A bowl of crunchy cereal. Harmless, right? I mean, it’s been a part of our daily diets and American culture since before we each could spell it. As young adults just starting out, cereal was often a staple when money was scarce.
There are more brands of cereal on the market than I can count. As a child, if it was sweet, crunchy, and came in a colorful box, I liked it. And while I had healthy cereal choices as well, I definitely enjoyed the ones that weren’t so good for me.
When I discovered my MSG allergy early last year, I never thought about cereal — plain old harmless cereal, being something I now had to scrutinize. But on a recent trip to the cereal aisle at my local supermarket, I discovered a lot to worry about on those shelves.
In my previous posts, I’ve told you about the fact that MSG can be hidden under other names such as, Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Soy Lecithin and textured protein.
I literally checked EVERY single cereal on the shelves and what I found was frightening. Additives known to trigger MSG allergies were found in more than half of the ingredients of the cereals I checked.
One very bad ingredient for those of us with an MSG allergy is Soy Lecithin. I’ll be doing a special post on this additive in the coming days. But this additive, I found in nearly every cereal I looked at. One thing to note here is that Soy Lecithin will always be found in any cereal or product that claims to be “protein enriched.”
Old reliable Cheerios made it onto my “safe” list, but the “Cheerios Protein” brand is not safe. It includes Soy Lecithin. In fact, it’s about the second ingredient on the package. While you’re at it, leave Frosted Cheerios on the store shelf too — it contains corn syrup and corn starch, as well as Honey Nut Cheerios for including corn starch and rice bran oil, and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios for the use of corn starch and corn syrup.
Another cereal that I thought was safe is Wheaties. It is not. In fact, Wheaties is one of the WORST out there from its use of corn syrup, and also because it’s a wheat cereal. While I personally have had no real negative effects from wheat products, there are those with MSG allergies who do. Also, the inclusion of rice bran oil can cause MSG reactions in some people.
Another cereal to keep away from — Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. The use of flavoring, namely malt flavoring is more than enough reason to leave it on the shelf if you’re allergic to MSG, along with the huge notation on the label noting that the cereal “contains traces of soybeans.”
Kellogg’s has marketed its Special K cereal as a good way for someone to lose weight, by replacing a meal they would normally have with a bowl of its cereal. If you have an MSG allergy, do not take the Special K challenge! Among the ingredients in their product line are, Whey Protein, Malt flavor, Calcium Caseinate — in the “original” brand, and even worse for us MSG allergic folks, Soy Protein Isolate, defatted soy grits, and Soy Lecithin in their Red Berries, Crunch Protein, Cinnamon Brown Sugar, Fruit & Yogurt and Vanilla Almond cereals.
Avoid all of their cereal bars too.
Surprisingly enough, Fiber One landed on my bad list due to the inclusion of Guar Gum and caramel coloring in its ingredients. If these two ingredients are present so is MSG.
Avoid any cereals with chocolate! They will contain Soy Lecithin. The ONE exception is Chocolate Lucky Charms. Count Chocula for sure is a no-no due to the fact it’s made with corn, corn meal, and modified corn starch along with corn syrup and rice bran oil.
General Mills’ Kix cereal (which at one time positioned itself as “Kid tested, Mother approved”) includes ingredients that troubled me, namely, rice bran oil and “natural and artificial flavors.”
Here’s what broke my heart — my favorite cereal, one that I believed was safe, isn’t!
Kellogg’s Rice Krispies contains maltodextrin, soybean oil and malt flavoring — ALL MSG reaction triggers! Rice Krispies had been one of about three cereals I enjoyed regularly, for decades —- and I had no idea it was making me sick.
Another favorite I’ve had to cross off my good list is Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, which contains malt flavoring and the package notes that it contains traces of soybeans. Yet another cereal I had been poisoning myself by eating for decades! Also gone from my pantry forever, my favorite guilty pleasure, Kellogg’s Apple Jacks, which includes Soybean and Cottonseed oils in its ingredients.
Something else to note: NOT all brands of Raisin Bran are created equal. Post Raisin Bran gets high marks for leaving the additives out. But you should avoid the Costco and Kellogg’s versions of Raisin Bran, which contain Soy and caramel coloring. Total Raisin Bran also gets high marks for leaving the additives out.
Note that Wheat Chex didn’t make my good list or bad list. I’ve left it off of each list because of the wheat content, and because some people who are allergic to MSG can have a reaction to wheat, but others, like myself, don’t experience any reaction to wheat at all.
And finally, Kellogg’s Mueslix is another cereal to avoid due to the use of Soybean Oil. While you’re at it, keep away from Instant Quaker Oatmeal Cups. The inclusion of Guar Gum and Caramel coloring are the two reasons why.
Here’s my good and bad cereal lists:
Post Raisin Bran
Cream of Wheat
Quaker Oats (except instant packets)
Quaker Real Medleys
Kashi Heart to Heart
Total Raisin Bran
Chocolate Lucky Charms
Kellogg’s Apple Jacks
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
Kellogg’s Rice Krispies
Special K (entire product line)
Kashi Go Lean
Honey Nut Cheerios
Kellogg’s Froot Loops
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes
General Mills Count Chocula
Kellogg’s Raisin Bran
Costco Raisin Bran
Some brands of Granola (Kellogg’s and Quaker Medley are two to avoid)
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Quaker Instant Oatmeal (indiv. packets; Cups, all varieties)
Keep checking those ingredient lists and be sure to read my earlier posts on the ingredients to watch out for. Be vigilant about the discount, generic cereals as well. Also, be aware that rice bran oil can cause an allergic reaction in those allergic to MSG. I’m pointing this out because I found it in the ingredients list of several cereals.
Keep checking your labels! Knowledge is power.
Next: The Scourge of Soy Lecithin