Cereal killers

Emma Brown | 09 Mar, 2017

Cereal killer: how cereal serving sizes really measure up - and why bowl size can matter most

Part of the obesity crisis can be blamed on overinflated portion sizes. And for many of us, this starts early in the day when we open the cereal box and start to pour.

Breakfast cereals feature in around 60% of breakfasts – but a lot of us are simply eating far too much.

The serving sizes on cereal packets seem to resemble fantasy more than truth. On average, the recommended portion is 40g - yet when you tip this amount into a bowl, it can look a bit sparse.

Emma Clarke MSc, nutritionist for weight loss App, Nutracheck, is not surprised by the findings.

We tried a little experiment asking people to pour a 40g portion of 3 popular breakfast cereals. Pretty much everyone served themselves way too much:

  • Muesli - 91% of people overestimated
  • Sultana Bran - 65% overestimated
  • Cheerios - 33% overestimated
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We eat with our eyes, relying on visual cues - people pay more attention to the proportion of the bowl filled rather than the actual amount of cereal in it.

The habit of using a visual clue for eating, rather than being conscious of satiety - how full you feel - is a tough one to break. The simplest solution is to swap to a smaller bowl and always weigh out your cereal.

Breakfast gives the body fuel after an overnight fast – skip breakfast and you're effectively running on empty. You're far more likely to reach for high sugar mid-morning snacks, so a bowl of cereal can be a good start to your day – just be aware of how much you’re eating, especially if you're trying to lose weight.

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.