Cheerios have been declared wholesome goodness and are the perfect breakfast for toddlers and adults. But are Cheerios gluten free?

Are Cheerios Gluten Free?

Cheerios is an iconic brand of cereals owned by General Mills. They have become a favorite of every family. 

Cheerios can be a healthy breakfast option, bringing the benefits of oats, low sugar, minerals, and vitamins into the diet.

However, the question is, “Is that a healthy breakfast option gluten-free?”. Before looking into that question, let’s take a complete look at cheerios.

What are Cheerios?

Cheerios were introduced in 1941 and have been a staple in almost every household in the United States. They remain one the most popular breakfast cereal on the market and are now available worldwide.

Cheerios are not only a tasty breakfast but also full of nutrients and can be a very healthy choice. Cheerios are made of whole grain oats.

These whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains because they contain all parts of the grains. Moreover, studies (McRae, 2017) have also shown that eating fiber-rich whole grains can lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart diseases.

Varieties of Cheerios:

Cheerios come in many different flavors; in fact, there are 15 varieties of cheerios with seasonal ones. Most of these are made of whole grain oats, but some include other grains, added sugar, and other ingredients. Some of the popular flavors of cheerios are:

  • Plain: These are the original cheerios made up from oats. In this variety of cheerios, only one gram of sugar is added and has no extra flavoring.
  • Honey Nut is one of the top-selling varieties of cheerios with a hint of almond flavor. These cheerios have a sweet taste due to honey and sugar.
  • Frosted: Made with whole grain and oatmeal, these are sweetened with the sugar coating of vanilla flavor.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate Cheerios are made from oats and corn. Cocoa powder and sugar are also added to these.
  • Multigrain: In this variety of cheerios, whole grains are combined like oats, corn, and brown rice. It contains less added sugar, which is why it is less sweetened than the other varieties.
  • Ancient Grain: This type of sugar-sweetened is made from whole grains like rice, quinoa, and oats.
  • Apple Cinnamon: The main ingredients of this variety are whole grain oats and sugar. It also adds apple puree and cinnamon.

Most of these varieties contain added sugar, so if you want to reduce the intake of sugar, then avoid the sugary flavors and choose the ones with no additives and less sugar, like plain variety.

Which Cheerios are gluten free?

Cheerios don’t contain any gluten-containing ingredients, and they also have a gluten-free label on their packaging. To have the gluten-free label, that product must contain less than 20ppm of gluten.

So it can be said that some varieties of cheerios are gluten-free and safe for people to eat on a gluten-free diet. Years back, cheerios also contained wheat as one of their ingredients. But according to the cheerios website (Cheerios) even if the ingredient is listed, it was only used in one mill occasionally.

Moreover, the website also states that “the main and basic ingredient of cheerios is always oats, which is naturally gluten-free. However, there is a chance for gluten-containing grains to co-mingle with gluten-free oats during farming practices and handling procedures.

To make Cheerios gluten-free, we separate the oats from grains that contain gluten, which are of different sizes and shapes. Our cleansing house can clean up to 3.5 million pounds of oats daily.”

Since then, they not only updated the ingredients to use oat flour but also didn’t use wheat any longer. The company has a whole section on their website which shows how they make gluten-free products.

They also batch test the oats to check for gluten before they are processed into cereals to ensure that they are less than 20ppm and meet the standard gluten-free criteria of the FDA.

Bowl of breakfast cereal with milk and spoon

Are Cheerios good for you?

Due to the high nutritional value of cheerios, they can provide a lot of health benefits:

1. Highly nutritious:

Cheerios contain some of the nutrients which are essential for our body to work properly. One cup of plain cheerios without milk contains:

  • Calories: 100
  • Sugar: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 20 grams
  • Fiber 3 grams
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Iron: 45% of the daily recommended value
  • Vitamin B12: 25% of the daily recommended value
  • Zinc: 25% of the daily recommended value
  • Vitamin D: 10% of the daily recommended value
  • Calcium: 10% of the daily recommended value
  • Vitamin A: 10% of the daily recommended value
  • Vitamin C: 10% of the daily recommended value

Although cheerios are low in calories, they also have a low amount of protein and fats. For that reason, they cannot be a balanced meal on their own, but can be added to a balanced diet.

2. Can prevent iron deficiency:

Iron deficiency has become a major health concern these days. Children and women are mostly affected by this medical condition.

Research (Kristine Jimenez, 2015) has shown that iron is important in transporting oxygen throughout the body.

That’s why an iron deficiency can result in dangerous symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

Cheerios can be very helpful in reducing the risk of this medical condition as one cup of cheerios can provide 45% of the daily recommended value of iron.

However, this iron is not present within the cheerios naturally, it is added during the processing.

3. Kid-friendly:

The best thing about cheerios is that it is not only for adults or people of a specific age, but children as young as eight months can also enjoy this tasty cereal safely.

Cheerios can also be good finger food for toddlers ready to eat solids without the risk of choking because they become softened when wet.

Cheerios are a great way to add whole grain, fiber, and iron into the kid’s diet. However, don’t just rely on them.

You can add some fruits or nuts to their cereals, as every food group is necessary for the proper growth and development of the kids.

4. Can be part of a balanced diet:

Cheerios can be added to any healthy diet plan but make sure to add all the other nutrients in the diet. However, use the cheerios in moderation If you like sugary flavors.

