A spoonful of sugar...?

Emma Brown | 02 Mar, 2018

Many breakfast cereals are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals in our diet, but when it comes to wider health benefits, it’s probably no surprise that all cereals are not equal. Particularly when it comes to sugar. Do you know how much lurks beneath the puffed, flaked, flavoured, shaped and sugared grains, which are still such a big part of our morning routine?

Nutritionist Emma Brown has taken a look at the numbers.

“Kellogg's Frosties are among the highest, containing 11.1g of sugar per 30g serving – just over two teaspoons of sugar. And that is, of course, if we stick to the official rather meagre-looking serving size. Coco Pops and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes – both very popular with children – are the second most sugary.

“A huge problem with cereals is portion size. We tend to tip cereal free flow into whatever bowl we find – but if you stopped to weigh it out, you’ll realise just how much more you’ve actually poured. Get into the habit of quickly weighing out your morning portion.

“Starting the day with a high-sugar breakfast cereal will give you an instant energy boost – but it won’t last long as the sugar is used very quickly by the body. Choosing a cereal higher in more complex carbs, and with a high fibre content, will keep hunger at bay for longer.

“Here’s a fascinating fact. If you swapped from the cereal with the highest sugar content to the cereal with the lowest sugar content, over the course of a year you would save an unbelievable 1,664 sugar cubes in your diet. That’s around 6.5kg, or 6½ bags of sugar. Now that’s food for thought.

“So, if you’re watching your sugar intake, it’s definitely worth taking a close look at the label on your favourite cereal. If sugar is added, and it’s one of the highest ingredients, then maybe choose a different variety.

Emma recommends trying ‘overnight oats’:

“It takes less time to prepare than boiling the kettle,” she explains. “Your oats soak in the fridge overnight and are ready to eat first thing in the morning.”

“So if you fancy cereal for your breakfast, look for lower sugar, wholegrain varieties and maybe add some of your own fruit to increase the nutrient content too.”

Emma's easy overnight oats

Emma's easy overnight oats

Serves 1 - 388 kcals per serving

Kcals Fat Sat fat Carbs Sugar Protein Salt
388 7.3g 2.1g 74.7g 44.4g 10.9g 0.16g

Ingredients

  • 40g rolled oats or porridge oats (not instant)
  • 1 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 125ml semi-skimmed milk (or unsweetened soya or almond milk)
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and cubed
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chia seeds or milled flaxseed
  • 1 tsp runny honey

Method

  1. Mix the oats, seeds and milk together in a bowl. Spoon half the mixture into an airtight jar or container and top with half the apple and cranberries. Repeat with the remaining oat mix and fruit.
  2. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.
  3. Before serving, top with the cinnamon and honey. Enjoy!
  4. *Tip – This can be eaten hot or cold. To heat, microwave on high for 1½ minutes.

We’ve highlighted the sugar content of a selection of breakfast cereals, but you can assess the sugar content of any cereal yourself by looking at the nutrient label: Find out how much sugar is in 100g and then work out if it is healthy or not by using the following grid.

Check out how much sugar is in some popular cereals here:

5g or less

'Best of the bunch'

5g-22.5g

'Don't have very often'

22.5g+

'Once in a while'


Kellogg Frosties

11.1g per 30g serving / 37g per 100g serving

Kellogg Coco Pops

11g per 30g serving / 35g per 100g serving

Kellogg Crunchy Nut Cornflakes

11g per 30g serving / 35g per 100g serving

Nestle Lion cereal

8.7g per 30g serving / 29g per 100g serving

Nestle Nesquik

7.5g per serving / 25g per 100g serving

Nestle Cookie Crisp

7.5g per serving / 25g per 100g serving

Nestle Cheerio's Honey

7.2g per serving / 24g per 100g serving

Kellogg Frozen cereal

6.3g per serving / 21g per 100g serving

Nestle Cheerio's Multigrain

6.3g per serving / 21g per 100g serving

Kellogg Special K

4.5g per serving / 15g per 100g serving

Kellogg All Bran Flakes

4.2g per serving / 14g per 100g serving

Kellogg Rice Krispies

3g per serving / 10g per 100g serving

Kellogg Corn Flakes

2.4g per serving / 8g per 100g serving

Weetabix

1.7g per serving / 4.4g per 100g

Nestle Shredded Wheat

0.3g per serving / 0.7g per 100g

Nutritionist Emma Brown, MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.