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Cereal With Blueberries
Make your first meal of the day an organic one—healthy for you, healthy for the planet. Photo by Floortje | IST.
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about the author

 

STEPHANIE ZONIS writes on organic issues for THE NIBBLE.

 

 

April 2008

Product Reviews / NutriNibbles / Breads

Organic Breakfast Cereal

Part III: Buying Tips & Organic Cereal Brands A To E

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part III of a five-part article. You can click to the different parts in the yellow box below.

ORGANIC CEREAL OVERVIEW

ORGANIC CEREAL BRANDS

Part III

So popular has organic cereal become, that some of the industry’s “big boys” (General Mills, Hain Celestial, Kellogg’s) have made forays into the organic realm, though not always under their own names. Kellogg’s owns Kashi, while General Mills owns Cascadian Farm, and Hain Celestial Group owns Health Valley and Earth’s Best Baby Food, etc. Post launched Organic Honey Bunches of Oats Cereal. You’ll still find some smaller businesses in the world of organic cereals, though.

Tips

Before you buy organic cereal, consider the following:

  • Is It Organic? If you’re looking for organic cereal, be sure to check labels! Many companies manufacture both organic and non-organic products. And, of course, “all natural” is not the same as organic.
  • Organic LogoHow Organic Is It? There are three levels of organic certification: 100%, 95% (which acknowledges that some ingredients that must be used are simply not available in an organic-certified form), and Made With Organic Ingredients, which indicates that the organic elements are fewer than 95%. The first two are eligible to carry the green and white (or black and white) USDA Organic seal, the third is not. Learn more about the different certifications in THE NIBBLE’s Glossary Of Organic Terms.
  • Allergies. If you have concerns about food allergies or lifestyle concerns or preferences, checking the label is a must.
  • Ingredients. “Organic” is not necessarily synonymous with “healthy.” Some of these cereals are wheat- or gluten-free, low-sugar, low-salt, high in fiber, low-fat, suitable for vegans, etc., but some seem a bit reckless in certain areas. For instance, not a few contain a fair amount of sugar. Cascadian Farm’s Hearty Morning has 360 mg of sodium per serving. Both cereals I tried from Peace Cereal have 400 mg of sodium per serving. That’s going to be a problem for some individuals, although the salt is not necessarily noticeable to the taste buds. Incidentally, when I e-mailed Peace Cereal to check these figures, I received a rather curt note informing me that they were reformulating their cereals this year to contain less sugar and less sodium. There are too many such concerns for me to focus on any in this article, but try looking at the website before you go shopping. Just about everyone now has ingredient lists and/or nutrition labels online, a genuine time saver.
  • Portion Size. Portion size can be important, too. Nature’s Path Apple Cinnamon Hot Oatmeal contains 14 grams of sugar and 190 calories per packet. Those may seem like high figures, until you notice that one packet contains 50 grams of cereal. By contrast, a packet of Nature’s Path Weil by Andrew Weil M.D., Veri-Berry Hot Oatmeal provides 150 calories and 10 grams of sugar, but only 40 grams of cereal. If you do your math, 50 grams of the Weil Oatmeal would provide 12.5 grams of sugar and 187.5 calories, not so very different from the figures for the Apple Cinnamon variety. Similarly, a 36 gram packet of Country Choice Apple Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal contains 140 calories and 11 grams of sugar. If portion size is increased to 50 grams, caloric content would be a touch under 195 calories, with just over 15 grams of sugar.
Bowl Of Cereal
Check to see how large a serving you get for
the calories. Photo by Drew Hadley | IST.
  • Among cold cereals, Barbara’s Bakery Ultima Organic Pomegranate Cereal has 5 grams of fiber, only 5 grams of sugar, just 1 gram of fat, and a lightweight 100 calories per serving. I would find that impressive were it not for the fact that the serving size is a mere one-half cup, surely not enough to satisfy most appetites. 

