Pop quiz: What’s one of the staple meals of a hungry, over-scheduled and overworked college student?
Hint: It’s a meal that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner all under ten minutes.
That’s right: cereal.
A healthy option, right? Your mom always gave you cereal for breakfast. But, alas, don’t fall into the trap set by the brightly-colored containers. A re-evaluation of my own dining hall led to some eye-opening facts about one of my favorite breakfast foods. Armed with my newfound knowledge on the subject, I feel much better about my decisions at breakfast. So, I thought I’d share my frightening findings with you.
I thought I knew that cereals like Lucky Charms and Cookie Crisp were the worst. After all, they’re the only ones filled with heaps of added sugar, right? But when I examined the nutrition labels of various other cereals, I was shocked at what I found.
So the first cereal I picked up was Frosted Mini Wheats, which sounds like a moderately-healthy crowd pleaser. One serving of this favorite contained 14 grams of sugar. I was so surprised! That was half of the recommended intake for one day.
From there, it only got worse. Corn Pops: 13 grams. Cinnamon Chex: 16 grams. My beloved Apple Jacks: 15 grams.
Then, I picked up some options that I know are considered “dessert cereals”. Chocolate Krave had 19 grams, Cocoa Krispies 25 grams, Trix and Cookie Crips both had 10 grams (strange that the ones I assumed would be the worst weren’t half as sugary as some of the other healthier-sounding options). At this point, I’d had it. A serving of Cocoa Krispies had an entire day’s worth of recommended sugar!
Ok, so now I thought I’d pick up some I considered on the “healthier” side. The first cereal I picked up was Cheerios, which contained a refreshingly low 2 grams of sugar. However, my relief was a little premature. Two cereals heavily marketed towards being good for your body both contained more than 15 grams of sugar. Here’s a useful comparison to use when thinking about the amounts of sugar. A Twinkie has 17 grams of sugar! Low Fat Granola with Raisin cereal contained 18 grams of sugar. The cereal with the most sugar of any of the cereals I saw came in with a whooping 29 grams (4 grams over the recommended daily value) of sugar.
Here’s a little graph to help you figure out the sugar content in your favorite cereals. The graph shows the sugar content in grams in a single serving.
So, if you’re looking to limit sugar, maybe skip your morning cereal run in favor of something else for breakfast, like a quickly-blended smoothie. Or if you really want something crunchy, or don’t have time for any other options, look for cereals low in sugar and high in fiber.
Instead of cereal, you can also look to see what other options your school has to offer. Right next to the cereal rack, I found oatmeal. The oatmeal served at my dinning hall had no added sugar, and had a stocked topping bar available that offered fresh fruit (which are filled with healthy and delicious natural sugars), granola, honey, and nuts. In addition, if you’re looking for other breakfast inspiration now that you know about the dangers of sugars in cereal, here you can find lots of other healthy ideas for breakfast!