Monday, 9 April 2012

Breakfast Attack: How To Screen Your Cereal

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Do you ever feel bewildered by the number of breakfast cereals available on the supermarket shelves today?

If you have applied my screening tool for decoding nutrition panels (refer to article 'Be shopping savvy' for more info), then you may have noticed that very few breakfast cereals actually meet the golden criteria of <15g/100g sugar, <10g/100g fat and >5g/100g fibre.

Breakfast cereals are tricky as you want to consider the actual source of the fat and sugar.  If you find a cereal that receives your stamp of approval for fats and fibre, but not for sugar (contains >15g/100g), then I suggest that you look closely at the ingredient list.  

There are many reasons why breakfast cereals fail in this area and it's purely due to the added sugars.  Don't forget that any honey or syrups that are added to the cereal will also contribute to the total sugar content of the cereal.  If your favourite cereal is low in fat but high in sugar, think about where these sugars are coming from.  Is there dried fruit in this cereal?  Is fruit listed as one of the top three ingredients or is it sugar, honey and syrups?

Sugar added to cereal is not the same as sugar from dried fruit

For example, let's have a look at Alpen High Fruit cereal.  

This is a perfect example of a low fat, high fibre cereal with a high sugar content.  The good news is that the majority of sugars are sultanas, raisins and dried apple pieces.  There's further dried fruit in the form of blackcurrants and cranberries.  Sounds delicious.  As a rule, dried fruit contributing to the total sugar content of the cereal is not the same as added regular sugar.  

Fruit provide dietary fibre and are also a source of essential vitamins and minerals.  The verdict?  I am not complaining.  If you are a fan of muesli type breakfast cereals, then dig in (after you've applied the screening tool ofcourse)!

If you want a cereal without the extra fruit then have a look at Alpen Original.   This particular cereal is also low in fat and receives the tick for fibre.  Did you notice that the sugar content is lower at 23% compared to 30% from the High Fruit range?  Did your beady eye also notice that Alpen Original has ordinary sugar added as their fourth ingredient?  Think of the Alpen High Fruit as the cereal that's full to the brim with dried fruit, whilst Alpen Original has clearly needed a boost in flavour with a bit of regular sugar.

Ladies it's your breakfast, pick the one that tickles your taste buds.  Personally, I prefer waking up to a small bowl of Scottish Jumbo Oats, stocked by Waitrose.  It has a whopping 10.8g/100g of dietary fibre and is just right with a dash of skimmed milk and a teaspoon of brown sugar or dried fruit.  It's the perfect breakfast made easy.  More importantly, I am in control of how much sugar gets added every morning, not the manufacturer.

Enjoy the last day of your Easter holidays! Don't forget your breakfast tomorrow.

Please comment below, I really love and read all of your comments!


  1. After I read this, I went to the supermarket to buy some porridge for my breakfast, and screened the labels of ALL of the different brands. (It's a very big supermarket, it took me 10 min). Conclusion: Only one brand of flavoured porridge, met the "golden criteria". They all failed on the sugar content. Only "Oat so simple" chocolate from quacker oat passed the test. Well it's in my cupboard now. :)

  2. Well done, I am really impressed. Reading labels is an art. You'll be screening in under a minute as time goes on and you'll learn to ignore everything, except for the ingredient list and nutrition table. Don't forget, if some cereals do have a higher sugar content, this may be due to the dried fruits added versus sugar itself, in which case you can allow a slightly higher margin.

  3. I looked up 'Oat so simple' chocolate brownie and unfortunately, the sugars are actually 22.9g/100g. Be careful not to get confused with the 'per serving' column (which is a serving size of 36.4g. I was not able to view the ingredients list, therefore unable to comment on the source of sugar. See

  4. I got the kiddie one!

  5. Excellent, I've learnt something from you today! I have clearly walked straight past this at the supermarket. Thank you for sharing. I've never eaten a chocolate flavoured oat cereal. What does it taste like? Does it work??

  6. Im with you ..I perfer to be in control of the sugar added especailly since alot of dried fruit has added sugar and alot of flavours have artifical ingreds. Check out this post to see how to make Oatmeal a bit more interesting without adding sugars

  7. Noteworthy and Great data shared!!!! its dependably been appreciate perusing your post. I get such a large number of information from this blog.