Trader Joe’s, the Cereal Killer

Diane Oh/New University

By Marko Ocampo

Nutritionists say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gives you the nutrition necessary to function the rest of the day. Without it, our bodies don’t run as well and we can be met with fatigue and moodiness. Knowing this and studying to be a nurse, I still didn’t eat breakfast, until one day I found myself waking up to breakfast at a friend’s apartment after a night of late-night studying for a final.

My friend understands the importance of breakfast and eats a bowl of cereal nearly every day of the week. As her guest, she offered me a bowl after my late-night visit to her apartment; this would be my first bowl of cereal eaten before noon in the past year.

I aced the final and had a really productive day, starting at 7 a.m. and ending at midnight, it was the first time in a long time that I had lived a day without having to take the reanimating nap or going through serious mood swings.

Surprised by the effect having breakfast had on me, I decided to return to my friend. Unfortunately, she had run out of cereal. Although we both wanted to get a second box of Honey Bunches of Oats, we decided to go to Trader Joe’s instead due to its proximity to her apartment. There, we found the closest alternative to the honey classic: Vanilla Almond Clusters. It was basically the same thing but with more vanilla and almonds. It was noticeably more expensive ($4.99 per box) but what the heck? Let’s give it a try; it’s Trader Joe’s after all.

Excited, we began to eat this new cereal and quickly realized that it was superior to the classic Honey Bunches of Oats. For one, it is much sweeter than the classic but without the artificial sugar and added flavors. The granola’s texture was a lot easier on the teeth and the cereal leaves you with a less weighed-down feeling. You can eat as much as you want (I ate half the box) and not feel stuffed full of sugar. My experience with the alternative Trader Joe’s cereal gave me the idea to try as many cereals as I could and compare them to the mainstream counterparts. We began to eat a different type of cereal each day in a contest to find which cereal was superior: the mainstream or the alternative.

The first cereal, Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almond Clusters is part of the Almond Cluster series, which contains almonds and granola in addition to a flavor such as vanilla or honey. A 14.5-ounce box is priced at $4.99, slightly more expensive than a similar sized box of Honey Bunches of Oats. In addition to vanilla and honey, Almond Clusters are also available in toffee, cranberry, blackberry and pecan. Nutrition wise, both brands keep it healthy with a high fiber, low-calorie serving size. The Almond Clusters win out, however, leaving you less weighed down after a bowl.

In addition to the Almond Cluster cereals, Trader Joe’s also offers Granola Cluster cereals, available in multiple varieties such as blackberry, cranberry, cashew, pomegranate and banana. My personal favorites were the banana and cashew flavors. Compared to the popular Kashi granola cereal, the Trader Joe’s granola is crunchy without being too stale, which can be an issue with Kashi.

The third kind of cereal offered by Trader Joe’s is a collection of copycat kid’s cereals such as Gorilla Munch, Trader Joe’s O’s and my personal favorite, Panda Puffs. They’re packaged adorably and, priced at $2.99, are a dollar for dollar match with Kix, Resse’s Peanut Butter and Cheerios.

They’re a perfect balance between sweet sugary cereals and organic health food, leaving your sweet tooth happy and your body working well. In addition, a portion of sales from Panda Puffs and Gorilla Munch give some of their yearly profits to conserving pandas and gorillas in danger of extinction. This alone makes their cereal much more awesome than the mainstream brands.

In the span of two weeks, my friend and I ate a total of 12 different types of Trader Joe’s brand cereals and compared them to their closest counterparts available in mainstream grocery stores. Call me a hipster but I found the alternate choices offered by Trader Joe’s superior in both taste and nutrition with the only downside being price. Breakfast has come back to my life thanks to these lovely cereals and I suggest giving them a go, it’s just a short walk from campus and they can really help you boost up your day.