The listings below should provide a little taste (so to speak) of what’s available in organic cereals. Some manufacturers have diverse lines of organic cereals; some produce just a few products. All cereals reviewed are certified organic with these exceptions: Granola Delights lists their organic line as “all organic,” but they do not carry the USDA seal of organic certification; Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 notes that their products contain “certified organic grains,” but again do not carry the USDA seal (as noted above, they fall under the category, Made With Organic Ingredients). Both varieties of Peace Cereal reviewed for this article bear a green seal stating they are “96% organic.” While that entitles Peace Cereal to carry the USDA Organic seal (the minimum is 95%, and their products do have organic certification), they chose to use their own seal rather than the USDA’s.

For the purpose of testing, all cold cereals were consumed dry. I purchased brands available to me at the time. Certainly, you will find others. Producers are listed in alphabetical order.

Organic Cereal Brands A To E

 

Arrowhead Mills. This company has a lengthy roster of cereals, both hot and cold. Arrowhead MillsNot all are organic; it is sometimes unclear from the website description whether a cereal is or is not. I tried the Maple Buckwheat Flakes, an old favorite of mine, as well as the Breadshop  Vermont Maple Granola and the 7 Grain Hot Cereal. The Maple Buckwheat Flakes taste sweeter than you’d think, considering they have just 5 grams of sugar per serving, and you really do get a maple flavor. The buckwheat flakes are very light and crunchy. The Vermont Maple Granola is sweet and crunchy, with a maple flavor, but it also tastes quite salty to me. The 7 Grain Hot Cereal is a combination of wheat, oats, barley, soybeans, buckwheat, corn and millet, so there are many different textures in one hot cereal. By itself, it has a modest flavor, but it’s delightful with a little sweetening and/or fruit. There is online ordering of some products, but there is a six package minimum.

  • Certified kosher by The Organized Kashrus Laboratories
  • Recommended: Maple Buckwheat Flakes and 7 Grain Hot Cereal

Barbara’s Bakery. This business includes the Organic Weetabix line from the U.K., as well as Alpen Cereals and those from the actual Barbara’s Bakery brand. I tried three types here: the Honey Crunch n’ Oats, Ultima Pomegranate Cereal and Breakfast O’s. The Honey Crunch n’ Oats is a blend of three types of flakes with small granola clusters scattered about. The cereal is lightly sweetened and the mix of flakes and clusters creates an interesting texture. Ultima Pomegranate is a combination of five different flakes, oats, and fiber segments. The ingredients state that the pomegranate is in dried form, although no bits of the dried fruit are in the cereal (a powder is likely used to coat the cereal). There’s light sweetening here. Fruit juice sweetening distinguishes the Organic O’s, but there’s so little sweetening that they end up tasting only flat, with a slight saltiness. Online ordering. 

  • Certified kosher by The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations

Bob’s Red Mill. Another lengthy roster of cereals is available from this company, of Bob's Red Millwhich fifteen (all hot) are organic, split among two categories on the website (“cereal” as well as “oats”).  I’m an oatmeal freak, and I’m especially fond of Bob’s Scottish Oatmeal, a coarse-ground oatmeal that yields a porridge with some texture to it (the texture differs somewhat from steel-cut oats; try both from Bob’s and see which you prefer). A big bowl of this oatmeal, drizzled with some real Grade B maple syrup or topped with some dried fruit, makes a hearty and delicious meal. Their Old Fashioned Rolled Oats are dandy, too. Non-oat-based organic cereals include Creamy Buckwheat Hot Cereal, consisting solely of organic buckwheat. This cooks up into a creamier, more mild-tasting cereal than one would expect from a grain with a reputation for strong flavor. If you’re in or near the Portland, Oregon area, it’s fun to tour the mill, and there’s a nice retail shop/café onsite. Online ordering.

