As its name suggests, chocolate cereal is a version of breakfast cereal which contains some form of chocolate or chocolate flavoring. Beyond this basic definition, chocolate cereal can take many different forms. While chocolate cereals are a favorite among many children, they have traditionally been criticized by health experts for their poor nutritional profile. As of the early 21st century, however, new information about the health benefits of cocoa has led to a crop of so-called healthy chocolate cereals.
In many cases, chocolate cereal comprises a traditional type of breakfast cereal, such as puffed rice or puffed corn, which has been flavored with chocolate. Other chocolate cereals are made up of cereal pieces, such as shredded wheat pillows, that have been filled or frosted with chocolate. Some chocolate cereals contain cereal pieces that are mixed with small bits or chips of chocolate.
Often, chocolate cereals are marketed to children, and as such their packaging and advertising commonly features cartoon characters and bright colors. Due to these marketing strategies as well as the sweet taste of many of these cereals, they are often considered very appealing by children. Many parents and guardians feel conflicted when their child asks for chocolate cereal, worrying that it does not constitute a healthy breakfast.
According to many health experts, such feelings of conflict are appropriate in most cases, as chocolate cereal has traditionally abounded with unhealthy ingredients like trans fats, corn syrup, and added sugar. Further, despite the fact that a chocolate cereal may be made from grains, these grains are often so heavily processed that they retain little of their inherent nutritional value. Indeed, the “chocolate” contained in some of these cereals is not chocolate at all, but rather artificial chocolate flavoring.
Recent findings regarding the potential health benefits of cocoa appear to pose a challenge to the assumption that all chocolate cereal is bad, however. Specifically, research has shown that cocoa contains substances called flavonoids, which may help ward off high cholesterol and cancer. It is important to note, however, that flavonoid content seems to diminish when cocoa is processed, as it generally is when it is used in cereal. As with all breakfast cereals, a good tactic for deciding whether a chocolate cereal is worth eating is studying its nutrition label. Chocolate cereals that are low in fiber and high in calories, fat, and artificial additives should generally be avoided by health-conscious consumers.