. Levy likes high-fiber and high-protein cereals because they keep you full longer and keep blood sugar levels in check, so you won't have the midmorning sugar crash that comes after eating a marshmallow cereal. Hemp seeds add another 5 grams of protein, along with iron and vitamin A. Round out your bowl with fresh berries and your favorite kind of milk.
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Base: 1 cup Wheat Chex
Toppings: 1 tablespoon flaxseed, 1/2 cup protein-fortified milk (such as FairLife), pinch of cinnamon
What it adds: Sarah Dobkins, R.D., director at Texas Woman's University Pioneer Performance Clinic, advises adding flaxseed to increase fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a fortified milk to supply protein, which most cereals are lacking. A dash of cinnamon naturally sweetens cereal without increasing the sugar content. (Looking for more ways to up the protein in your morning meal? Try these recipes that have nothing to do with eggs.)