Updated March 4, 2014

Study: Best Breakfast Cereal

10 Best GMO-Free Cereals
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Thanks to a rash of headlines regarding the top cereal manufacturers, your morning bowl of cereal may not seem as wholesome of a meal after all.

General Mills hoisted the term “GMO-free” onto consumers by recently announcing it began producing its Cheerios cereal without GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Competitor Post Foods quickly followed suit, stating its flagship brand, Grape-Nuts, is now certified GMO-free.

The debate over GMO safety will drag on for some time, confusing consumers right down to their first meal of the day. As it is, nearly 90% of the U.S. corn crop comes from GMO seed, but more than 60 countries have restrictions or bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the federal government cited studies showing no significant health consequences from GMOs as its reason for not imposing a ban, while some states are working on new GMO-labeling laws.

Does so much uncertainty mean it’s time to toss out the cereal and instead make do with grapefruit and cottage cheese? Thankfully, no!

Turns out, there’s a plethora of GMO-free cereals available to consumers, beyond Cheerios and Grape-Nuts. We have found at least 131 varieties and have ranked them according to nutritional benefits. Several of the brands can be found in the cereal aisle if you poke around while others can be found online.

Study Methodology

The CreditDonkey.com GMO-Free Cereals Index is a list ranked according to three nutritional tenets – sugar, sodium, and total carbohydrates. We analyzed 131 cereals. First, we calculated the percentage of the individual cereal’s sugar, sodium and carbs versus the average of each for the entire group. Then we tallied it up to generate a composite score. The lower the composite score, the better a cereal ranked. Our list is divided into the Top 5 GMO-Free Brands and the Top 5 GMO-Free Honorable Mentions.

Our index was cross-referenced with the Non-GMO Project, a third-party verifier, as well as with information from the manufacturers themselves.

Top 5 GMO-Free Brands

1. Arrowhead Mills

Founded half a century ago by organic farmer Frank Ford, five of the company’s GMO-free cereals ranked in the top 20 of our index, including our top two – Puffed Millet and Puffed Kamut. These puffed varieties, easy on the body nutritionally, can be a tad light on crunch. We recommend pairing either one with a more crunchy cereal variety (like flakes) or using an alternative to milk, such as an almond/coconut milk blend, to add flavor.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
Puffed Millet60001135.09
Puffed Kamut50001135.09

2. Nature’s Path

Offering 41 varieties of non-GMO cereals, Nature’s Path is a true dominator in this category. Seven of this family-run company’s cereals landed in the top 20 of our index: Kamut Puffs, Corn Puffs, Rice Puffs, Millet Puffs, and three varieties of its Qi’a Superfood. The same recommendations we made for Arrowhead are in play for these puffs. Each delivers on flavor, but when eating the Qi’a Superfoods, we recommend sticking to the portion sizes due to density.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbs Composite Score
Kamut Puffs50001135.09
Corn Puffs60001238.20
Rice Puffs50001444.66
Millet Puffs50001444.66
Qi’a (Original)140001341.47
Qi’a (Cran Van)140301491.35
Qi’A (App Cin)130301594.54

3. Hodgson Mill

Bearing the legacy of a Missouri millwright named Alva, this brand (now operating out of Illinois) added some actual weight – physically speaking – to our breakfast cereal index that contains an abundance of puffs varieties. Three of Hodgson Mill’s cereals scored in the top 20 of our index: Oat Bran Cereal, Cracked Wheat Cereal, and Steel Cut Oats. We recommend going easy on the servings as these varieties will certainly fill up a hungry breakfast belly.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
Oat Bran120002373.37
Cracked Wheat110002579.74
Ste Cut Oats1501? 27101.69

4. Kashi

Likely the most widely recognized brand in our index, thanks to its television commercials, Kashi had two of its cereal varieties in the top 20 of our index: 7 Whole Grain Puffs and 7 Whole Grain Pilaf. Kashi has staked its reputation on its “unique” seven whole grain approach to its products. For these two cereals, we can attest that the combination is nicely favorable.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
Whole Grain Puffs70001857.42
Whole Grain Pilaf1700044140.35

5. Barbara’s and Erewhon Organic (tie)

Barbara’s and Erewhon both tied to round out our Top 5 GMO-Free Brands. Barbara’s, founded in 1971 in the Bay Area of California by Barbara Jaffery, started as one bakery and now includes a large line of GMO-free products. Its Shredded Wheat variety is lightly baked and does not contain added sugar or sodium.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
Shred Wheat140003198.88

