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The Break-Down On Breakfast Cereals

By: Tanya Rosen 

Wondering what to have for breakfast?

What cereal is good for weight loss?  

Which cereal will make you crave sugar?

Which cereal is good to feed your kids?

Which cereal is not what it seems?

If you’ve been confused with all the cereals on the supermarket shelves and all the conflicting and confusing information all around you, this article is for you. 

Cereal has gotten a reputation as a breakfast food since it is quick to prepare, can be eaten on the go, and if eaten with milk and fruit, provides a balanced breakfast. It is also a popular choice for nutritionists to recommend since who doesn’t like cereal? Even my most picky clients enjoy that option. 

Why is breakfast important, you may wonder? I first ate breakfast when I was 19 years old since I grew up not knowing the importance of it. However, nowadays, most people realize it is important, they just may not know why. There are many good reasons to eat breakfast, but I will pick the top three: 

  • Weight management. The National Weight Control Registry reported that people who eat breakfast have an easier time controlling their caloric intake throughout the day than those who don’t. 
  • Reduced risk of diabetes. A report by the American Heart Association showed that people who eat breakfast are significantly less likely to develop diabetes than people who skip breakfast.
  • Memory, focus, energy, and better mood. Eating breakfast improves memory and learning, helps you be productive and focused throughout the day, gives you nutrients to stay energized for hours, and prevents grumpiness.

Criteria for a good breakfast cereal: 

A good breakfast cereal will be filling, nutritious, and will not cause any spikes in blood sugar. Important amounts in your cereal are fiber, calories, sugar, carbohydrates, and protein. 


The main ingredient in cereal that keeps you full and stabilizes blood sugar is fiber. The higher the fiber, the better the choice. 


Calories depend on who is eating the cereal. For example, a man or a larger person, or a child, or a woman who is nursing or pregnant requires a larger amount of calories than someone who isn’t. Generally, your choice of cereal should be under 150 calories per serving (not including the milk). 


Sugar grams should be under 13 grams. Cheerios, for example has only 1 gram of sugar, while Fiber One has zero. 


Carbohydrates in most cereals are in the 20’s range. However, this is not the most important factor. Trix, for example, a fun yet junky cereal, has only 16 grams of carbohydrates and only 120 calories but also only 1 gram of fiber which makes it a poor choice. 


Most of the protein will come from the milk however, oatmeal has 5 grams of protein, which makes it a great choice. 

My top picks: 

  1. Steel-cut oats: 150 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 5 grams of protein
  2. Kellogg’s Special K: 120 calories and 6 grams of protein
  3. Kashi Go Lean: 160 calories, 13 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fiber 
  4. Fiber One (plain, not flavored): 60 calories, 14 grams fiber, 2 grams protein, and no sugar. 
  5. Cheerios (plain): 100 calories, 3 grams fiber, 3 grams protein

Just to give you an idea of what some other cereals contain and don’t contain:

1. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes: Only 1 gram of protein and less than 1 gram of fiber 

2. Trix: 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of protein, and 10 grams of sugar 

3. Cocoa Puffs: Not as “bad” as they look, with 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein, but higher on the carbohydrates and sodium charts. 

If your kids won’t eat the top picks, this one is probably the best of the worst.

A word about blood sugar:

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main sugar that your body makes from the food you eat. If your blood sugar goes too low or too high, you begin to feel hungry, have cravings, and lack energy. Diabetics have to monitor blood sugar several times throughout the day. Eating a good breakfast helps to control blood sugar levels throughout the day. Oatmeal is especially good for that, as well as its heart health benefits, making it a great choice for diabetics and people with heart conditions. 

Speaking of oatmeal… cooked or instant? 

If at all possible time-wise, choose the one you have to cook. To speed up the cooking process, a lot of the fiber is removed from the instant oatmeal. As mentioned above, fiber is what keeps you full, so you’ll get more out of your oatmeal if you take the extra few minutes to cook it. 

What makes cereal or oatmeal a complete meal? 

Add a cup of either low-fat milk, almond milk, or soy milk for protein, and add a serving of fruit to balance and complete the meal and to add more fiber. 

Are you sticking to a serving size? 

Always read the box, which will tell you whether a serving size is 3/4 of a cup or one cup, and then measure. Many people just guesstimate and pour into a bowl (sometimes refilling too). Take a measuring cup and see how much a serving size really is. 

As parents, our kids are always watching our actions and decisions. Be a good role model and eat breakfast, demonstrating that this is the correct way. I was 19 when I learned that (on a shabbaton actually), you can start your children younger. Sitting at a breakfast table is also a great time to read the boxes for nutrition facts together (not just do the mazes or games). As my 3-year-old says, “Does this have enough Pooteen” (protein).