The Ultimate Ranking Of 16 Popular Cereals In The US

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for many generations, that meal contained a colorful box of cereal with a well-known mascot welcoming us to the table each morning. Were you a kid that was focused on the sugary goodness within the cardboard, or were you a treasure hunter in search of the famed toy at the bottom of the cereal box? No matter the case, this article is for those who love everything cereal.

While you may know a lot about the mascots and the jingles on TV, did you also know that the concept of cereal started as a digestive aid in a New York sanitarium? From here, history was made by John Harvey Kellogg — yes that Kellogg — who shifted history through the concept of granola. By the early 1900s, Corn Flakes was created — prize in box, too!

With a curious history and nationwide following, I felt it was time to determine the best of the best, grabbing all the popular cereals we know and love in the U.S. to bring you an ultimate ranking. Spoiler alert: This one is going to get controversial real quick. I tasted and ranked 16 different cereals, assessing taste, ingredients, quality, and overall satisfaction. Grab a spoon and your milk of choice, and come with me on a journey into the land of cereal where sugary shapes and healthy flakes reign. Will your favorite cereal make the cut?

16. Cinnamon Toast Crunch

I will undoubtedly hurt some feelings with this list, but one of them had to come in last. For me, that was Cinnamon Toast Crunch. This cereal, made from sweetened whole wheat rice squares and a generous helping of cinnamon, rings in with 12 grams of sugar and 230 milligrams of sodium in 1 cup.

I don't mind cinnamon, but this cereal was overkill for me, especially mixed with all that sugar. From the taste to the texture, I found nothing enjoyable about this option. They are crunchy and do offer a lot of flavor, but that flavor just wasn't for me. I will say, the pieces hold up well in milk compared to a lot of other cereals on this list, but eating a helping of cinnamon each day is not something I want to do. I'll leave this one to the kids, along with the cereal's new and creepy "Crazy Squares" mascot. What happened to the jolly old baker from the 80s?

15. Lucky Charms

Featuring colorful marshmallows and whole grain pieces, Lucky Charms, along with its signature mascot, Lucky the Leprechaun, have been around since the '60s. Who doesn't want a pot of sugary gold in the morning to start their day? Spoiler alert: It's me. 

Maybe I'm old, but I cannot eat a bowl of marshmallows for breakfast, especially one that has 12 grams of sugar in just 1 cup. While there was a decent contrast between the whole grain pieces and the lucky charms themselves, this cereal was too sweet. I've also always hated the fact that the marshmallows aren't soft and fluffy, reminding me they are processed and filled with sugar. 

Overall, Lucky Charms may be a fan favorite, but this one just doesn't cut it. Between the quality of the marshmallows and the lack of any health benefits, I can't conceivably put this one any higher on the list.

14. Frosted Flakes

Upon taking my first bite of Frosted Flakes, I realized I'd never actually tried this cereal as a kid. I don't know how this one got away from me, but oh, it was exactly as I'd imagined. The best way to describe this cereal? Corn flakes covered in sugar. Again, maybe I'm showing my age, but I didn't like anything about these. I did not think they were "Gr-r-reat."

For some of these cereals, the milk helped dull the excessive sugary taste, but in this case, I think the addition of milk made the Frosted Flakes worse. The entire bowl became a sweet drink with no respite in sight. With 12 grams of sugar in each cup, I think there are way better sugary cereals on this list to be had. This one was sickly sweet with a monotonous taste. Sorry, Tony. This is a thank you, next situation for me.

13. Special K Red Berries

Special K was never on my list as a kid, and I never seemed to shift into it as I got older either. With that said, I was interested to try this one for the first time, especially the brand's Red Berries flavor. However, this is another cereal option that just wasn't for me.

Red Berries features sugar-coated wheat flakes with freeze-dried strawberries, along with a whopping 11 grams of sugar and 250 milligrams of sodium per cup. I was truly shocked, thinking this was one of the healthier options out there. I didn't get the flavors I was expecting either, as the wheat flakes tasted stale and somewhat bland, leaving me to wonder where all that sugar was hiding. The strawberries tasted fruity — not sugary at all and not exactly like strawberries either. This one was an overall miss.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure what to say about Special K's Red Berries. It's not healthy, but it doesn't taste good. The only reason I put it above some of the others was the fact that it wasn't a sugar explosion.

12. Cocoa Pebbles

The fact that they can classify Cocoa Pebbles as a cereal is beyond me. This isn't a cereal; it's dessert. Featuring chocolate rice flakes that taste like candy, I can't believe there are only 12 grams of sugar in 1 cup of cereal.  If I had to guess, I'd assume way more. So on that note — kudos?