Erewhon Organic was founded in 1966 in Boston by two macrobiotic educators, and began contracting with farmers in 1970 for organically grown crops. Its Crispy Brown Rice No Salt Added variety ranked in the top 20 of our index. To its credit, the Erewhon cereal crunches a lot like another, more heavily advertised rice cereal, but is instead made with organic brown rice and blended with organic brown rice syrup.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
BRice (No Salt)1100.91025102.85

Top 5 GMO-Free Honorable Mentions

6. General Mills

Cheerios – the original recipe – ranked 33 in our overall index, a strong showing for a cereal that only recently became GMO-free. Cheerios has always been made from oats, a crop that is currently not grown with GMO seed, but some of its other ingredients were. General Mills now says its original recipe Cheerios is made with non-GMO pure cane sugar and corn starch from non-GMO crops. We don’t notice any difference in flavor, thankfully, and the cereal still holds up well when those Os are dunked in milk.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
Cheerios (Orig)100114020206.69

7. Familia Swiss

The Familia foods company was established in Sachsein, Switzerland, and it began producing Swiss Müesli according to a recipe Dr. Bircher-Benner developed in the late 19th century. Today, its Müesli is so popular that there are no fewer than seven types of it, as well as related products. Its Swiss Balance Premium Müesli was number 37 in our index, and we enjoyed finding out that it can be eaten with either milk or yogurt.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
Prem. Müesli21054432219.91

8. Enjoy Life

What was once simply “Perky’s” is now a line of cereals called Perky’s Enjoy Life. The three cereals manufactured in the Perky’s line have the added bonus of being made in a dedicated facility to limit cross-contamination from cereals made with ingredients that are common allergens, such as nuts. Its Perky’s Crunchy Flax Original was the brand’s highest ranking cereal in our index. We liked that its crunchy puffs are a nice alternative way to eat omega-rich flaxseed, as flaxseed is usually just ground up and tossed on top of cereal.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
Crunchy Flax270315056361.75

9. Peace Cereal

The name implies a calmer, more resolute start to the day, and seven of its varieties are found in our non-GMO index. Its Blueberry Pomegranate was the brand’s highest ranking cereal, and it delivered crispiness via rice clusters juxtaposed against wheat-rice flakes. Of all the cereals we tried, this one delivered crunch using a variety of ingredients to crunch on, along with a pleasing flavor.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
Blue Pomeg240142041366.87

10. Post Foods

C.W. Post began making cereals over 100 years ago, and its Grape-Nuts cereal was one of the first ready-to-eat cold cereals when it debuted in 1897. The cereal’s nutty flavor is still popular today as it remains one of the most dominant around. Post announced in early 2014 it ingredients were certified GMO-free by the Non-GMO Project.

VarietyCaloriesSugarSodiumCarbsComposite Score
Grape-Nuts210529045485.12


To be sure, your favorite variety may not be on our list. We limited our list to GMO-free brands that are stocked in grocery chains, but not all of them are available in every state. We stuck to cereal makers whose GMO-free stance was clearly stated either through their own materials or found on the Non-GMO Project’s database. And while we weighed in on taste and crunch for the more highly ranked cereals, the index was limited to sugar, sodium, and total carbohydrates. Sure, there are more ways to break down which is best for you, but these three are the traditional heavyweights in nutrition discussions.

Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day, and cereals are an easy, fresh (from the box) option. Choosing a GMO-free cereal variety could be a first significant step in decreasing your exposure to GMOs, if that’s an important consideration for you, while still providing a nutritious option when you’re short on time.

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Comments about Study: Best Breakfast Cereal

  • George Grant from New York
    on February 24, 2014 7:59 AM said:

    Enjoyed the article thoroughly. Very enlightening. Thanks t

  • Avital
    on February 24, 2014 8:17 AM said:

    Excellent article and helpful resource. Finally someone is holding manufacturers accountable for their cereals and ranking the products by overall health benefits.

  • Barbara Lamar from Michigan
    on February 24, 2014 8:47 AM said:

    Good, well-written article about healthy breakfast choices.

  • Carol from New York
    on February 24, 2014 12:55 PM said:

    Great information! Helps narrow down the annoyingly large number of choices we have on the breakfast cereal aisle

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