Nothing brings back fond memories of 1980’s childhood quite like that morning American staple known as “breakfast cereal.” I’m not sure at what point we co-opted the term “cereal” to basically convey a mostly sugar-laced, artificially colored bowl of glutonium, but the word has found its way into the American lexicon…so be it.
The Saturday morning cartoon ritual was always interspersed with vivid advertisements for the latest and greatest mouthful of empty carbs and wasted calories, as if the leprechaun or rabbit or cookie crook would jump out of our box and play games with us the way they did in the commercial. If not, we at least got a glorious plastic trinket of some sort.
How vividly do I remember being part of the test group (in first grade, ca. 1981) for Smurf-Berry Crunch (the school actually allowed our corporate overlords to march us down to the cafeteria to sample the latest concoction brewed up in a chemistry lab that our parents were made to believe was part of a “balanced breakfast”).
And who could forget Strawberry Shortcake Cereal?
Oh how times have changed.
Now for those of you who remember that “Trix are for kids,” or who have ever been “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,” the long lost days of watching Looney Tunes in your pajamas while your cereal actually changed the color of your milk (really?…REALLY?) may seem a distant memory. And for those of us who need to be gluten-free, those days of yesteryear may seem lost forever.
There is hope.
Notice I said hope…not healthy. This is all about nostalgia and convenience, for those mornings when you just want to share some of your childhood memories with your kids or hit the snooze button one too many times and are scrambling to get your family out the door.
I told you up-front that the Gluten-Free 101 series would not be about optimum health, but would be about surviving the g-free whirlwind you may find yourself trying to navigate. With that in mind, here is my take on some mainstream, red-yellow-blue-green-orange-purple dye #14 (did the first 13 attempts make the rats glow in the dark or what?) breakfast cereals. And have you noticed that MANY of the truly yummy glow in the dark cereals have come in the shape of little balls? General Mills sure has gotten good use out of their little ball-shaped cereal machines, haven’t they?
Okay, I could go on and on over cereal nostalgia but let’s get moving on the important stuff.
Which boxed cereals are safe to eat when you are gluten-free?? (We’ll address hot cereal in another post)
Before I share a list of all the gluten-free cereals I can think of…I would like to address a couple issues first.
To be or Not to Be (gluten-free), That is THE Question!
When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005…grocery shopping was a 6 hour endeavor.
From reading labels (or trying to read them anyway), calling Mike on my cell phone to have him Google words like Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and then Google if BHT was gluten-free…only to give up and call the 800 number on the package and after sitting on hold for 20 minutes, giving my name and number to put me on their “list,” only to have the company representative read me an official script saying something to the effect of, “read the ingredient label, if an ingredient is derived from wheat it will be listed on the label, the same thing goes for barley (a.k.a. malt or malt flavoring), oats and rye.” There was no such thing as “gluten free oats” back in 2005, they were still on the 100% forbidden list. After roughly 9,998 exasperated phone calls and scripted responses, I gave up and just started reading labels to determine if a product was “gluten-free.” With the help of Gluten-Free Living Magazine of course.
When one is newly diagnosed with a gluten induced illness, I think it’s natural that most of us will initially search for the foods we already eat and try to figure out which of those are safe. Unless you’re in the meat or produce section, you won’t find much, which can cause a mini-nervous breakdown of its own! But every so often you will find something you previously enjoyed that is either officially deemed safe (outright labelled gluten-free) or seems safe “enough,” (as in no obvious gluten ingredients listed).
This is where followup blood testing is very important, especially if you have celiac disease. I thought I was doing great on the gluten-free diet once I finally committed to it (3 years after the fact) but low and behold, it wasn’t to be. After a series of unexplainable infections, it was clear that my immune system was in outright mutiny. After doing my own research, I stumbled across The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center’s page about followup blood testing. Funny, my gastroenterologist never mentioned this to me before! After the results came back, it was clear that gluten was still getting into my diet.
Time to rethink my definition of “gluten-free.” And as it turns out, things aren’t always what they seem.
My pal Emily recently sent me second complimentary GlutenTox Home test kit - you can see Wendy, Shelby (of Celiacs in the House) and my previous test results for Fruity Pebbles, Honey Nut Chex, Crunchmaster Crackers and Annie’s Bunny Cookies here), so I seized this opportunity to test Kix, Trix and Cocoa Puffs with GlutenTox so here we go!
I started with Trix, the one with the new Wildberry Red Swirls and guaranteed genetically-modified whole grain complete with box top mail in (why don’t they offer frequent flyer miles too?).
Corn, corn, and more corn. Chemical, red, blue, yellow, “other”…doesn’t really sound good. BUT…no obvious gluten. And the whole “preserve freshness” claim…hmmm…doesn’t really sound fresh to begin with, but we’ll go with it.
Gotta grind it up for GlutenTox!
Negative. Now on with our show.
Kix: Kid Tested, But are they Gluten Free Mom Approved?
More guaranteed GMO whole grain, more box top giveaways, but at least the box color doesn’t foreshadow the ingredient list.
Compare the Kix ingredients to the Trix ingredients. Notice how eerily similar the ingredients are (minus the colors of course). It seems to me that a Trix is mostly just a Kix that has been spray-painted and preserved with an extra-special chemical to “preserve freshness.”
Have your hubby help with the grinding…men seem to like smashing things.
No surprise here…a Kix is basically a Trix afterall!
