Let’s talk about cereal. Specifically, let’s talk about the trash cereal you eat every morning just to get some sustenance before you haul yourself off to work. A cereal can be trash for any reason, including, but not limited to: being too sweet, being not sweet enough, being a weird fiber cereal, being from Trader Joe’s, etc.
So what’s the most trash cereal you force yourself to eat just to get through the morning? Our staff counts down their favorites (and least favorites):
Danny Chau: Ah, the Triscuits of the cereal aisle. Nothing like starting your day by delighting in a bundle of tinder half-reconstituted in milk. When soggy, it’s like trying to navigate through a marsh; when eaten dry, it’s like trying to disarm a nail bomb in a vault, except the vault is your mouth — and your mouth is a tender, fleshy receptacle prone to bleeding when treated improperly. I have no patience for cereals that can’t pull double duty as an anytime snack. Unfortunately, it was always around my house as a kid; my mom was a proto-Extreme Couponer, and Frosted Mini-Wheats was always on sale. But I am stronger for having forced myself to eat Frosted Mini-Wheats for a large portion of my childhood. I am stronger, I tell myself. The roof of my mouth is indestructible.
Rip’s Big Bowl: Banana Walnut
Chris Ryan: At a certain point in your life, you arrive back at the point where you started. I bought a box of Rip’s Big Bowl a couple of months ago, and have been plugging away under the assumption that if I eat enough, it will make me look and feel like William Baldwin in Backdraft. Is it working? Look, I’m not hung up on that kind of thing.
On the side of the box, it says that no two bowls of Rip’s taste the same. This is true. I prefer the banana–walnut flavor. Sometimes it tastes like drywall screws, other times it tastes like someone’s damp sea shell collection. The point is, I was seduced.
When I was a kid, Cookie Crisp was my downfall because, no matter how many times I ate it, I thought it was going to taste like a bunch of cookies (it did … for like five seconds, then it tasted like pure uncut cane sugar soaking in milk). Now, I eat banana-flavored gardening mulch, because I think it’s going to make me diesel. You get older, but you don’t get any wiser.
Jack McCluskey: I was never allowed to eat “sugary” cereal as a kid. It’s breakfast, not dessert, my parents’ logic went. So while friends, cousins, and the rest of the world luxuriated in a breakfast that included fun-shaped marshmallows or ended in a bowl of chocolate milk, I was stuck with Cheerios, Rice Krispies, and various bran flakes. Eventually I settled on Raisin Bran, something I still eat most mornings to this day.
As it turns out, I might as well have eaten Cocoa Puffs (120 calories, 9 grams of sugar) or Cookie Crisp (150 calories, 15.7 grams of sugar) in place of Raisin Bran (190 calories, 19 grams of sugar) because, as Chris Traeger says, raisins are basically candy.
Yeah, sure, natural sugar is better than processed sugar, fiber is good for you, blah blah blah. The bottom line is I could’ve been eating cookies for breakfast all this time!
Imitation Special K
Molly McHugh: To me, cereal is perfect and there is no trash cereal, only less good cereal. But! Cereal is too goddamn expensive. I am a patron of Food 4 Less, which boasts a variety of knockoff Kellogg’s cereals. I usually pick up four boxes: imitation Special K with red berries, imitation Special K with fruit and yogurt, imitation Special K Oats and Honey (which is, itself, an imitation of Honey Bunches of Oats, a cereal I once found glass shards in while eating, continued to eat, then sent the shards in and received a month’s supply of Honey Bunches of Oats! A good month!), and one more of the red berries knockoff because that shit goes fast. These are all trash because they are not actually Special K and the amount I save is approximately a dollar per box. But a ridiculously inflated price tag is the trashiest thing about cereal, and I’ll eat a slightly less good version and drive to Food 4 Less — which is hell — in order to save a buck.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Chocolatey Almond Cereal
Rubie Edmondson: If you’re anything like me, eating one dessert per day simply isn’t enough. Thankfully, the best trash cereals exist in the center of the all-important Breakfast–Dessert Venn diagram:
You’ve got a few choices here. Kellogg’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Chocolatey Almond cereal is the purest expression of this space, combining delicious chunks of mall kiosk–caliber milk chocolate with crispy, sugary corn flakes and sliced almonds. Unfortunately, it’s maddeningly difficult to find on grocery store shelves. For a more reliable option, Cinnamon Toast Crunch with almond milk — as noted by Snapchat enthusiast DJ Khaled — is a perfectly grown-up take on a childhood classic. (Woohoo, adulting!)