When I opened the box, I got a huge whiff of chocolate, and the taste matched perfectly. I have to say, there was some complexity with this one, offering caramel notes, too, but to me, that addition threw off the richness of the chocolate flavoring. I didn't think things could get more sweets-like until I added the milk, which turned the bowl into chocolate milk. At this point, I started wondering if I should just throw a scoop of ice cream in there for kicks. I totally get why kids love this, and I know it has its place, but Cocoa Pebbles is a hard no for me.

11. Trix

At this point in my taste test, I was wondering if I even liked cereal, as it's clear most don't offer actual health benefits with large amounts of sugar. With that said, next up is Trix. They say Trix are for kids, and I believe them. And I'm happy to keep it that way. These sweetened corn puffs feature 12 grams of sugar in 1¼ cup, but hey — no fat. That's a new one.

These cereal pieces were way too sweet and fruity without the milk, but the milk really balanced out the flavors, which was a surprise to me. However, there's still a lot of flavor to be had, and that flavor is sugar. The milk also didn't change into a mystery color, but after 30 minutes on the table, it did turn a pinkish hue. I did like the fact you get some snap, crackle, pop sounds, though, reminiscent of another favorite cereal brand. As for eating this cereal daily –- my answer is a big ol' nope.

10. Fruity Pebbles

After all if the sugar I had consumed thus far, I was nervous to tear open another box of cereal, especially one so colorful. However, Fruity Pebbles surprised me. Comprised of sweetened rainbow rice flakes, this one wasn't super sugary as expected. The pieces were rather thin, causing the crunch to melt into the milk and transform it into a sugary drink, but on its own, this one was okay in the realm of sugar heaven.

I love a Fruity Pebbles donut, but I think that's where my love for this cereal ends. I do like that it's not as sugary as some of the others, even with 12 grams of sugar per cup, but this is another option I would never eat for breakfast. As a substitute for another cereal in marshmallow squares — absolutely — but this one should stay on the dessert list, not the breakfast table.

9. Corn Flakes

If you remember from the introduction to this article, Kellogg's Corn Flakes is an OG name and the original breakfast cereal of the bunch. For me, I love a bland cereal that's relatively healthy. Call me old, but I like what I like. However, there isn't much to this one. The only thing in this bowl is plain corn flakes, which has 150 calories, 300 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 3 of grams protein in 1½ cups. The milk definitely adds more to the profile, as the flavor on its own is pretty bland, but the Corn Flakes became soggy after a few minutes, so you better eat up quick. 

While the kids won't, I like this type of cereal over sugary stuff — always have. It's also a great base for some sweet treats or chicken. When it comes to this ultimate ranking, I can't really put this one higher up the list when it comes to taste. It's just not there. But hey, sometimes health is more important.

8. Cheerios

Did you know Cheerios used to have a mascot, and I don't mean the iconic Honey Nut Cheerios mascot BuzzBee. Cheeri O'Leary was the OG face of Cheerios, but today, most know the marketing surrounding heart health and low cholesterol. These whole grain oat rings (and some hearts, too) may be considered healthy and bland, but they sure are iconic, putting them in the No. 8 spot on my list.

This cereal does seem to live up to the hype of its health branding with 140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 190 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of sugar in 1½ cups. There is something about this cereal that screams childhood –- from the breakfast table to a snack on the go. They also hold up in milk pretty well, too, making it a more leisurely meal compared to some of the other cereal types. However, I couldn't believe the ingredient list has so many preservatives in tow.

Overall, I think Cheerios is a great breakfast or snack option for kids and adults alike. They are pretty healthy in comparison to the others and offer a solid breakfast meal without all the gimmicks.

7. Rice Chex

From creative desserts to a bowl of that iconic Chex mix, Rice Chex is known far and wide for its versatility. However, I think that fame sometimes overshadows it's original intended use — a breakfast cereal. This is the OG gluten free option featuring no high fructose corn syrup, 3 grams of sugar in 1⅓ cups, and no fat. 

There is something about Chex I really do love, and I think it's the texture along with a solid flavor base that doesn't contain spices, salt, and increased sugar. These bad boys hold up in milk, too, and we all know the incredible versatility. While it can be considered a little boring on its own, there are no weird aftertastes or too much of any ingredient. I think this is a balanced healthy option that should be a pantry staple for breakfast and more. With that said, Rice Chex takes the No. 7 place because let's face it — there are a lot more delicious cereals to be had — sugar or not.

