Many of the healthier people I know—my wife, my daughters, my yoga-loving friends—are cereal addicts. I am not a cereal addict. You could even describe this humble critic as a cereal curmudgeon. When given the choice between a bowl of virtuous-looking oat flakes and a greasy mess of eggs, bacon, and grits in the morning, I will choose the greasy mess every time. But sometimes a man must eat cereal, especially when his employers insist upon it. On these pages are the results of my 100-bowl taste test, dutifully conducted in the New York office kitchen on a recent Friday afternoon. Note that we’ve included none of the classics here—no Cheerios, no Rice Krispies, no Cap’n Crunch, no Froot Loops. The focus, instead, is on righteous, next-generation New Age cereals, all of which were chosen more or less at random from the shelves of Whole Foods. When it comes to cereals, you will notice, I tend to be a purist. The fewer ingredients listed on the box, the better. Sugar is permissible, but not too much of it. Artificial colorings should be avoided (except, for the record, when ingesting Froot Loops). And all newfangled, Yankee Candle–style flavorings (cinnamon, vanilla, etc.) are a really bad idea. Here, my ratings (1 is the worst, 4 the best) and tasting notes. Given my general distaste for the food group, it’s safe to say that any cereal I liked is probably pretty good. Now, pass the bacon.
Photographs by Mitch Feinberg 365 Organic Morning O’s
Okay, but too buttery.
Rating: 2 kashi Good Friends Cinna-Raisin Crunch
Minus two points for the cinnamon.
Rating: 2 kashi Mighty Bites
Kashi for the kiddie set.
Rating: 2 365 Raisin Bran
Too sweet, but high-quality bran.
Rating: 3 Mother’s Cinnamon Oat Crunch
Nice oatiness, but death to cinnamon.
Rating: 2 365 Bite-Size Shredded Wheat
A solid doppelgänger for the real thing.
Rating: 3 Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus
Hearty, grainy, flaxy.
Rating: 3 365 Organic Strawberry Brown Rice Crisps
Rice Krispies in rosewater soap.
Rating: 1 cascadian farm Cinnamon Raisin Granola
Tastes like week-old apple pie.
Rating: 1 365 Organic Cosmic Cocos
More natural cocoa flavor than Cocoa Bumpers.
Simple, healthy, no cinnamon.
Rating: 3 365 Organic Brown Rice Crisps
Quite palatable despite synthetic aftertaste.
Rating: 3 annie’s Bunny Love
Not bad. The pasta reference will have traction with yuppie kids.
Rating: 3 feed granola co. Raisin Nut Crunch
As generic as the name.
Rating: 2 uncle sam Toasted Whole Wheat Flakes & Flaxseed
Frighteningly healthy; bad spaceman food.
Rating: 1 Nature’s Path Organic Millet Rice
Not as good as spelt.
Rating: 2 peace cereal Essential 10
Yankee Candle cinnamon taste.
Rating: 2 kashi Autumn Wheat
The gold standard of wheat.
Rating: 4 365 Organic Soy Crunch
A disconcerting piña colada back-taste.
Rating: 2 cascadian farm Organic MultiGrain Squares
Meaty, for a cereal.
barbara’s Ultima Organic High Fiber
Lots of twigs, tons of fiber.
Rating: 4 cascadian farm Vanilla Almond Crunch
Good, but minus 1 for the vanilla.
Rating: 2 365 Organic Rainbow Rings
Passable Froot Loops facsimile.
Rating: 3 Nature’s Path Organic Synergy
Rating: 2 envirokidz organic Koala Crisp
Like dry, chocolate-flavored Skittles.
Rating: 1 arrowhead mills Shredded Wheat
Boring. But good boring.
Rating: 3 Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus Pumpkin Raisin Crunch
Okay, despite the pumpkin flavor.
Rating: 2 kashi GoLean Crunch
A little overworked. Lacks the purity of the original.
Rating: 2 mother’s Peanut Butter Bumpers
A vaguely healthy version of peanut-butter Cap’n Crunche.
Rating: 2 kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs
Like bird food on steroids.
Nature’s Path Organic Açaí Apple Granola With Pomegranate
An unspeakable disaster.
Rating: 1 365 Organic Raisin Granola
Oddly fake tasting, like a snack pack from JetBlue.
Rating: 1 barbara’s Ultima Organic Pomegranate
Pomegranates?! Barbara’s version ain’t so bad.
Rating: 3 kashi 7 Whole Grain Flakes
Simple and pure on the palate, with a nice crunch.
Rating: 4 cascadian farm Raisin Bran
Dull, tastes too organic.
Rating: 1 Nature’s Path Organic Honey’d Corn Flakes
Bogus honey taste; flakes are oddly un-flaky.
Rating: 1 barbara’s Organic Grain Shop
Big and beefy.
Rating: 4 Nature’s Path Organic Corn Flakes
Is fruit juice a good substitute for sugar? Sort of.
Rating: 2 kashi Mountain Medley Granola
Lots of good raisins, though probably 800 calories per bite.
Rating: 2 arrowhead mills Organic Spelt Flakes
Not as offensive as it sounds.
Nature’s Path Organic Optimum Power
The power fades as you go.
Rating: 2 cascadian farm Purely O’s
The weak little O’s dissolve sadly in the milk.
Rating: 2 365 Honey Puffed Wheat
Excellent heft, and almost tastes like real honey.
Rating: 4 kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets
Light; better as a topping than as a whole bowl.
Rating: 3 barbara’s Cinnamon Puffins
Plastic-y. And cinnamon!