Finally, there’s the “Don’t Tell Mom — No, Seriously, Never Tell Your Mother About This” special, a treat my dad prepared for me on Saturday mornings as a child: your standard bowl of Cocoa Krispies with 2 percent milk, topped with two heaping scoops of chocolate ice cream. Because ice cream sundaes masquerading as breakfast are the best breakfast.
Riley McAtee: Cap’n Crunch is a great cereal, but have you ever tried to eat it for more than, like, two days in a row? On day three it feels like the Cap’n himself has unleashed a broadside of cannon fire directly into the roof of your mouth. (Side note: Hasn’t he been in the cereal business for long enough to have become an admiral by now?) No other cereal requires that you also buy a change-of-pace cereal for the Tuesdays and Thursdays of the week.
Caitlin Blosser: It’s almost completely sugarless, and therefore pretty much tasteless. Do I eat it because I’m allergic to gluten? No. Nor do I even adhere to a gluten-free diet. For some reason, the simplicity of it keeps me coming back. I loved cereal as a kid. From Cap’n Crunch to Honeycomb, cereal was my go-to snack. So, I guess now that I’ve chosen to no longer eat those “kid” cereals, I don’t want to abandon cereal entirely, even if gluten-free Chex tastes like nothing.
Chris Almeida: Capt. Raymond Holt once said, “If it were feasible, my diet would consist entirely of flavorless beige smoothies containing all the nutrients required by the human animal.” Look, I’m not quite there, but I operate on a similar principle that most find disagreeable: If I want to eat it, I probably shouldn’t, and if I should eat it, I probably don’t want to.
I would love to regularly eat a breakfast that involves a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, but if I did that, bad things would happen to me. Instead, every day, I eat oats, the most boring of all cereals, for breakfast. I don’t even have a brand, I literally just buy the largest quantity available at my local supermarket. Oats are horrible. They are a joyless source of nutrients that many people seem to eat enthusiastically. “But, you can put peanut butter in them!” everybody says. Well, guess what? Peanut butter combined with anything else is probably unhealthy, and I may as well have just had the sandwich instead of getting a not-quite-as-horrible bowl of cardboard.
So, every morning I put oats and milk in a blender and then drink the resulting sludge. No, it doesn’t taste good, but it’s healthy and it’s over quickly. We can’t all eat Lucky Charms. Some of us have goals.
Carl Brooks: Ask yourself this: Has Young Metro ever been seen eating Rice Krispies in their original form? No? That’s because Rice Krispies are the worst cereal of all time. I can’t believe the creators of Rice Krispies have the unmitigated gall to sell us line-segment Cheerios. Further evidence that Rice Krispies are the feds: They’re only worth eating when they are doused in sugar. Why would I trust anything made by a trio of people named Snap, Crackle, and Pop? As a great Diplomat once said: “NO RICE.”
Megan Schuster: The following statement is fact and warrants no debate: Kix is the most trash cereal that ever existed, and people who claim to like it are part of a widespread conspiracy that will one day be exposed.
General Mills says the corn puff product has been around for eight decades, and that’s certainly how it tastes after a box has been open for more than 36 hours. Its bright orange packaging and youthful font act as a lure that reels children in, only to leave them disappointed when they discover that the cereal is “healthy,” has only “3 grams of sugar per serving,” and “tastes like gravel coated in melted plastic” (OK, that last one is from me).
I was introduced to the Kix Cult while visiting relatives as a child, and the first time I poured myself a bowl, I was full of optimism. But after the first bite, my hopes were dashed and I haven’t been the same since. I have tried the cereal again and again over the years, convinced that I simply hadn’t had the right batch, but no more. I’ve finally accepted that Kix is just B-A-D, and it’s high time that people knew the truth.
