Breakfast cereal is a sacred thing. When we were little, it was the gas that powered our mornings, and now that we’re slightly older, it’s become the quick breakfast or late night pick-me-up when we want to grab something with enough fiber to make us feel less guilty about all the sugar that’s in it.

While the field of breakfast cereals has expanded considerably in the last decade or so to include new, artesanal, or up-and-coming food companies, there is still nothing like a bowl of cereal out of a box that stirs up feelings of warmth, longing, and nostalgia for the good old days. But just as we’re willing to swear eternal loyalty to cereals we’ve enjoyed since we were children, there are others we think have zoomed past their best by dates — and that’s how we’ve come up with our list of top three of the best and worst name-brand cereals, which appear in no particular order.

The Best: Honey Nut Cheerios

Honey Nut Cheerios are made with whole grain oats and oat bran — making it gluten free. It’s also nearly nut free because the hint of almonds you swear you’ve tasted comes from natural almond flavoring; and while its sweetness comes from sugar, honey, and brown sugar syrup, fans say they can still taste the honey. A 28g-sized serving yields 9 grams of sugar so it’s not exactly the healthiest option out there, but there are more Honey Nut Cheerios fans than you know, because it’s been named the most popular cereal in America according to IRI marketing research (via Today).

The Best: Honey Bunches of Oats

If you like your breakfast cereal with a lot of nice and a little bit of naughty, Honey Bunches of Oats could well be what you’re looking for. As for our flavor preference, we’re looking at you, Honey Bunches of Oats made with Whole Grain Almond Crunch. This honey bunch is made with whole grain wheat and whole grain rolled oats, with a sprinkle of almond. So it’s also sweetened with sugar, corn syrup, molasses and honey – and it’s got 10 grams of sugar per serving, but it also delivers 100 percent of RDV of iron, folate, Vitamin B12, and has 32 grams of whole grain per serving. Unless you’re really on a strict diet this may not be for you- but for those of you who aren’t – live a little and indulge.

The Best: Special K Red Berries

We’ll go out on a limb for this one, but we think Special K Red Berries goes where Original Special K doesn’t. The cereal holds its own and doesn’t go limp at the first glug of milk, and the milk softens up the fruit enough without turning it into a mushy mess. The cereal is sweetened with sugar, freeze-dried strawberries, and 2 percent or less of brown sugar syrup (via Kellogg’s), making it pleasing without being cloying. We’ve heard that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is a firm fan of Special K (via Yahoo), and we’re thinking she may get behind this version with Red Berries — unless she enjoys munching on cardboard, that is.

The Worst: Lucky Charms

To consume Lucky Charms without its hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, rainbows, or red balloons is to discover that underneath the glitz of color and artificial flavor, some breakfast cereals (like this one) actually have no souls. As children, we may have believed that this sugar bomb could have been part of a nutritious breakfast (Lucky Charms comes clean over the fact that of the cereal’s 27 grams per serving, 10 of those grams is sugar) — but as adults, we’d like to think we know better. 

The Worst: Shredded Wheat

You might call this the cereal that started it all. Back in the late 1800s a man named Henry Perky invented a method where steamed wheat could be passed through two rollers, one smooth and one with grooves, to create strands that could then be woven and pressed into pillows (via The Guardian). It doesn’t seem like the process has changed too much since then (you can watch how they make shredded wheat here), and the cereal has such a bad rep with children that some actually learn their compass points (north, east, south, west) with the rhyme: Never Eat Shredded Wheat.

The Worst: Kellogg's All Bran Original Cereal

No amount of labelling that screams HEART HEALTHY and FIBER will make us change our minds about Kellogg’s All Bran. While the cereal may be healthy — why wouldn’t it, since it has just wheat bran, sugar, malt flavor and less than 2 percent of salt (via All Bran) as listed ingredients — it definitely comes up negative on the flavor scale. But the cereal has its uses — namely, as a key ingredient for the muffins that bear its name.

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