Cheerios are a rich source of nutrients like calcium, iron, and vitamin B12, but it contains a very low amount of protein.

For more protein, try to make cheerios with high-protein non-dairy milk; you can also add a scoop of nut butter or nuts. Tofu scrambles and vegan eggs can be a good option as side dishes with cheerios.

Topping the cheerios cereals with fresh fruits like berries can increase the number of minerals and vitamins you take.

Cheerios are also low in fats. Healthy fats can be added to cheerios by adding hemp, chia, and flax seeds. These seeds will provide not only healthy fats but also a large amount of fiber as well. 

Are Cheerios bad for you?

No doubt that cheerios are a delicious and safe breakfast choice that can provide a lot of nutrients. But they have some downsides as well:

1. Packed with added sugar:

Not all cheerios, but some varieties of cheerios contain a large amount of added sugar. For example, a cup of honey nut cheerios contains 12 grams of sugar, 12 times more than the plain variety of cheerios.

This high amount of sugar can cause the risk of various health conditions. According to research (OKeefe, 2017), excess added sugar intake could increase the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases. It can also contribute to taking high calories and weight gain.

Although occasional added sugar intake is not harmful, it is better to be mindful of how much you eat, especially if cheerios are staples in your diet.

Suppose you eat more than one serving of cheerios daily, then try plain varieties to keep your sugar intake low. The recommended amount of added sugar for men is nine tablespoons; for women, it is six tablespoons daily.

3. Very low in protein:

Breakfast cereals have gained much popularity with time, and now these are marked as a complete meal option.

However, most of these cereals contain a very low amount of protein and cheerios are one of them. Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet, and is especially essential to get your day started.

So, it is important to add a high-quality protein source to each meal to meet up the daily requirement of protein needed by the body.

The recommended amount of protein (Wu, 2016) is minimum 0.8 grams per kg of body weight. For example, for a person with a weight of 68 kg, the daily recommended protein would be 55 grams.

One cup of a plain variety of cheerios with 120 mL of soy milk can provide only 11 grams of protein, most of which comes from the soy milk.

So, pair the cheerios with high protein sources like a protein smoothie, high protein yogurt, or a tofu scramble. You can also add some nuts or seeds to your cheerios bowl to boost healthy fats and protein.

4. Is processed food:

Cheerios are processed grain products because the ingredients used to make cheerios have to go through significant processing to make the final product.

Although cheerios are different from many other kinds of cereal made from refined grains like white rice or corn flour, wide varieties of cheerios are made from unhealthy ingredients like corn syrup, cane sugar, and other preservatives.

Whether plain cheerios are made from whole oats doesn’t mean eating a bowl of cheerios is equal to eating a bowl of whole oats. Because in cheerios, oats undergo processing.

According to one study of 30 adults (Wolever, 2019), eating Honey Nuts Cheerios results in larger blood sugar levels and insulin responses compared to consuming less processed grain products like old-fashioned oats.

Honey Nut Cheerios are very high in added sugar, which increases the blood sugar level more than unsweetened grain products. Studies (Susan M Tosh, 2015) have also shown that processing whole grains can impact blood sugar response.

Enjoying cheerios in a small amount won’t harm your health, but it is best to choose the less processed options if possible, especially when you consume cheerios regularly.

For example, instead of eating a bowl full of Honey Nut Cheerios, you can have a bowl of rolled oats with fresh berries and a handful of nuts.

How to add Cheerios to your diet:

With a high nutrient value and energy profile, cheerios are a great food that can fuel the body to do daily tasks without making you feel heavy or weighed down like other high-fat and high-calorie food can. There are many different ways through which cheerios can be added to the diet:

  • You can make your breakfast by topping the cereals with fresh fruits like berries and bananas.
  • Combine cheerios with other whole grain cereals, pretzel twist, a little sauce, and garlic powder to make a healthy snack.
  • Cheerios are a healthy breakfast for kids; you can also give cheerios to toddlers as finger food.
  • A tasty cheerio treat can also be made by chilling the mixture of plain cheerios, maple syrup, sugar, and peanut butter into a pan.

The most common way of consuming cheerios is in breakfast as cereals. People tend to add cheerios into milk and have them before going to college or offices.

cheerios close up

So, are Cheerios gluten free?

Cheerios are classic breakfast cereal made up of whole oats. Cheerios are not only an affordable breakfast option but also packed with essential nutrients.

Although cheerios are processed foods, and some of their varieties contain a high amount of added sugar, you can get the benefits by choosing the plain variety or multigrain.

The amount of healthy fats and protein can also be increased by adding fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds on top of cheerios.

While breakfast cereal can provide a lot of health benefits but make sure to add other whole food groups with them as well to meet the body’s nutrient needs, some varieties of cheerios are wide in added sugar which can cause several health risks like spiking up blood sugar levels, so make sure to add these cereals in moderation.

Other related articles:

  1. Are Corn Flakes Gluten Free?
  2. Is Buckwheat Gluten Free?
  3. Is Quinoa Gluten Free?
  4. High Fiber Gluten Free Foods
  5. Are Avocados Good For You? 
  6. Cumin Nutrition And Benefits
  7. Health Benefits Of Ginger
  8. Are Garbanzos Good For You?

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