Juliet Litman: There’s no point in eating Kix. End Kix.
Gabe Fisher: When I was a 14-year-old at summer camp, I saw my counselor do something incredible. Like almost everything at summer camp, meals are an unchanging tradition. Saturday morning breakfast almost always consisted of coffee cakes, hard-boiled eggs, orange slices, and the small travel containers of Corn Pops. One Saturday, my counselor snatched up three Corn Pops containers and then dumped his orange slices — which would come in a small wooden bowl — on the table. He wiped the bowl clean before pouring all three servings of Corn Pops — which is like $1,000 in summer camp currency — into it. This brazen act of power was the most insane, yet incredible, thing I had witnessed to that point. From that day on, all I aspired to as a camper was to one day give so few fucks that I could pour three servings of Pops into a bowl meant for orange slices.
But Corn Pops are trash. For decades the cereal was called “Sugar Pops” in an honest admission of its sole ingredient. In their most fresh state, Corn Pops are still stale. The only thing they have in common with corn is their yellow color, and even that is completely artificial.
But part of the reason why we get so worked up about our cereals — specifically sweet cereals — is that they are more than just a breakfast food. They are edible memories, bite-sized bits of nostalgia in a bowl. So, while Corn Pops might be trash, they are my trash, reminding me of the simpler dreams of my youth and the outsized power of small yellow sugar balls.
Cereal Can Be Great
Ben Glicksman: What is your favorite thing to do? It could be anything. Now, imagine that instead of doing that thing in the way you generally prefer, you choose to do a lesser version of it. So, instead of watching TV on a giant, 85-inch plasma screen, you watch it on a 13-inch laptop that is cracked and lacks sound and has constant problems buffering. Well, that’s basically the equivalent of this question. Who am I to say you’re doing it wrong if you’re eating Corn Pops or Froot Loops or some weird oats cereal from Trader Joe’s when you could be eating Waffle Crisp or Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cocoa Krispies? But: You’re doing it wrong. What the hell is wrong with you? There are bad cereals out there just like there are bad movies, bad books, bad songs, and bad sex. If those are things you willingly seek out, may God have mercy on your soul
Mallory Rubin: People of the internet: Please help. I just discovered that I work with dangerous lunatics. The kind of tortured, misguided fools who force themselves to eat bad breakfast food so that they can be energetic, or buff, or move their bowels regularly. But no muscles can glisten as beautifully as the marshmallows in Lucky Charms; no trip to the toilet can offer satisfaction on par with a fresh cluster of Honey Smacks.
Eating cereal that tastes bad is a choice. A really bad, borderline indefensible choice. Because the world is full of good cereal. Why opt into an unpleasant start to the day? Why position yourself to fail, or at the very least, to be disappointed? If you’d like a fibrous wheat offering, why not buy the kind that’s frosted, and thus delicious? If you’re after a protein-packed granola, why not select the box (or bag) that also contains chocolate chunks, and thus joy? If you need a berry in the first bowl of whatever it is you plan to consume, why not pair it with a Crunch, courtesy of the Cap’n?
I’ll have to force myself to do something tomorrow morning, but it won’t be to eat icky cereal; it’ll be to join forces with colleagues who choose to.
All Cereal Is Trash
Kate Knibbs: All cereal is trash cereal. “Tasty” cereals like Cocoa Puffs are really just inferior desserts. “Healthy” cereals like Kix or whatever $14 bag of granola Whole Foods scams people into buying are really just inferior versions of the only acceptable grain-based breakfast option for adults: oatmeal. I am not a child. My name is not Jerry Seinfeld. I don’t want to eat my carbs doused in milk and broken up in unappetizing flakes or chunks. If you come over to my place for brunch and I hand you a bowl of Wheaties, it means you are attending an Enemies Brunch and I hate you.
Ryan O’Hanlon: As someone who is an adult, I don’t eat cereal. Another benefit of being an adult is that you don’t have to force yourself to eat anything. Ever heard of eggs? They’re pretty good.