The official breakfast cereal power rankings: Part I

The month is called “March” for a reason: because it’s a slog. As we in Los Angeles freeze to death in 66-degree temperatures I can hear you asking, what are we marching toward, exactly? The short answer is: to our inevitable deaths. The more complicated answer relates to the show “The Good Place,” which I may have binge-watched the entirety of last weekend. The afterlife, if that’s what you believe in, doesn’t mean an existence free of worry, or even suffering: We’re all interconnected and take care of one another, through good times and bad, just like on earth. And, you know, maybe we’ll get to fly or something.

What better way to plow through existential angst than with a cold, crunchy bowl of breakfast cereal? A perfect snack day or night, cereal has played an oversized role in my life above almost any other food item. I am, therefore, thrilled to present to you the highly scientific, unimpeachable and 100% correct L.A. Times Breakfast Cereal Power Rankings. These rankings deal solely with cereals on the sweet side of the spectrum, as comparing Lucky Charms to, say, Fiber One wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. Non-sweet cereals will be judged in a future ranking.

This meant making some choices, however — Froot Loops? That’s obviously a sweet cereal. Life? More difficult to judge. Cereals that were on the border that I ultimately decided did not go in the sweet category: Life, Honey Bunches of Oats, and Kix, among others. I ranked these cereals based on 1) taste and 2) quality of cereal milk — the tasty 2% dregs from a consumed bowl.

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Cereal milk ranking: 7

9) Cracklin’ Oat Bran

These are like dense Duraflame logs — the one cereal I would confidently take with me as a contestant on the show “Naked and Afraid,” as the nuggets could successfully be used both as fuel and a projectile weapon. Cracklin’ Oat Bran chunks are solid, deeply sweet and oaty, and are seemingly immune to the effects of milk. After five minutes of sitting in the bowl, these babies were virtually unchanged. This is one of the few cereals that’s actually better out of the box as a snack than with milk.

Cereal milk ranking: 17

10) Golden Crisp

This cereal is notable for a couple of reasons: one is the super smooth Sugar Bear mascot. He is constantly fending off attacks, cool-as-you-please, on his Golden Crisp cereal, after which I have to imagine he goes home to the forest and plays bass in a jazz trio with his animal friends.

Golden Crisp cereal has an astounding amount of sugar per serving: 16 grams, more than any other cereal I tried (by comparison, Froot Loops has 10 grams). The puffed wheat nuggets are certainly too sweet, as you might imagine, but it interestingly doesn’t all leach out into the milk. In fact, just the right amount of sweetness is imparted, creating one of the better cereal milks in this survey.

Cereal milk ranking: 4

11) Apple Jacks

I’m going to admit right now to being biased against fruit-flavored cereals. Of all the ways you can sweeten a cereal — honey, chocolate, a cinnamon-sugar mixture — fruit is the least appealing to me. Why? Because unless it’s dried fruit in a bowl of muesli, the fruit is inevitably artificial tasting.

Apple Jacks is definitely the best of a bad situation, because it’s somewhat mildly flavored and doesn’t try to do too much. Instead of packing your mouth with many different semi-convincing fruit flavors, it plies you merely with apples and cinnamon.

Cereal milk ranking: 14

12) Corn Pops

Corn Pops are totally average. They are the most average. They are 5 foot, 9½ inches tall and named Dave. They really liked the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” for some reason, and think Dan Brown novels are “perfectly entertaining, for what they are.” They read the Buzzfeed quiz 21 Things Only Average People Will Understand and chuckle softly to themselves.

These puffed corn pieces, lightly sweetened, are good enough to appeal to just about anyone, but not really good enough to be anyone’s favorite cereal. They are simply there. And they’re fine with that.

Cereal milk ranking: 8

13) Froot Loops

I want to like Froot Loops more than I do, primarily because I like the erudite aloofness of Toucan Sam (voiced by Paul Frees, who also did Boris Badenov), who confidently follows his prominent nose to delicious fruit flavors.

If only the fruit flavors were as delicious as promised. Fruity cereals generally lead toward an intense artificial citrus flavor and smell, bordering on cleaning fluid. I’m willing to suspend my Fruitdisbelief (which is a real German word, like “Weltanschauung” or “Schadenfreude”) for things like Laffy Taffy and Jolly Ranchers, but a bowl of cereal? Not my thing.

Cereal milk ranking: 19

14) Frosted Mini Wheats

Frosted Mini Wheats are interesting if only because they’re not really crunchy at any point during the eating cycle. They begin slightly chewy, then disintegrate to a wheaty pap in milk over the course of five or 10 minutes. Frosted Mini Wheats are essentially tiny milk sponges that load up on liquid by way of the surface tension created by the thin strands that comprise each individual wheat.

The taste? It’s literally just wheat and sugar, so there isn’t much fun to be had. The toasted cereal milk that remains is, however, not terrible.

Cereal milk ranking: 13

15) Raisin Bran Crunch

Raisin Bran Crunch disappoints me if only because it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It’s too sweet. The distribution of raisins is always a crapshoot. The bran flakes are never quite crunchy enough and rapidly turn to mush within the milk. This should probably be ranked slightly higher, but I wanted better from you, Raisin Bran Crunch!

