Despite what you may have heard, trading your morning shredded wheat or oatmeal for a grain-free cereal isn’t necessarily a healthy food swap. “These cereals can make you think that there’s something wrong with eating grains, but that’s not the case,” Keating says. “Many studies show that including whole grains in your diet reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, and more, and regular cereal can be a convenient way to get them.”
Still, some grain-free cereals can be good for you, such as grain-free granolas. These are typically made from a combination of nuts and seeds—which provide healthy fats, fiber, protein, and nutrients such as magnesium and potassium—in place of traditional oats. Just be mindful of added sugars and portion sizes. Ideally, a serving should have no more than 4 grams of added sugars. (Wildway Grain Free Apple Cinnamon Granola is one example of granola with zero added sugars.) “But the serving size on the package is often just between one-fourth and one-half cup,” Keating says. It can look puny in your bowl, so remember that if you double the serving, you double the calories, fat, and sugars.
Other grain-free cereals are often made with cassava, potato, and tapioca starches, or chickpea or lentil flour instead of grains. With the exception of the bean flours, which have protein and potassium, these ingredients don’t have much nutritional value. A recent CR test evaluated six grain-free cereals. None were flavor standouts, and only one, Forager Project Organic Grain-Free Os Cinnamon, received top scores for nutrition.