Whether it was a childhood staple or a late-night snack, there’s a special place in my heart for breakfast cereals. As I’ve grown and adopted a plant-based diet, it can be hard to know which cereals are vegan-friendly or even healthy. Clearing up the uncertainty around breakfast cereals, let’s take a bite into whether or not Malt-O-Meal breakfast cereal is vegan.
What is Malt-O-Meal?
This brand is known for their breakfast cereals. Pleasing to both hot and cold cereal lovers, they make several varieties of each. The cold breakfast cereals are packaged in bags instead of boxes, making them stand out on the shelf compared to the standard box.
Malt-O-Meal Hot Breakfast Cereal
During the colder months of the year, Malt-O-Meal’s hot breakfast cereal is an inexpensive option. Comparable to quick oats, they are fast and easy to make by adding hot water or milk. They come in three flavors: Original, Chocolate, and Maple & Brown Sugar.
Malt-O-Meal Cold Cereals
When it comes to classic cold cereals, Malt-O-Meal offers over 30 flavors in a wide variety of flavors. Bagged in bright colors, these cereals are sure to catch your eye walking down the cereal aisle. Some of their fun flavors include:
- Apple Zings
- Berry Colossal Crunch
- Berry Colossal Crunch with Marshmallows
- Chocolate Marshmallow Mateys
- Chocolatey Chip Cookie Bites
- Cinnamon Toasters
- Cocoa Dyno-Bites
- Cookies & Cream
- Crispy Rice
- Frosted Flakes
- Fruity Blasts
- Golden Honey O’s
- Honey Buzzers
- Mini Spooners
- Peanut Butter Cups
- Raisin Bran
Are Malt-O-Meal cereals bad for you?
Reading through the names alone, only one thing comes to mind: sugar. Breakfast cereals get a bad rap for being added sugars and low-quality ingredients. Let’s take a look at the back of the cereal bag to see where Malt-O-Meal cereal lies.
When comparing the various cereal nutrition facts, it became very clear how big of a role sugar plays in Malt-O-Meal products. Per serving without milk, a bowl of one of their cereals ranges from 150-210 calories, 33-49 g carbohydrates, 1-2 g fiber, and 2-3 g of protein. Additionally, these breakfast cereals contain up to 18 g of added sugars – that’s a lot!
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults limiting added sugars to no more than 10% of your total daily calorie intake, which is 50 g per day for a 2,000-calorie eating plan. Children under 18 years old should try to get less than 24 g of these added sugars per day. One serving of Malt-O-Meals can meet almost the entire days’ worth of recommended added sugars for children – and that’s just for breakfast!
A key component of a healthy breakfast is including some protein and fiber. Adding both of these to any meal will slow the absorption of sugars and help keep you fuller for longer. Malt-O-Meal cereals alone are very low in both of these.
Due to the fortification, Malt-O-Meal cereals does have high amounts of some vitamins and minerals. These cereals contain up to 30% daily value of iron and 70% daily value of thiamin (vitamin B1), among lesser percentages of other vitamins and minerals.
There are a few things to keep in mind when reading an ingredients list. Ingredients are always written in order of the largest to smallest amounts. The label must include a list of FDA-certified color additives but can group other ingredients that are similar under an umbrella term, like “spices” or “natural flavor”.
Since there are so many flavors of Malt-O-Meal cereals, here’s a list of the most commonly shared ingredients:
- Artificial Flavor
- BHT (added for freshness)
- Canola Oil
- Caramel color
- Corn flour
- Corn syrup
- Natural Flavor
- Whole grain oat flour
- Vitamins and Minerals
One ingredient that you may not have in your pantry at home is “BHT for freshness”. It’s an FDA-approved preservative that is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). However, it does appear on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen Food List, with some research indicating to steer clear of both BHT and BHA.
The first or second ingredient in Malt-O-Meal cereals is sugar. Refined cane sugar does not naturally have animal products in it, but is processed using animal bone char. Depending on your personal definition of vegan, you may allow non-organic sugar in your diet.
Natural and Artificial Flavors
Vague and mysterious, natural flavors are basically anything that has a natural origin and is approved for use in the food system. These ingredients can be from fruit and herbs to meat and everything in between. On the other hand, artificial flavors do not have natural origins, even if they have the exact same chemical makeup as their natural counterparts.
So why do manufacturers use natural and artificial flavors? These labels make it impossible to tell based on the ingredients list alone if a product is truly vegan or not. It can make ingredients lists shorter or hide a company’s recipe from competitors. As time goes on, consumers are increasingly questioning food companies’ transparency about what exactly these ingredients contain.
The good news is that cereal can be vegan when it’s made with the right ingredients. Healthier and vegan-friendly, here’s a few brands that can lead you to a better breakfast cereal option.
- 365 Everyday Value Organic Morning O’s
- Barbara’s Organic Corn Flakes, Peanut Butter Puffins
- Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats (Unfrosted)
- Kashi: Organic Island Vanilla, Organic Strawberry Fields, 7 Whole Grain Puffs
- Nature’s Path Crunchy Maple Sunrise, Rice Puffs
Don’t Forget the Milk
Pair your new favorite vegan cereal with a plant-based milk! There are many plant-based milks to choose from like almond, coconut, and soy milk. Many vegan milks are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, like calcium and B12, that are harder to get in a vegan diet.
Malt-O-Meal is a breakfast cereal brand that has a huge selection of flavors with a small amount of nutritional benefit. One of the main ingredients is non-organic cane sugar, making it unhealthy and not vegan. Instead of Malt-O-Meal, try one of the many vegan breakfast cereals that’s better for you and the planet.
Read more about 4 Reasons Why Froot Loops Aren’t Vegan-Friendly