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So can you eat cereal on a plant based diet? It really depends on your goals. If you’re talking about breakfast cereal and I believe we are here, you can look at it first based off of the eating philosophy that you were considering. If you were talking plant based diet which strives to eat mostly whole food plant based sources, then you can as long as you choose an alternative milk source.   

You can use soy milk, almond milk or oat milk if you are vegan. These qualify because you’re not consuming any animal products. If you are a vegetarian, yes of course you can eat breakfast cereal on a vegetarian diet. That is based on what a typical lacto-ovo vegetarian would consume. 

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They’re Great!

When eating breakfast cereal on a plant based diet, here is one thing I would recommend. Choose a cereal made with whole food plant based ingredients, like whole wheat, oats, etc. Your typical sugary breakfast cereal, like Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops and Apple jacks, then probably won’t make the cut.  These are all highly processed foods with a ton of sugar in them.

Something more appropriate might be Uncle Sam cereal, Weetabix, or even plain, unfrosted Mini Wheats. My kids think these cereals are for old people. Maybe. We’re all getting older, but also getting healthier, by the bowl when we choose the whole grain, low sugar variety.

I grew up as a product of the 80’s.  Back then, I remember very fondly waking up on a Saturday morning, pouring myself a huge bowl of Frosted Flakes with some traditional dairy milk and crashing in front of the TV to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Just like millions of other kids, I would imagine. That was something that was a lot of fun. Obviously (with that much sugar), these cereals tasted great, but were not very good for you, in retrospect.

Hot Cereal, Anyone?

bowl of oatmeal with orange

Quaker oat packets were good alternatives to those sugary breakfast cereals (if you had a guilty parent). These were filled with rolled oats and came in a variety of flavors like Maple and Brown Sugar, Apple and Cinnamon, and Cinnamon and Spice. This choice was a little better, but still contained a lot of sugar. These were designed so that any kid could tear open a pouch, pour it in a bowl with some milk or water and nuke it in the microwave for a minute. Voila! Instant Breakfast- without bugging Mom to make it. 

My Mom would also occasionally whip up a batch of Cream of Wheat.  This was an odd concoction which was a little bit smoother than oatmeal, but just as delicious. Mom would always top it with a pat of butter and a pinch of brown sugar. The butter and brown sugar would melt decadently together on top and I couldn’t wait to dig in. Again, with the sugar, right? I’m telling you, it’s all around us. It was a sweet, tasty treat on a Saturday morning. 

He won’t eat it, he hates everything!

Another thing that I remember fondly about cereal in the 80s was my father eating his ‘adult’ cereals. These included brands like Weetabix, Grape Nuts, and Shredded Wheat. All of these seemed incredibly bland and flavorless, to an 8 yr old. Weetabix were basically these shredded or flaked wheat patties that resembled a wheat based hash brown.  You would put  two or three in a bowl and pour some milk over them.  The cereal would absorb the milk and kind of make a mushy mess. Out of pure curiosity, I tried these recently, and they are pretty tasty. 

We’re going to review breakfast cereal options in three categories.  We’re going to look at some more healthy options along the packaged foods. And then, most importantly, we’re going to focus on the whole food, whole grain side. This is what I call the homemade-type breakfast cereals, like my overnight oats.

For starters, ‘What is a grain?”

Webster’s defines a grain as: 

 –“ a seed or fruit of a cereal grass”

The most important part of a cereal is the grain. And the grain is composed of three parts: the endosperm, the germ and the bran. Grains come in three types: Whole grains, Refined grains, and Enriched Grains. 

Whole grains

There are two forms of these grains, whole or ground forms (sometimes referred to as milled grains). Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain, the endosperm, germ, and the bran. They provide the greatest source of fiber, B vitamins, iron, selenium, foiate, manganese and potassium. 

Refined Grains

Refined grains are milled to remove the germ and the bran. Refining the grain improves the texture of the flour making it finer which is preferred for baking, by many. It also improves the shelf life of the end product making it easier to sell to retailers. Refining eliminates vital nutrients like fiber, which in my opinion is one of the biggest challenges with refined grain. Refining also reduces the digestive benefits that fiber brings to the table. These benefits may include reducing blood cholesterol levels and improving bowel function. Refined grains are often found in many breads, crackers, white rice and desserts. They are often chosen because they are cheaper to acquire for production.

Enriched Grains

Next, we move on to the enriched grains. Enriched grains are usually refined grains that have been fortified with some of the nutrients that have been lost or removed during the refining process. These grains have added vitamins and minerals, some of which don’t naturally occur in the whole grain. As an educated consumer, enriched grains feel like a cheap grain that has been marketed as beneficial because of the newly added vitamins and minerals. Personally, I’d rather stick to the natural whole foods version over the enriched, refined grain version, when possible. Can you eat these kinds of cereal grains on a plant based diet? I wouldn’t want to.

So what are some of the benefits of whole grain cereals? 

According to mayoclinic.org, “All types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates and some key vitamins and minerals, but whole grains — the healthiest kinds of grains — in particular are an important part of a healthy diet. Grains are naturally high in fiber, helping you feel full and satisfied — which makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight. Whole grains are also linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems.”

Beyond Breakfast Cereal…

What are some other ways to get more cereal grains on your plant based diet? 

  1. Switch to whole grain toast and bagels

           Some good examples of these are Ezekiel bread and Dave’s Killer Bread available at Costco, and others. 

      2. Choose brown rice or quinoa over white rice options. Pureandplantbased.com has a quick and easy recipe for making brown rice.

          Adding whole grains, such as Quinoa, Sorghum, and Brown Rice have really helped me go green. They have really helped me stay satisfied and full longer. And the addition of all that fiber has been a real benefit . My gut feels lighter and cleaner. I have a more productive digestive tract. 

What are some whole grains that I would recommend?

I recommend adding some Quinoa, Brown rice, wheat berries, sorghum, barley, millet, and even Popcorn to your diet.Yes, popcorn. When made right, popcorn can be a very healthy addition.  I’ll eventually show you guys how to make a great homemade popcorn that will leave the house smelling like a movie theater. But, without the sticky floors. Yuck!  

So, can you eat cereal on a plant based diet?

Yes, I think you can.  It’s going to be up to you to choose the healthy varieties. Some healthy varieties that I’ve chosen are Kellogg’s mini wheats. Uncle Sam cereal, and everyday Quaker Oats. 

Quaker oats are a phenomenal addition to your breakfast and you will find a link to a video that I made recently entitled, “How to make easy overnight oats?” Check it out. It’s one of my favorites and it’s one of the breakfasts that I eat almost every day. If you are going to choose a cold breakfast cereal, make sure to choose your favorite alternative milk source. Mine is soy milk for the most part. I do like almond milk and oat milk, as well. Play around with each one and see which one is your favorite.

If you are going to choose the sugary breakfast cereals, limit yourself to once a week, as a treat. Hey, I get it, YOLO, right? (You Only Live Once!) Remember, we’re not trying to eliminate all the pleasurable things from our lives. We just want to crowd out the unhealthy things with healthy choices and ingredients. 

The way I look at it is this: if you were to eat three meals per day, seven days a week, that’s 21 meals. I strive for a 90% compliance and give myself that 10% to have some fun and enjoy a treat. 

I hope you found this article helpful. Good luck on your plant-based journey and I’m here to support you if you have any questions. 

Good health, and Good eating!