6. Frosted Mini Wheats

Frosted Mini Wheats proves that adding sugar to healthy things will make anyone enjoy their daily fiber intake. This popular cereal features wheat pieces with a sugar coating, and it's amazing what a little sugar can do. Fun fact: When I was a kid, I used to eat the sugar part and leave the rest. You couldn't fool 8-year-old Jenn into eating well. I guess I was focused on the 12 grams of sugar in 25 pieces, instead of the 5 grams of fiber. Be that as it may, Frosted Mini Wheats is the definition of balance.

This one places No. 6 on my ranking because you get the best of both the health world and the world of those who want things to taste good. The frosting is generous and sweet and goes a long way to help us reach our daily fiber intake as it's layered over one side of the wheat. The real question: Do the health vs sugar benefits weigh out? I'll let you decide.

5. Rice Krispies

That snap, crackle, and popping sound never ceases to amaze me. From nine to 39, there is just something so nostalgic about Rice Krispies. This bowl brought me right back to childhood. While it's another cereal that's considered a plain Jane, I enjoy it, and so do a whole lot of other folks. Rice Krispies offers no fat and 4 grams of sugar in 1½ cups.

I love the crunch of the small rice flakes juxtaposed with the milk. For such a simple cereal, there's a lot of flavor in those rice pieces. However, while the cereal may taste good, the milk causes it to become soggy in minutes. You also won't find any fiber here for a healthy start to your day.

From the breakfast table to the dessert options, this one is such a winner in my book, but it's not the best. Rice Krispies is a top 10 for sure, but there are more delicious bowls to broach.

4. Apple Jacks

Coming in the No. 4 spot is one of my childhood favorites — Apple Jacks. I personally love this cereal with or without milk -– maybe more so without. This three-grain cereal features O-shaped pieces with apple and cinnamon flavoring. What I love about this one is that they are so flavorful without a sickly sweet sugar coating like some other cereals out there. However, it's also important to note that Apple Jacks has one of the highest sugar count on the list with 13 grams in 1⅓ cups. This is also one of the only options with flavor complexity, as you'll find a true balance of apple and cinnamon. However, there is definitely more cinnamon than I remember as a kid. The milk brings out that cinnamon and also dulls that apple flavor. 

Overall, this one held up from my childhood memories, but I don't think I could eat this for breakfast every day. However, I think I might have to bring this one back into my snack rotation — road trips and late nights watch out.

3. Cocoa Puffs

As I was shopping for my top cereal picks, I was reminded of my Cocoa Puffs phase as a kid. I completely forgot how much I loved this cereal and was super curious to see if it held up to my memory. Offering kids and adults alike 12 grams of sugar in 1 cup of cereal, there is something special about the flavors and the nutrition profile.

Upon first bite, my expectation matched reality. I love that this cereal is chocolatey but without aggressive sugar or a fake chocolate taste. There really is a richness to the chocolate that other chocolate cereals just can't match. I also love the texture –- crispy outside with a somewhat hollow inside. These hold up in milk, too, soaking in the liquid and giving the bowl a chocolate milk vibe without being overpowering. Overall, I am pleased to give Cocoa Puffs the No. 3 spot and think this one needs to get back into my snack rotation, too.

2. Raisin Bran

I know the kids aren't going to get on board with my No. 2 choice, but the heart wants what it wants (or the mouth). For some reason, I've always enjoyed Raisin Bran, even when I was a kid and fiber meant nothing to me. 

While the bran flakes don't taste like anything, the raisins are so sweet, creating the perfect contrast of flavors and textures. This is one cereal with flakes that held up a lot longer in milk, too, with the cold liquid offering the perfect contrast to the flakes and sweet raisins.

Unlike some of the other healthy cereal options out there, this one has a natural ingredient list, 7 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein. While it does feature 17 grams of sugar in 1 cup, the raisins are real and natural, offering something these other cereals just can't. Raisin Bran really makes healthy worth it!

1. Froot Loops

Claiming the No. 1 spot and surprising the heck out of me was Froot Loops. Toucan Sam offers up a solid fruity flavor without being sugary, even though the cereal features 12 grams of sugar per 1⅓ cups. The sweetened Os made form grain, wheat, and corn also feature 210 milligrams of sodium. They have a good crunch, and they hold up in milk. What I truly appreciate is the fact that the milk doesn't turn sugary. 

This one feels like the best balance of a fun cereal without being too much. While it's hard to tell if each Froot Loop has an individual flavor or they're all the same, you still get a colorful aesthetic and fruity sweetness without any flavor building up on your palate. While healthy is important, flavor is just as integral. For that reason, Froot Loops is taking home the gold.

How we ranked the most popular breakfast cereals

For this ranking, I sought out and bought the most popular breakfast cereals on the market. From healthy to dessert-leaning, I tried a true sampler of the bunch, looking for not only great taste, but nutritional balance and the cereal's ability to withstand milk.