Best Gluten-Free Cereal for Athletes
It can be helpful for athletes following a gluten-free diet to know what cereal options they can enjoy. Let’s take a look at what gluten is. Then we will explore the best gluten-free cereals for athletes.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat and other grains including barley, rye, and crossbreeds of these grains. Gluten helps provide structure, texture, and elasticity to food products. Given its unique characteristics, gluten may be added into processed foods to enhance texture and help the product maintain form.
Carbohydrates for Athletes
Carbohydrate-rich choices should be the foundation of your athlete meal plan. Carbohydrates provide athletes with the energy needed to perform at their best. Similar to gas used to fuel a car, carbohydrates provide fuel for the body to run on during activity.
You can get carbohydrates in your diet from a variety of food groups, including:
- Starchy vegetables
For athletes with Celiac Disease, a wheat allergy, or sensitivity to gluten, choosing gluten-free carbohydrates is important.
Gluten-Free Breakfast Cereal
There are numerous ways athletes can add gluten-free carbohydrates to their sports nutrition meal plan. When it comes to breakfast cereal, athletes will want to look for options made with rice, corn, quinoa, and other gluten-free grains. Be aware, however, that even when cereals are made with gluten-free grains it is important to always carefully read the food label. It is possible gluten containing ingredients were added in processing.
Oats are also naturally gluten-free. However, oats are considered high-risk for cross-contamination with wheat, barley, and rye during harvest and processing. The Celiac Disease Foundation recommends individuals on a gluten-free diet only purchase oat products specifically labeled as being gluten-free. In addition, athletes should visit with their doctor and dietitian prior to adding oats to their gluten-free diet.
Athletes should also use caution with packaged oatmeal, grits, and other hot breakfast cereals. These items may contain ingredients with gluten or be cross-contaminated during processing, thus it is important to read the labels carefully.
Best Gluten-Free Cereal for Athletes
Now that you understand what gluten is, let’s take a look at the best gluten-free cereal options for athletes.
*Note – The cereals listed below were listed as gluten-free on their websites at the time this blog was written. Products can change ingredients and manufacturing processes at any time. Therefore, it is important for athletes to carefully read all food labels at the time of purchase to ensure the product is gluten-free.
Nature’s Path Organic Foods® Gluten-Free Cereal
Nature’s Path Organic Foods® offers a variety of cereal options that are certified gluten-free. The cereals are made with a variety of gluten-free grains, including: whole grain corn meal, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth.
Nature’s Path Sunrise® cereals are made with gluten-free whole grains as well as flax seeds, making them a nutritious cereal option for athletes. The cereal comes in a variety of flavor options, including honey, vanilla, and cinnamon.
In addition to breakfast cereal, Nature’s Path Organic Foods® offers a variety of gluten-free oatmeal options as well as granola. Their grain-free granola is made with a variety of seeds, nuts, and dried coconut. This granola is a great addition to a Greek yogurt and fruit parfait. It can also be mixed into any of your favorite breakfast cereals for added protein and fiber.
Not all cereals produced by Nature’s Path Organic Foods® are gluten-free. Make sure to read the product label closely to find those items that are certified gluten-free.
Gluten-Free ChexTM Cereal
General Mills offers a variety of gluten-free ChexTM cereals, made with whole grain rice or corn. The classic Rice and Corn ChexTM are both gluten-free. ChexTM also offers a variety of gluten-free flavored ChexTM varieties such as peanut butter, honey nut, and blueberry.
It is important to note that not all ChexTM cereals are gluten-free. The Wheat ChexTM is made with whole grain wheat; thus, this cereal does contain gluten.
Gluten-Free ChexTM Mix
On the Chex website you can find a variety of gluten-free recipes using ChexTM, including Gluten-Free Original ChexTM Party Mix. To boost the nutrient content of this recipe, consider mixing in a variety of nuts as well as dried fruit. For best quality, add the dried fruit to the mix once it is done cooking and has cooled.
