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Is Cereal Really The Best Choice For Breakfast?

Updated on February 2, 2012

It is told, and true, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When most people hear breakfast, their minds automatically rush to the word “cereal.” What I’m here to find out is: Is cereal really all it’s cracked up to be? Is it really the best choice for breakfast, the most important meal of the day?

Whey Protein
Whey Protein | Source

Before we look at cereal, let's think about some other options that would make a good, complete breakfast.

Other Breakfast Options

  • Oatmeal – Instant or Quick Oats
  • Yogurt – Greek or Regular
  • Fruit & Yogurt Smoothie
  • Eggs – Whites or Whole Eggs
  • Toast – Butter, Peanut Butter, or Jelly
  • Granola
  • Protein Shake – Pre-Packaged or Powder & Milk, Water
  • Peanut Butter & Fruit
  • Pop Tarts
  • Waffles/Pancakes With Syrup & Butter

Now that we've seen other options for breakfast, let's look a cereal label to see what's in the breakfast food most people go to when it's breakfast time! I choose a Trix cereal label because it's a kid-friendly cereal, and as an adult, I know I like it too!

Example of a Nutritional Label - Trix Cereal

Vitamin A 10%

Vitamin C 10%

Calcium 10%

Iron 25%

Vitamin D 10%

Thiamin 25%

Riboflavin 25%

Niacin 25%

Vitamin B6 25%

Folic Acid 25%

Vitamin B12 25%

Phosphorus 6%

Magnesium 2%

Zinc 25%


*Source: Fat Secret Website*

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup (32g)
Amount Per Serving

Calories from Fat 15
Calories 120

Total Fat 1.5g 2%

Saturated Fat 0g 0%

Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g

Monounsaturated Fat 0.5g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 0mg 0%

Sodium 180mg 8%

Potassium 50mg

Total Carbohydrate 27g 9%

Dietary Fiber 1g 4%

Sugars 10g

Other Carbohydrate 16g

Protein 1g

Sugar
Sugar | Source

All of that may seem like a jumble of words, so let me explain what to look for in a nutritional label. Or, what you want in foods, and what you could do without!

Explanation Of The Label
When you read a nutrition label, it’s important to know what is good and bad in that label. Most labels are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which is what most people can eat and stay on track as far as weight goes. We all need carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and calories to live, we just need to look at and consider how many of them are coming from the food. When eating 2,000 calories a day, your diet should be composed of 50 % Carbs, 25 % Protein, and 25 % Fat. That would be like eating 250g of carbs, 125 grams of protein, and 55g of fat each day.


Calories
Calories are what keep you going day in and day out. They are another name for energy. In order to obtain energy, we eat. Everyone has different caloric needs, so it’s important to know them so you can keep track of how much you’re eating. For example, I’m a 24 year old girl. I’m 5’ 7” tall and I weigh 140 pounds. I am physically active, doing 45 minutes or more of vigorous exercise 4-6 times a week. My daily caloric intake should be somewhere around 2200 calories in order to maintain my weight. Once you know your caloric needs, you can decide what meal options are best for you.


Fat
Fat is an essential part of our diets, however, too much fat is not a good thing. When looking at fat, you need to realize that most foods we eat have some type of fat in them. What you want to eat are the “good” fats. These are Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated. You definitely want to avoid Trans Fats altogether, and severely limit your intake of Saturated Fat. The latter 2 I just mentioned are known as “bad fats.” Keeping the trans fats out of your diet and lowering your intake of saturated fats is a good way to stay healthy.


Carbohydrates
When you look at food labels, you notice that sugars and fiber falls under the Carbohydrates category. This is because fiber and sugar are carbohydrates, and that’s how carbs are calculated. Let’s look at fiber first. Fiber is what keeps your body regular and healthy. Fiber also keeps you fuller longer. Foods that are high in fiber, such as leafy greens, are a great addition to any diet, and something you should look for on your food labels. Sugars on the other hand, are something we need to severely limit or get rid of completely if they are coming from junk food. Did you know that 12 grams of sugar is really like dumping 3 teaspoons into your food? That’s crazy! When looking at the cereal labels, you’ll notice a high amount of sugar in one serving. I don’t know about you, but when I eat cereal, I never eat just one serving, so it’s really a lot of sugar I’m consuming!


Protein
Protein is also an important part of any diet. Protein helps rebuild muscle fibers that are damaged during exercise. It also helps you to feel fuller longer, warding off hunger. It’s important to get enough of protein in your diet to help repair and rebuild muscles that are used each and everyday to keep you strong.

