Is cereal good for you? Watch out for the added sugars in these brands.

Few American pantries are without a box or two of cereal. Cereal manufacturers like Kellogg and General Mills have spent billions telling us for decades that Lucky Charms are "magically delicious," that "Trix are for kids" and that Frosted Flakes are "gr-r-reat!"

Such marketing has no doubt paid off as data compiled by Google shows that the most popularly purchased cereal brands in America include many of these favorites, plus a host of others like Rice Krispies, Cheerios, Chex, Special K, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Froot Loops and Cap'n Crunch. Though these brands are no doubt enticing to adults and children alike because of their distinct flavors and colorful packaging, some cereals are certainly better for you to eat than others.

Is cereal healthy?

Many cereal brands can be healthy – especially when one adds in cow's milk and a fruit or nut topping. Cereal can also be a convenient way of kick-starting your metabolism and getting in some much-needed nutrients and energy. And even though cereal isn't going to pack as many nutrients as a plate of eggs, fruit and whole grain toast, for example, eating something in the morning is almost always better than eating nothing. Studies have demonstrated time and again that skipping breakfast really does have adverse health consequences.

"Cereal requires minimal preparation, is shelf-stable, convenient, affordable and can be a good way to get some fiber in the morning," says Leslie Bonci, a sports dietitian for the Kansas City Chiefs and founder of Active Eating Advice. "Cereal can also be a great way to get micronutrients and one of the best ways to ensure B vitamin intake is included in your diet." Some cereals can also be a good source of whole grains.

At the same time, "cereals that are made of refined grains – grains that have had parts of the grain kernel removed – are lower in fiber and nutrients," says Kate Zeratsky, a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Other breakfast diet info: Are eggs good for you? Egg yolks vs. egg whites and how much protein is in your eggs?

Is it OK to eat cereal every day?

The biggest concern associated with eating a large portion of cereal is that many brands have significant quantities of added sugars. The daily value limit of added sugars is 50 grams (about 12 teaspoons) per day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some cereal brands will get you there in a single bowl. Post's Golden Crisp cereal, for instance, packs 21 grams of added sugars in a single cup – nearly half of an adult's allowance for an entire day, and many of us eat at least two cups of cereal in one bowl without realizing it.

Of course, that isn't concerning if breakfast cereal is where you choose to get your added sugars each day, "but you can ask yourself if you want to have it in your cereal or would you rather have another treat later in the day," offers Zeratsky.

It's also worth noting that added sugar suggestions are less for kids, despite children often being the marketing target of cereal manufacturers. "The recommended amount of added sugars each day for kids is 6 teaspoons, or about 25 grams total," says Bonci.

Heads up: Too many added sugars in your diet can be dangerous. This should be your daily limit.

What is the healthiest cereal?

When trying to pick the healthiest cereals for your family, "look on the nutrition label on the side of the packaging to see how much added sugars there are and which vitamins and minerals are included," advises Bonci.

A single serving of Cheerios, for instance, boasts 10% to 20% of your daily intake needs for B vitamins and vitamins A, C and D. Plus 10% of your daily recommended amount of calcium, 20% of your daily recommended amount of zinc and 70% of your daily recommended amount of iron. And it only has 1 gram of added sugars. Rice Krispies similarly contain many of the same nutrients and only has 4 grams of added sugars.

Cereals that are good sources of dietary fiber and whole grains include Grape Nuts, Cracklin' Oat Bran, Wheaties, Shredded Wheat, Raisin Bran and Special K.

Cereal brands that still contain some natural and fortified nutrients, but also contain between 12 and 18 grams of added sugars in one serving include Honey Smacks, Frosted Flakes, Cap'n Crunch, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms and Fruity Pebbles.

When picking a cereal, Zeratsky suggests aiming for one with added sugars "in the single digits – the lower the better," and to find brands that contain key nutrients. "Choose cereals made with whole grains as these can be good sources of fiber and complex carbohydrates," she says, "together, fiber and complex carbohydrates can lead to a feeling of sustained energy."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Is cereal healthy? The truth about added sugars