Breakfast Cereals

Monday, 3 November 2008 | Tags:

Starting with a healthy breakfast can give you energy to get you through the day. Cereal has been a convenient option for decades, but it can be a struggle to choose one with the right ingredients to give you the nutrition you need. And when you have brand vs. generic options, it's hard to know which is the best choice for your budget and your body.

The Basics

  • Examine the amount of sugar in each type you consider. Some sweetened cereals have as much as 14 grams of sugar in one serving (1 cup). Considering most people eat double the suggested serving, that’s the equivalent of eating 6 chocolate bars!

  • Fibre is one of the most important cereal ingredients since it promotes regularity and fights heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. The recommended daily fibre intake is 20-35 grams. Most North Americans eat well below that, so look for a cereal that has about 5 grams per serving or more.

  • Cereals enriched or fortified with vitamins and minerals (which are naturally stripped away during processing) can give you the extra boost of energy you need after your body has essentially fasted for the last 8-10 hours during sleep.

  • Most cereals calculate nutrition based on using 2% milk. If you’re using whole, 1% or skim milk you need to adjust accordingly.

Be Aware

  • Cereals aren’t usually high in fat, but watch out for the “bad” fats.

    • Hydrogenated oils are “bad” fats, and are used, for example, to coat raisins to prevent them from becoming soggy.

    • Unsaturated fats, or “good” fats, are usually higher in cereals with nuts and seeds.

    • For optimal health try to choose cereals with fat content below 5%.


We recruited some starving students, who rely on cereal for more than just breakfast, to help us test out some brand name cereals and their generic counterparts:

  • Honey Nut O’s (generic): 17¢ per serving vs. Honey Nut Cheerios (brand): 24¢ per serving

  • Woven Wheat (generic): 19¢ per serving vs. Shreddies (brand): 24¢ per serving

  • Raisin Bran (generic): 22¢ per serving vs. Kellogg’s Raisin Bran

    (brand): 33¢ per serving

  • Fruit Whirls (generic): 23¢ per serving vs. Fruit Loops (brand): 32¢ per serving

Nutrition Test

  • Each pair of cereal’s nutritional composition – brand vs. generic – is exactly the same.

Taste Test

  • The generic Fruit Whirls had a funny taste compared to the original Fruit Loops;

  • The generic O’s compared to the Cheerios had a similar effect: generic tasted more chemical-like

  • Even though there were fewer raisins in the Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, they seemed sweeter. The flakes in the generic went soggy much faster in milk.

  • The two shredded wheat cereals were the only ones that came close in taste


We had expensive taste buds across the board. Some of the generics came close, but we all agreed we’d buy the brand name.


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