We've now covered alternate options for breakfast, an example of a cereal label, and the explanation of what is good and bad in that label. All that's left to do is compare cereal with some other options for breakfast and decide which would be a better choice!

Comparisons

  1. Egg vs. Cereal
  2. Oatmeal vs. Cereal
  3. Yogurt vs. Cereal


*Bold faced word is the winner in the category.*

TRIX CEREAL

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup (32g)
Amount Per Serving

Calories from Fat 15
Calories 120

Total Fat 1.5g 2%

Saturated Fat 0g 0%

Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g

Monounsaturated Fat 0.5g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 0mg 0%

Sodium 180mg 8%

Potassium 50mg

Total Carbohydrate 27g 9%

Dietary Fiber 1g 4%

Sugars 10g

Other Carbohydrate 16g

Protein 1g

Vitamin A 10%

Vitamin C 10%

Calcium 10%

Iron 25%

Vitamin D 10%
Thiamin 25%
Riboflavin 25%
Niacin 25%
Vitamin B6 25%
Folic Acid 25%
Vitamin B12 25%
Phosphorus 6%
Magnesium 2%
Zinc 25%


*Source: Fat Secret Website*

INCREDIBLE EDIBLE EGG

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1 large
Amount Per Serving

Calories from Fat 45

Calories 70

Total Fat 5g 8 %

Saturated Fat 1.5g 8 %

Polyunsaturated Fat 1g

Monounsaturated Fat 2g

Cholesterol 185mg 60 %

Sodium 70mg 3 %

Potassium 70mg 2%

Total Carbohydrate 0g 0 %

Dietary Fiber 0g 0 %

Sugars 0g

Protein 6g 13%

Vitamin A 6%
Vitamin C 0%
Vitamin D 10%
Calcium 2%
Iron 4%
Riboflavin 10%
Vitamin B-6 4%
Folate 6%
Vitamin B-12 8%
Phosphorus 10%
Zinc 4%


*Source: Fat Secret Website*

Eggs
Eggs | Source

The first comparison I did was "The Incredible Edible Egg" vs. "Trix" Cereal. Since we usually eat 2 eggs in a serving, you must remember to double everything for the egg since it's only 1 serving that is shown. Looking at the labels, the first thing I noticed was that there wasn't any high fructose corn syrup in the eggs. I also noticed the amount of protein and good fats (poly and mono unsaturated) in the eggs. Eating 2 eggs would give you a whopping 12g of protein, 2g polyunsaturated fat, and 4g monounsaturated fat. The only downfall of the eggs was the high cholesterol. For someone eating eggs once or twice a week, this cholesterol would not be harmful, unless they have problems with cholesterol! Cereal on the other hand looks like it has a pretty high sugar content with it coming in at 10g in a single cup of cereal. The one thing the cereal has going for it is the high amounts of vitamins and minerals it contains.

In conclusion, I'm going to say the high sugar content and low protein amount will put the cereal underneath the eggs, with the eggs being the winner! However, in saying that I do not recommend eating eggs every day of the week. The cholesterol count is too high and could become dangerous if eggs are eaten everyday.

TRIX CEREAL

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup (32g)
Amount Per Serving

Calories from Fat 15
Calories 120

Total Fat 1.5g 2%

Saturated Fat 0g 0%

Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g

Monounsaturated Fat 0.5g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 0mg 0%

Sodium 180mg 8%

Potassium 50mg

Total Carbohydrate 27g 9%

Dietary Fiber 1g 4%

Sugars 10g

Other Carbohydrate 16g

Protein 1g

Vitamin A 10%

Vitamin C 10%

Calcium 10%

Iron 25%

Vitamin D 10%
Thiamin 25%
Riboflavin 25%
Niacin 25%
Vitamin B6 25%
Folic Acid 25%
Vitamin B12 25%
Phosphorus 6%
Magnesium 2%
Zinc 25%


*Source: Fat Secret Website*

Quaker Instant Oatmeal: Apples & Cinnamon

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1 packet (35g)
Amount Per Serving

Calories from Fat 15
Calories 130

Total Fat 1.5g 2%

Saturated Fat 0.5g 2%

Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g

Monounsaturated Fat 0.5g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 0mg 0%

Sodium 160mg 7%

Potassium 115mg

Total Carbohydrate 27g 9%

Dietary Fiber 3g 12%

Sugars 9g

Protein 3g

Vitamin A 25%

Vitamin C 0%

Calcium 10%

Iron 20%


*Source: Fat Secret Website*

Bowl of Oatmeal
Bowl of Oatmeal | Source

The next comparison I did was Quaker Instant Oatmeal: Apples & Cinnamon vs. Trix Cereal. In this comparison, I noticed that both the oatmeal and cereal had a high sugar content. I also noticed that each of the categories of nutrition were about the same. The caloric amount, the fat, the good fats, and the carbohydrates all were right around the same number if not the same!