Can Gluten Free Kids be Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?
This box goes out of its way to promise even MORE whole grains…this can’t be good.
Again, basically the same ingredients as Kix and Trix, but with “disclaimer of death.” Now surely this one will not pass the test…
Grind and waft the smell (it will bring back memories of Saturday morning, I promise).
In this particular case, “may contain wheat” means “does not contain wheat” (at least not alpha-gliadin 33-MER…we’ll discuss this more later).
Guess what? I didn’t even catch this…but both of my kids did (so I must have done something right!).
Checks and Balances
Now, I was beginning to wonder if I was conducting the GlutenTox Home test kits properly, so just to be sure…I crossed over to the dark side.
Yep, the term Glutadoodle (gluten + wackadoodle) encompasses much much more than just gluten free goldfish crackers!
No worries though…no celiacs were harmed in the making of this blog post…
Yep, we took all the necessary precautions… I ain’t THAT crazy!
Questions to think about:
1) Why doesn’t General Mills add Cocoa Puffs, Kix and Trix to their list of labeled gluten-free cereals?
I remember thinking to myself, “this doesn’t make any sense.” Why are some cereals that contain virtually identical ingredients in their list labeled gluten-free and others are not? I waited and waited and waited for the gluten free label to show up on Kix, Trix and Cocoa Puffs – afterall, the ingredient label itself didn’t show any gluten-containing ingredients. But it never happened and here’s why:
January 9, 2010
Dear Ms. Kelly:
Thank you for contacting us about gluten in Kix cereal. General Mills offers several products that are labeled gluten-free. Please check the package label for the gluten-free statement on the front/side/back of the package. Only products that can be verified to be gluten free will be declared as gluten free on the label. It is important to check the product label each time you purchase a product because it has the most accurate information about the product in the package.
Because we constantly strive to improve our products′ quality and nutritional value, the most up-to-date product information is on the package the product is purchased in. For that reason, we do not distribute product information lists as they could quickly become outdated.
For products not labeled gluten free, we will always declare gluten containing ingredients if they are added to the product. If the ingredient declaration lists wheat, oats, barley, rye, or derivatives of these grains, then the product contains gluten. Examples of derivative ingredients include: malt, barley malt, organic malt, semolina, Durham, triticale, and spelt. We do not include gluten containing ingredients in the ′Natural Flavors′ or ′Spices′ on the product ingredient list. If there are gluten ingredients in our products, those ingredients are always clearly listed.
If there are no gluten- containing ingredients listed in the product ingredient label, but the product does not make a gluten free claim, it is because we cannot fully assure that this product is gluten free. While we have not added gluten-containing ingredients, factors such as sourcing, conditions of manufacture, etc. do not allow us to provide the full level of assurance that a gluten free claim requires.
Additional information regarding gluten may be obtained by contacting your health care professional or:
Celiac Sprue Association/United States of America, Inc.
PO Box 31700
Omaha, NE 68131-0700
Or toll free: 877-CSA-4-CSA (877-272-4272)
We hope this information is helpful.
2). Why does General Mills list MAY CONTAIN TRACE AMOUNTS OF WHEAT on the package of Cocoa Puffs but NOT on the packages of Kix or Trix?
If you happen to know the answer to this, please let me know!
The moral to this story?
Nowadays there are many reasons why someone might be on a gluten free diet BUT if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, please use extreme caution before buying any product that is not labeled gluten free. I am living proof that simply because you may not exhibit any “obvious” symptoms when ingesting gluten, it doesn’t mean the same thing as no immune reaction (and subsequential autoimmune diseases in my case).
Is it really worth the potential consequences? For me and mine, that is an unequivocal NO.
Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom’s Top Kid Cereal Picks
Have a newly gluten-free toddler screaming for Cheerios? Try Nature’s Path Whole O’s:
Do they taste identical to Cheerios? No they don’t but I found with my boys (ages 5 and 1 at the time of introduction) that the SHAPE was much more important that the taste and they both took to this cereal.
Have a child mourning the loss of neon colored cereal (or cereal with the mini dehydrated marshmallows)? Go with Post’s Pebbles cereal, three varieties are now labeled gluten-free:
Does your child need to make a “Fruit Loop Necklace at school? Go with Freedom Foods Tropic O’s cereal:
Missing that Snap, Krackle, and Pop? Good news, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies now has a gluten-free version (note: it is NOT the classic blue box!)
Have kids (or a husband) who are cuckoo for Cocoa puffs? Try CerealVit’s Choco Stars!
You can read my review of Choco Stars here.
More Great Packaged Cereals that are Labeled Gluten Free:
Back when I still ate cereal, Mesa Sunrise was my favorite.
Before Gluten-Free Rice Krispies hit the market, I discovered that Erewhon’s Crispy Brown Rice Cereal were nearly identical to the Rice Krispies I remembered from my youth and this is the brand I still choose to buy my for kiddos.
The Nutty Flax and Nutty Rice *remind* me of Grape Nuts (at least in the small nugget crunch category).
**I do recommend reading Shirley’s post over at Gluten Free Easily about her visit to General Mills.
*Barbara’s Multigrain Puffins do contain “pure” oats and Kim over at Gluten Free is Life shares her correspondence with Barbara’s about the oats they use in this post (and we’ll discuss oats in an upcoming post).
What’s Your Favorite Gluten Free Cereal?
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