Are Cheerios Vegan? Here’s What You Should Know

A lot of processed food that looks vegetarian actually isn’t. In fact, a lot of ingredients that look like they must be fine for vegans to eat, aren’t vegan-friendly either. Even the vitamins that you see on your favorite packaged food might not be suitable if you are planning on sticking to a vegan diet.

Cereal is one of the most common kinds of breakfast for people across the world. Some like it flavored, some like it plain, some like it in hot milk, and others like it in warm milk, but everyone would agree that cereal is vegan-friendly. 

After all, cereal comes from plants. Read on, as we delve a little deeper.

What Are Cheerios?

Cheerios are those iconic little donut-shaped cereals that you have seen people eating. Originally, Cheerios were only offered in one flavor; it was just simply made with the basic ingredients and sugar to sweeten them. Later on, the company released other kinds of flavors, as consumers preferred to have options like chocolate, honey, or fruit-based flavors in their cereal.

The main ingredient was, and still is to a large degree, the main selling point of Cheerios, and that is whole grain oats. Cheerios are marketed as being made of whole grain oats that have just been pulverized and reshaped into the form in which we see them today. 

However, there is more to the process than that. Since they have to be prepared for packaging, they need preservatives, and they also need a little something extra to make them a bit more attractive.

Everyone is familiar with the health benefits of oats. They reduce cholesterol, help lose weight, digestion, etc. The ingredients tab on a box of Cheerios claims that they also have Vitamin D3, lanolin, sugar, artificial flavorings, modified corn starch, calcium carbonate, and a few other things that are specific to certain flavors.

Then there are also the elements whole grain oats have, such as iron, calcium, vitamin B6, etc. However, there is more to all this than meets the eye, and you also want to keep an eye out for sugar. Especially on the flavored boxes.

What Is Vegan?

Vegan is often confused with vegetarian but in reality, it is a bit more strict than a regular vegetarian diet. Vegans, unlike vegetarians, prefer not to eat any kind of food that has anything to do with animals. For instance, they won’t eat honey because bees are harmed in the process of removing honey from the comb.

It can’t be denied that removing honey or removing the comb from the hive is stressful for the bees and they have to work even harder to replace the honey that is lost. Vegans don’t eat eggs, drink milk, or use any kind of animal derivatives.

Essentially, a vegan diet is restricted to eating vegetables, fruits, and grains. Their need for protein, fat, and other micro and macronutrients are all fulfilled by these food sources.

Manufacturers recognize this trend, which is why we see a lot of plant-based alternatives for things that would otherwise be derived from animals or made from meat in some way or form. 

For instance, instead of regular cow milk, there is almond, rice, coconut, or soy milk. Similarly, there are vegetable hamburgers, vegan steaks, and even vegan minced meat.

This raises a problem because a lot of the ingredients in Cheerios like white sugar, lactic acid, and Vitamin D3, are made with animal derivatives.

Are Cheerios Vegan?

Cheerios are not vegan. If you were able to get a Cheerio that had not been processed in any way and had no additives on it at all and it was purely just a whole grain oat that had been reshaped, that would be vegan. But when you add in all the other ingredients, it loses that property.

Regular white sugar that is commonly used requires calcium carbonate in the production process to attain its white color. This calcium carbonate is obtained from animal sources. 

Similarly, vitamin D3 is also derived from animal sources in most commercial products unless it’s clearly mentioned that it is derived from a plant source.

There is no labeling on the Cheerios box that explicitly mentions any vegetable source of the ingredients.

Vitamin D3 and Lanolin

Lanolin is more commonly known for helping babies with diaper rash. Yet, this ingredient is also used to make vitamin D3.

Vitamin D3 is basically vitamin D with the difference being that D3 is specifically derived from animal sources. Vitamin D3 is derived from the lanolin that is produced by either sheep or fish

In sheep, the lanolin helps to keep the wool water-proof, but it also contains this vitamin. When wool is processed to remove the debris and dirt, it is put through a machine that pushes and pulls and squeezes the wool to clean it out. 

During the squeezing phase, all the lanolin is taken out of the wool and looks like a thick, oily, yellow liquid. This lanolin is then further processed to create vitamin D3.

Refined Sugar

Sugar in raw form is brown, like brown sugar but a bit darker. To get the white finish, the raw sugar is cleaned and bleached with animal bone char, which helps to remove any impurities and give it the final look that we are all used to seeing. 

In most cases, this animal bone char is made using the skull and the spine of animals used in the meat industry, since these two parts are the least used and often end up being waste products.


Veganism is based on the principle that no animals should be hurt or harmed just to facilitate human consumption and that no kind of animal-derived products should be part of the human diet. 

As we have explored the different ingredients used in manufacturing Cheerios, it is clear that animals, or at least animal derivatives, play a pivotal role in the production of the ingredients that are later used in Cheerios. So by all standards, Cheerios are not suitable for vegan consumption.

Brett White
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