  • Certified kosher by Kehilla Kosher/Igud HaKashrus of Los Angeles
  • Recommended: All products mentioned  

Cascadian Farm. Most of Cascadian Farms’ cereals are certified organic. Hearty Cascadian FarmsMorning is comprised of flakes, short fiber segments, and oat clusters. This cereal has a nice crunchiness and a good blend of textures, but the flavor is undistinguished and has a salty aftertaste. Clifford Crunch is aimed at kids, of course, with a picture of Clifford the Big Red Dog on the box. It tastes somewhat sweeter than one would think, and the sweetness fades into an oaty-slightly salty flavor. Multi Grain Squares are light-textured, with lots of crunch. They’re less hearty than their name implies, with a blend of wheat, corn, and rice and a relatively mild taste. I munch these by the handful as a snack. Online ordering. This company is now owned by General Mills.

  • Certified kosher by The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
  • Recommended: Multi Grain Squares

Country Choice Organic. I selected both the Fit Kids Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack Country Choice Instant Oatmealand the Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack. The Fit Kids Variety Pack has instant oatmeal in Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Toast flavors. There are miniature chocolate chips in the Chocolate Chip variation, which of course melt when boiling water is stirred in. This oatmeal has some modest chocolate flavor and is on the sweet side. The Cinnamon Toast tastes sweeter to me than the Chocolate Chip (though the Cinnamon Toast actually contains less sugar), and has an unidentifiable spice—not cinnamon. The Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack has Original, Apple Cinnamon and Maple flavors. The Original and Apple Cinnamon are good; I didn’t get to try the Maple. Online ordering.

  • Certified kosher by The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
  • Recommended: Chocolate Chip, Original and Apple Cinnamon Instant Oatmeals

Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods. This company has a line of multigrain hot cereals and Dr. McDougall's Instant Oatmealinstant oatmeals. I tried the Instant Oatmeal (Original) and the Maple 4 Grain Non-Dairy Hot Cereal Big Cup. The Instant Oatmeal was fine and did not have the pasty texture I encountered in several other brands of organic instant oatmeals. The Maple 4 Grain is made in a cup (you add boiling water, stir and let it sit for five minutes). You can smell maple when you add the boiling water. I’ve had problems in the past with other foods made in cups, but this one works perfectly; after a five-minute rest, the oatmeal is ready to eat. The package notes that a cup of this size produces two servings, but I ate the entire contents (two servings for young children, perhaps). This cereal is hearty and pleasantly sweet; my only criticism is a slightly excessive saltiness. It’s the first taste you note when you eat a spoonful, and the first to disappear, but it’s still a bit too much. Online ordering.

  • Recommended: Instant Oatmeal (Original)  

Earth’s Best Baby Food. From their Sesame Street line, I tried On-the-Go O’s in both Apple Cinnamon and Honey Nut flavors. The former had some sweetness, with a tinge of salt, and more of a cinnamon taste than anything else. The Honey Nut variety was mildly sweetened—mildly flavored all around, in fact. Young children, the target consumers, would probably go for these in a heartbeat. As an adult, I understandably prefer somewhat stronger tastes. Online ordering with a two-package minimum. The company is owned by The Hain Celestial Group.

  • Certified kosher by KOF-K Kosher Supervision

Erewhon. I tried the Raisin Bran and Maple Spice Oatmeal from this line. This raisin bran contains very small, crisp flakes of wheat and wheat bran, along with a very good quantity of raisins (organic, of course) scattered throughout the box. According to the box literature, the flakes are made from the actual wheat berry; the implication is that they are less processed than flakes in other raisin brans. I appreciated the fact that the raisins are not sugar-coated, as they are in some other cereals of this type, but I found the flakes a bit dull. The oatmeal is not sweet and has a somewhat pasty texture; there’s a moderate spice aftertaste. There is no online ordering on the company website, although the products are available on Amazon.com and elsewhere. The company is owned by U.S. Mills, LLC, which owns other boutique cereal brands including New Morning (mentioned in the next section), plus Farina Mills, Skinner’s and Uncle Sam.    

  • Certified kosher by The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations

Continue To Part IV: Organic Cereal Brands G To L

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