Cereal milk ranking: 10

16) Honeycomb

Honeycomb was a little confusing to me. I’m not sure I’d ever eaten a bowl before these rankings. First off, they’re enormous. Each individual hexagonal piece is thick, and about as big as a quarter. The texture is airy, like meringue, and the taste is strongly of corn. It’s lightly sweet, but I don’t taste a lot of honey. The mildly syrupy milk that remains, though, is pretty tasty.

Cereal milk ranking: 6

17) Trix

All the Trix Rabbit wants is some Trix cereal, OK? Rabbits don’t have pockets and, therefore, can’t carry money and, therefore, can’t buy Trix. So they have to rely on the kindness of children to, every now and then, toss them the odd berry-, lemon-, or grape-flavored piece. But do the children help the Trix Rabbit? No. No, they don’t. They mock the Trix Rabbit. They make him think he’s finally going to get some Trix and then yank the football away, Lucy Van Pelt-style, gleefully exclaiming, “Silly Rabbit! Trix are for kids!” It’s enough to break your heart.

As is, frankly, the taste of this fruity mess of a cereal. If only the Trix Rabbit knew, maybe he could move on with his life.

Cereal milk ranking: 21

18) Frosted Flakes

Frosted Flakes has one of the great cereal mascots, Tony the Tiger, who taught kids that cereal “brings out the tiger in you,” namely by giving you confidence and making you good at sports. While Tony’s basso profundo, voiced impeccably by Thurl Ravenscroft (“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”) may have soothed, his cereal never really caught on for me. They’re essentially too-sugary Corn Flakes, overly sweet and gritty.

Cereal milk ranking: 18

19) Fruity Pebbles

This is the only cereal that elicited an audible “whoa” when I opened the bag. The smell hits you immediately: a bright, citrusy odor, like fake fruit candy and Lysol. Their color is close to neon — I felt like I was glowing after just a few bites. The same flavor is imparted to the milk, something akin to freshly mopped hallway. I like that in my schools and libraries but not necessarily in my cereal.

Cereal milk ranking: 23

20) Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries

I’ll delve deeper into the life of Captain Horatio Magellan Crunch, who sails the Sea of Milk on the S.S. Guppy, in the following paragraph. I’ll just say that this cereal is sweeter than a 7-Eleven Slurpee poured over a DVD of “A Walk to Remember” and sticks to your teeth in an unpleasant way but is somehow made fractionally better by the addition of Crunch Berries, which taste nothing at all like berries.

Cereal milk ranking: 22

21) Cap’n Crunch

I’m not really sure where Cap’n Crunch, with his giant John Bolton-looking mustache, went wrong. Sure, he looks like every other naval captain with a giant Napoleon hat who’s dedicated himself to discovering the secrets of Crunch Island. But something happened along the way. He may not even be a captain; moreover, he may not ever have served in the Navy at all.

What else is he keeping from us? Good cereal, for a start. Cap’n Crunch is so breathtakingly saccharine and so treacly, with an intense, cloying aftertaste that sticks to your molars, that I can’t get through more than a few bites.

Cereal milk ranking: 15

22) Lucky Charms

Poor Lucky the leprechaun. Spending his entire life chased and tormented by bratty kids who want to steal his Lucky Charms. Why couldn’t the kids ask their parents to just buy them a $3 box of cereal instead of bullying a magical creature? But life does imitate art: There was a giant dispenser of Lucky Charms in the cafeteria of my college that the stoner kids were constantly stealing.

Sadly, Lucky Charms, which trades a little bit on that colorful psychedelia appeal, is just not a very good cereal. The problem lies primarily with the marshmallows or, rather, the multi-chromatic horror beads that attempt to pass as marshmallows. They are marshmallows in the same way that the pink chipboard that comes in packages of baseball cards is gum.

These dusty, dry little bits of chalk squeak softly between your teeth, like when a cat finally decides to do away with a mouse it’s caught. Not even the whimsy of purple horseshoe and unicorn-shaped balloons, or a Lucky Charms-flavored IPA, can save this cereal. The murky, blue-gray milk that sits at the bottom of the bowl looks like standing water but doesn’t taste terrible.

Cereal milk ranking: 11

23) Cookie Crisp

What happened to Cookie Crisp? Was it always this bad? As a kid, I remember Cookie Crisp essentially being a bunch of tiny cookies in a box — not exactly the breakfast of champions, but pretty tasty at the very least.

Something has seriously gone awry. These taste nothing like cookies. There’s some brown sugar and an unpleasant chemically aftertaste, but little else going on. The outsides of the little cookie discs are irritatingly slimy, and the interior is oddly vacuous. The saving graces are the former mascots Cookie Crook and Chip the Dog, two antiheroes who were constantly, and unsuccessfully, attempting to steal Cookie Crisp cereal. It’s good that they never succeeded — they’d have been incredibly disappointed.

Cereal milk ranking: 20

lucas.peterson@latimes.com

@lucaspeterson