Rating: 1 food for life Ezekiel 4:9 Original
Rating: 4 365 Oat Bran Flakes
The flakes have an eerie Pringles uniformity, but they’re crisp and sweet.
Rating: 3 barbara’s Shredded Spoonfuls
Simple and straightforward.
Rating: 3 arrowhead mills Organic Amaranth Flakes
What’s amaranth? Good, that’s what.
Rating: 3 365 Bite-Size Frosted Shredded Wheat
Good wheat, too much frosting.
peace cereal Wild Berry Crisp
Nice and crispy, but lose the wild berries.
Rating: 2 kashi Heart To Heart Oat Flakes and Wild Blueberry Clusters
Crunchy in milk, good berries.
Rating: 3 peace cereal Raspberry Ginger Low Fat Crisp
Like drinking tea with ginger. Yet kind of edible.
Rating: 2 nature’s path Organic Smart Bran
Tastes like goat food at a petting zoo.
Rating: 1 nature’s path Organic Peanut Butter Granola
Peanut butter and granola just don’t mix.
Rating: 1 barbara’s Shredded Wheat
Grandma’s shredded wheat: refreshingly plain.
Rating: 3 kashi 7 Whole Grain Honey Puffs
Like your basic Kashi puffs, only sweeter.
Rating: 2 barbara’s Original Puffins
Like neutered Cap’n Crunch.
Rating: 2 bear naked Peak Protein Blueberry Walnut All Natural Granola
Nice and complex.
Rating: 4 health valley Organic Oat Bran Flakes With Raisins
Fine, but don’t like the raisins-in-the-pouch gimmick.
annie’s Honey Bunnies
Like Bunny Love but sweeter.
Rating: 2 mothers Cocoa Bumpers
My daughters would like this, but not me.
Rating: 2 365 Organic Oat & Honey Granola
Whole Foods has its honey flavor down.
Rating: 3 peace cereal Maple Pecan Crisp
Maple is the rich man’s vanilla.
Rating: 1 food for life Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin
More bad cinnamon.
Rating: 1 barbara’s Shredded Oats Cinnamon Crunch
Would be a 3, but for the cinnamon.
Rating: 2 nature’s path Organic Heritage O’s
The purist’s favorite.
Rating: 4 bear naked Banana Nut All Natural Granola
Very bananalike; surprisingly good.
Rating: 3 weetabix Organic Crispy Flakes and Fiber
Same as the other Weetabix.
Rating: 1 365 Organic Honey and Nut Morning O’s
Good natural honey taste.
dorset cereals Super Cranberry, Cherry, and Almond
Startlingly bland, for all the ingredients.
Rating: 1 barbara’s Shredded Oats Vanilla Almond
The vanilla is the killer.
Rating: 1 cascadian farm Honey Nut O’s
A likable copycat of the Cheerios original.
Rating: 3 peace cereal Organic Maple Raisin Low-Fat Crisp
Not bad if you must eat maple.
Rating: 3 kashi Good Friends
Stupid name, but densely flavorful.
Rating: 4 weetabix Organic Whole Grain Biscuit
British mushiness may be comforting to some. Not me.
Rating: 1 ambrosial granola Grecian Grove
A potpourri of misguided oddments.
Rating: 1 kashi Vive Toasted Graham & Vanilla
Vanilla is the Antichrist.
Rating: 1 kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat
A heartier Cheerio; maybe too hearty.
Rating: 2 bear naked Fruit and Nut All Natural Granola
If I ate granola, I’d eat this one.
peace cereal Vanilla Almond Crisp
I’ve made my position clear on vanilla.
Rating: 1 nature’s path Organic Optimum Zen
Essence of garden mulch.
Rating: 1 arrowhead mills Organic Maple Buckwheat Flakes
Okay, but tastes nothing like maple or buckwheat.
Rating: 2 grandyoats Classic Granola
As advertised. Classic. Granola.
Rating: 2 kashi Cinnamon Harvest
A miracle! Cinnamon done properly
Rating: 3 health valley Organic Fiber 7
Natural flavor, hearty.
Rating: 3 barbara’s Peanut Butter Puffins
A misconceived riot of sugar.
Rating: 1 barbara’s Shredded Oats
Barbara’s shredded wheat is better—more texture.
Rating: 2 nature’s path Organic PomegranPlus Granola With Cherries
Rating: 2 healthy valley Organic Amaranth Flakes
A lesser example of the amaranth school.
arrowhead mills Organic Kamut Flakes
Nice spotted look, but lacks crunch.
Rating: 2 arrowhead mills Organic Oat Bran Flakes
Turns milk brown, tastes heavy; like horse food.
Rating: 2 365 Corn Flakes
Stick to the top of the teeth in an unnerving way; not as good as the real thing.
Rating: 2 365 Organic Golden Flax Flakes
Nice crunchiness, if you like flax.
Rating: 2 back to nature Flax & Fiber Crunch
Almost too much roughage to bear.
Rating: 2 nature’s path Organic Heritage
Just flakes. Refreshingly pure.
Rating: 3 nature’s path Organic Heritage Bites
Just flakes. Refreshingly pure.
Rating: 3 365 Frosted Flakes
Another successful feel-good ripoff.
Rating: 2 nature’s path Organic Optimum Rebound: Banana-flax-almond Matcha Green Tea
A train wreck.
Rating: 1 feed granola co. Cranberry Coconut Crunch
Yankee Candle meets the monkey house in the Bronx Zoo.
Assisted by Katie Goldsmith