For a healthful packaged cereal, look for “whole” grain as the first ingredient. (BIGSTOCK)

If a packaged breakfast is the only option, here are some things to consider, along with my rundown of the most healthful options based on those criteria.

Frozen waffles

1. Whole-grain flour should be the first ingredient after water

2. No trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil

3. Low in sugar (less than 5 grams)

4. Low in sodium (less than 360 mg)

5. High in fiber (3 or more grams)

6. Free of artificial dyes (often used for golden coloring)

7. Think about your toppings. Try fresh fruit, nuts, grade B pure maple syrup.

Best: Vans 8 Whole GrainsKashi 7 GrainNature’s Path Ancient Grain365 Multigrain

Boxed cereals

Cereals that are made with whole grains in their original form, such as oats, millet, muesli or low-sugar granola, are the most healthful. There is controversy about the extrusion process that manipulates grains into shapes and puffs to make cereal. Some studies have shown that the high-heat process inactivates raw food enzymes, denatures proteins and simplifies starches, too many of which can contribute to diabetes. So the best bet is to stick with the whole grain.

According to a recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, 47 brand-name boxed cereals have more sugar than a Twinkie or three Chips Ahoy cookies, including the seemingly wholesome General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios, Wheaties Fuel, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisps. Twinkies for breakfast? No way!

1. “Whole” grain should be the first ingredient

2. No trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil

3. Low in sugar: at most 8 grams, ideally less than 5

4. 3 or more grams of fiber

5. Low sodium

Best:Purely ElizabethNature’s Path OrganicsDorsetKindUdi’sGo Raw Back to Nature

If these brands are too pricey for your family, the EWG also rated big-brand cereals. These ranked highest for nutrition: ●Post Shredded Wheat ●Post Grape-Nuts Flakes ● Post Bran Flakes ●Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats

Granola bars

Like boxed cereal, many granola bars have as much sugar and chemical ingredients as a packaged dessert, so pay attention to the ingredient list.

1. Ingredients should be all or mostly whole foods such as raw seeds, nuts and dried fruit

2. A whole grain, nut or seed should be the first ingredient

3. No trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil

4. Less than 10 grams of sugar

5. 3 or more grams of fiber

6. Low sodium

Best:●Kind ●Lara (some varieties are higher in sugar but are made from all whole foods) ●18 RabbitsKashi (some of the flavors are lower in sugar than others and have fewer ingredients; look for these) ●ProBar

Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company.