Is Lucky Charms your child’s favorite cereal? Or something like it? If it is, you probably think there’s not a dye free alternative out there, but thankfully these days there are so many more options. This stuff is a food dye nightmare, laden with preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. General Mills did issue a statement back in June of 2015, committing to removing artificial flavors and colors from many of their popular breakfast cereals. They hope to have this process completed by the end of 2016. So far, I’ve not seen any on the shelves that are “clean”, those I’ve seen still contain dyes.
I am definitely NOT defending General Mills, just letting you know that if this is the ONLY thing your child will eat for breakfast, soon it will be dye free. You may just have to wait a few more months to find it.
But let’s be honest with ourselves. Breakfast cereals marketed to children are NOT exactly health food. I mean, let’s call it what it is. And yes, that is MY box of Lucky Charms in the cover picture. Unfortunately, both my teenager AND husband eat it. (I told you before that I am completely transparent and will always keep it real.)
Breakfast cereals are not generally known for quality sustenance. It’s really just a sugary snack in a box if we’re being honest. BUT there are kids out there who won’t eat anything else and that’s ok. In my opinion, as long as my child has SOMETHING in their tummy before they go to school, I’m happy. Is this the best choice? Absolutely not. But some days, getting them out the door is a monumental feat in itself, so we make concessions that we normally wouldn’t.
So if this is what your child eats for breakfast each morning, why not give him a version you can feel a little better about? The 2 versions I’ll show you are slightly less chemical filled. And some progress is better than no progress, right?
My family is not immune to the lure of cereal. In fact, at this moment we have about 8 boxes in the pantry. While most of it is on the healthier side (granola, Raisin Bran, etc.), my kids still like the occasional bowl of “good cereal” as my oldest would call it. For the past few years, we weren’t able to let them eat anything that would remotely resemble a box of Lucky Charms. Here are a couple we really like.
The first one is Mom’s Best Mallow Oats. Yeah, the name is kind of weird, but it is the healthier version of the two we regularly eat.
Mom’s Best is a pretty good company that doesn’t use any artificial dyes or flavors, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup or preservatives (some children who are sensitive to dyes will react to preservatives, mine do. But that’s a post for another day). It’s a pretty good compromise for moms and kids.
AND their cereals are very reasonable, I can usually find them for under $3 a box at Kroger. $3 a box for dye free cereal is awesome. According to their website, you can also find it at most Walmart, Winn Dixie and Target stores.
They get their colors from natural sources such as blueberries, pumpkins and carrots. I’m not going to lie and say their marshmallows are brightly colored, in fact as you can see from the picture below, they’re mostly pinkish. But honestly? My kids don’t care what color they are, they just like the novelty of eating “marshmallow filled cereal”.
But, in all fairness, this one is the least favorite for my kids. They aren’t wild about the plain part of the cereal. The next one from Aldi is the one they like the best. It’s called Marshmallows & Stars. For my friends back home, the Mom’s Best might be your only option (other than organic versions like the one Whole Foods carries, called “Little Cubbies”).
This one has a little bit longer of an ingredient list. They use beets, black carrots (which my kids love), turmeric, spirulina (for green), blueberry and beta carotene for the colors. It also has preservatives, so if you want to avoid those, Mom’s Best is a better choice.
Like I said, the kids prefer this one over Mom’s Best simply because of the texture. The Mom’s Best is “fluffier”, while this one is “crunchier”. They also use more colors, so you get more of a rainbow effect in the marshmallows. I really like how they show you on the back of the box what they use for colors. Aldi really is making strides in the affordable healthy grocery market, in my opinion. They are one of the few budget grocers that have become dye free and for families on a budget, that’s amazing!
Finally, here is a picture of the original Lucky Charms. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many (if any at all) foods that are the color of those marshmallows! Scary!
Here’s the ingredient list. Yuck. It might be deceptively short, but it’s far from innocent. It contains not only 5 different food dyes, it also contains corn syrup and preservatives. None of that should be a regular part of anyone’s diet (if you want to stay healthy, anyway).
Finally, here’s a picture of them all side by side. As you can see, the real Lucky Charms is hands down the brightest, but far from the healthiest. I know originally food manufacturers added artificial food dyes to make food more appealing, but at what point does a neon green marshmallow resemble food anymore?
What other favorite breakfast cereals do your kids eat that you’d like to see me compare? It’s cool, I’m used to people staring at me in the grocery store when I’m reading labels and taking pictures. 🙂