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Tips for Choosing Breakfast Cereal

Buying cereal is kind of confusing. I know some cereals have lots of added sugars. Do you have any tips for choosing breakfast cereal?

Be a label reader and compare prices and nutrition. Lower-priced generic cereal can be just as nutritious as name-brand cereals. Choose fiber-rich, whole-grain, hot-and-cold cereals without a lot of added sweeteners. Oatmeal and Cheerios are examples of whole-grain cereals. Compare amounts of “sugars” on the Nutrition Facts labels. Some cereals are more like “candy” than breakfast food.  Choose the whole-grain cereal with the lowest amount of sugar per serving.

Try this example:

This Nutrition Facts label represents a type of breakfast cereal.

  1. How many grams (g) of sugar does it have per 1-cup serving? ________
  2. How much sugar would that be in teaspoons? ________
    Hint: One teaspoon of sugar weighs about 4 g.

The answers:

  1. The cereal has 15 g of sugar per 1-cup serving.
  2. A serving of this cereal would have almost 4 teaspoons of sugar (15 divided by 4)!

Many nutrition experts recommend less than 2 teaspoons of sugar (8 g) per 1-ounce serving. Sugar contributes only calories.

Note: After you eat your cereal, consume the milk in the bowl. Vitamins and minerals often are sprayed on the cereal, so they may end up in the milk. Milk is a good source of calcium and protein, too.

For more information, see “Choosing Breakfast Cereals” at

Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

Featured in Food Wise August 2013 newsletter (PDF)

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