KIND® Gluten-Free Granola and Oatmeal
KIND Healthy Grains® Granola is a tasty whole grain, gluten-free option for athletes that comes in a variety of flavors. It is made from a variety of grains, including oats, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa. The granola provides carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. The granola is great eaten alone, stirred into yogurt, or mixed into other cereals.
KIND® also makes gluten-free instant oatmeal. This is a good option for athletes looking for a quick meal that provides carbohydrates and fiber in the morning. The KIND® Maple Almond Protein Oatmeal contains added soy protein, providing 10 grams of protein per serving.
Bob’s Red Mill® Gluten-Free
Bob’s Red Mill® has a variety of gluten-free hot cereals, oatmeal, and muesli that are good options for athletes. The gluten-free muesli is made with a mix of gluten-free oats, nuts, seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, and dried apples. It is a nutrient-dense cereal that athletes can enjoy hot or cold to help with meeting their sports nutrition needs.
Purely Elizabeth® Gluten-Free Cereal, Granola, and Oatmeal
Purely Elizabeth® also offers a variety of breakfast cereal, granola, and oatmeal that are certified gluten-free. Their Vanilla Blueberry Almond Superfood Cereal contains 6 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, as well as Vitamin D.
The Purely Elizabeth® Superfood Oat Cups are a nutritious option for athletes, made with a variety of gluten-free grains, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. The oatmeal is packaged in a single-serving cup making it an easy, on-the-go breakfast option. Each oatmeal cup provides 6 grams of fiber as well as 5 grams of protein.
For athletes who enjoy overnight oats, milk can be added to the Superfood Oat Cup and refrigerated to soak overnight. In the morning the oats will be ready to enjoy, providing a nutritious breakfast on-the-go.
CheeriosTM Gluten-Free Cereal
Athletes looking for a familiar favorite can find a variety of gluten-free CheeriosTM options. The original CheeriosTM, Multi-Grain, and Honey Nut are all gluten-free options. Multi-Grain CheeriosTM provides 3 grams of fiber per serving as well as 100% of the daily value for iron.
In addition to enjoying CheeriosTM with milk, they make a nutritious addition to a gluten-free trail mix. It is important to note that not all CheeriosTM cereals are gluten-free. Make sure to carefully read the package to ensure you select a gluten-free variety.
Increasing the Nutrient Content of Your Gluten-Free Cereal
When enjoying a bowl of cereal, I encourage athletes to think of ways they can further boost the nutrient content of the cereal. I also remind athletes that in addition to enjoying a nutrient-dense bowl of cereal at breakfast, it can make a great snack as well.
Adding Carbohydrates to Your Gluten-Free Cereal
To increase the carbohydrate content of cereal, consider stirring in a variety of fresh and dried fruits. Options such as fresh berries, sliced banana, raisins, dried cranberries, and dried cherries are all nutritious additions. In addition to carbohydrates, fruit provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, which are all important in the diet for athletes.
Adding Protein to Your Gluten-Free Cereal
Athletes can boost the protein content of their gluten-free cereal by serving the cereal with an ultra-filtered, high-protein milk. Ultra-filtered milks are filtered to remove the lactose and contain a concentrated protein and calcium content. A cup of ultra-filtered milk has ~13 grams of protein compared to 8 grams in a cup of regular milk.
You can further boost the protein content of your gluten-free cereal by mixing in nuts and seeds, such as sliced almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Stirring ground flaxseed into your gluten-free cereal is another great option. Flaxseeds contain protein, fiber vitamins, minerals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids (1) making them a nutritious addition to your breakfast.
Gluten-Free Cereal for Athletes
You are now set with a variety of gluten-free cereal ideas for athletes. Remember to carefully read food labels when shopping to ensure the cereal you are buying is gluten-free.
For additional gluten-free tips for athletes, check out my blog: Gluten Free Pre-Workout Meals and Snacks for Athletes.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.