There are plenty of breakfast cereal brands out there and most of them are definitely something we shouldn’t be having for breakfast even though they are labelled as “high in fibre” or “slimmer waist” and so on. Most of them are high in sugar, full of processed carbohydrates, artificial additives and barely have any nutritious whole grains. You would be surprised how some products are exactly the opposite of what they are sold as.
How “special” is ‘Special K’ compared to other cereals?
As an example we have one of the most popular “healthy” cereals, that is supposed to help you lose weight and make you feel great – the Kellogg’s Special K. Below the Special K Fruit & Nut version is compared to one cheap, supermarket own-brand cereal. Surely Special K is somehow better than the very sugary kids cereals and corn flakes but is it really that good compared to a similar cereal?
- Kellogg’s cereal is higher in carbohydrates of which only a small amount is wholewheat – 23%. This means that most of the carbs are barely nutritious as they are heavily processed.
- Kellogg’s is higher in sugar. Sugar is the main ingredient in modern diet that is driving obesity.
- Special K is also slightly higher in starch and some studies link starch to weight gain.
- Special K actually has less fibre although it is labelled as “high in fibre”. The cheap cereal has double the amount of fibre compared to the Special K.
- Kellogg’s cereal has less protein than the Sainsbury’s one. The reason for this is probably because the cheaper cereal has a much more nuts in it.
- So what about the fat? Well of course, Kellogg’s made a lot of effort to make sure their cereals contains very little fat, less than the Sainsbury’s cereal because this is their main selling point. More about the fat, further below.
- Last but not least, not only the Sainsbury’s cereal has a better nutritional value, it is extremely cheap compared to Special K. One whole kg is 2.50£, Kellogg’s sell their cereal for around 2.70£ and that’s for 370 g only.
The “Low-fat” illusion
Out of the 6 nutritional factors we compared, fat is the only one where Special K actually “wins”. But how important is the fat in cereal? The Sainsbury’s cereal has 2.3 g per serving which is just 3 % of your recommended fat intake per day. This is a tiny nutritional amount and the Special K has even less than that. If you think about it, do you genuinely believe that 1 or 2 g difference will make an impact to your weight? I don’t think so. The cereal in general is not a fatty food and has very little fat so why is it even mentioned as a benefit? Simply because “low-fat” has been the most powerful selling point which food producers use to sell their products to health-conscious consumers.
Fat has been falsely accused over the last few decades as the main cause of obesity. Food manufacturers keep reducing the fat in their products yet the western society gets bigger and bigger. The problem is that the sugar and overall the carbohydrate levels in the food go up while the fat gets reduced. This is because food simply doesn’t taste that good without the fat, so sugar must be added to adjust the taste. Processed carbs, including sugar have been proven to have a far more serious impact on people’s weight and health than fat.
The Special K is the perfect example of a product where fat has been reduced but the processed sugar and carbohydrates are more than in the average cereal. So while people think they are making a healthier choice, they are actually choosing a product that is highly processed with high sugar levels, that has no nutritional fats and very few proteins. 100 g of Special K contain the equivalent of 2 tbsp of sugar, the kids cereals have even more than that! I am sure you can easily replace your breakfast and the breakfast of your child with a healthier one.
Ditch the breakfast cereals
All cereals have too many ingredients and aren’t the healthy breakfast most people think they are having but the purpose of this post is to iterate that we shouldn’t trust marketing campaigns and always read what’s on the ingredients list and the nutrition label. If you still want to have your cereal than that’s fine but why pay more for something that is not actually better at all?
Instead of cereal, why not have a simple home made muesli or some porridge? It’s equally tasty but far less processed with more natural ingredients and you can find many brands that have no added sugar. Add nuts and fresh fruits to add some extra nutrition like healthy fats and other vitamins. If you are buying a store-bought muesli always read the ingredients list as many muesli brands have additives as well.
You can easily make muesli yourself, just buy a bag of simple oats, some fresh or dried fruits, nuts and there you have it – simple and delicious, nutritious breakfast every day! If you fancy some home made granola as well, try my simple Maple Granola recipe, super delicious and sweetened only with maple syrup.
There are so many other healthier breakfasts you can choose like a smoothie, natural yogurt with fresh fruits or just fruits!