The way I chose this was looking at the fiber and protein content for each item, in which the oatmeal won. It had 3g fiber compared to the cereal's 1g, plus it had 3g protein compared to the cereal's 1g. Because the fiber and protein will help keep you fuller longer, and because the other main nutritional categories came in a tie, I give this one to oatmeal.

TRIX CEREAL

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup (32g)
Amount Per Serving

Calories from Fat 15
Calories 120

Total Fat 1.5g 2%

Saturated Fat 0g 0%

Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g

Monounsaturated Fat 0.5g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 0mg 0%

Sodium 180mg 8%

Potassium 50mg

Total Carbohydrate 27g 9%

Dietary Fiber 1g 4%

Sugars 10g

Other Carbohydrate 16g

Protein 1g

Vitamin A 10%

Vitamin C 10%

Calcium 10%

Iron 25%

Vitamin D 10%
Thiamin 25%
Riboflavin 25%
Niacin 25%
Vitamin B6 25%
Folic Acid 25%
Vitamin B12 25%
Phosphorus 6%
Magnesium 2%
Zinc 25%


*Source: Fat Secret Website*

DANNON LIGHT & FIT YOGURT

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1 cup (227g)
Amount Per Serving

Calories from Fat 0

Calories 110

Total Fat 0g 0 %

Saturated Fat 0g 0 %

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 5mg 2 %

Sodium 105mg 4 %

Potassium 300mg

Total Carbohydrate 20g 7 %

Dietary Fiber 0g 0 %

Sugars 14g

Protein 7g

Vitamin A 20%

Vitamin C 0%

Calcium 25%

Iron 0%


*Source: Fat Secret Website*

Yogurt
Yogurt | Source

The last comparison I made was Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt vs. Trix Cereal. The reason I choose Light and Fit is because most people are on a health kick and I eat this yogurt. In this comparison I noticed that the yogurt had 4g (which is one tsp.) more sugar than the cereal. I also noticed that there was no fat, less carbs, and more protein in the yogurt. With that being said, I was almost torn between the 2 as to which one should be the better option. Cereal has the fiber, but yogurt has the protein. Yogurt has the sugar, but in reality cereal has more carbs.

I did a lot of thinking about this and I am going to have to choose yogurt. Here's why: I looked at mainly the sugar content and carbs. Yogurt was better for you in every category except the sugar. However, cereal had more carbohydrates which eventually turn into sugar. Because there was more potential for sugar to be accumulated in the cereal, I chose the yogurt as the better option. Some may argue that the fiber falls into the carbs category and I agree. Cereal though, only has 1g of fiber, which leaves 26g of carbs to be accounted by "other carbs" and sugar, which is still more than the 20g in yogurt.

Conclusion

Overall, the results of the comparisons that I made could have gone differently. Yes, I only used 1 cereal and I only compared 3 different things to it. However, in my defense, most cereals are all made alike. Sugar content is relatively high, while protein and fiber is usually low (except for cereals targeting these things). But most kid's cereal's are the same. In the end, the sugar content and carbohydrates were the things that got me. When you wake up in the morning, you don't want a huge sugar high, only to result in a crash later. You want long lasting protein and fiber to keep you going through the morning, and then a little pick me up at lunch.

I also realize that we don't eat cereal dry, nor do we eat yogurt or eggs by themselves (normally). I was only comparing the product itself to one another. Milk plays a huge role in your nutritional content. Skim vs. whole milk can make a world of a different in fat and calories. I realize that all of these need to be taken into consideration, and my comparisons did not include these things.

When making healthier choices it's important to consider food labels and different parts of the label. The manufacturers put them there as a guideline to help you. Make sure to talk to your doctor about any diet you may embark on, but as a general rule of thumb, keep the protein and fiber high, and the fats low! Also make sure to eat breakfast because it's the most important meal of the day!

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    • profile image

      Carrie 2 years ago

      Haha, shouldn't you be charging for that kind of kngo?edwel!

    • KStro18 profile image
      Author

      KStro18 5 years ago from PA

      I agree! I have this sometimes instead of protein or eggs. Thanks for reading!

    • iruvanti profile image

      iruvanti 5 years ago from U.S.A

      Toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas is a healthy and tasty option.