Nicole Moore (Master Nutr. APD)

Cereal killers – 10 ‘healthy’ brekkie cereals this dietitian wants you to avoid

5 mins read

Hands up if you’ve had a bowl of cereal in the last week or so. I imagine many of you might have. It’s hardly surprising given that, for the last 70 years, we’ve been told breakfast cereal is a healthy way to start our day.

We’re not talking about the familiar, sugary cereals that typically target kids (ain’t that a whole other story!). Most of us ‘get’ that breakfast cereals like Coco Pops, Froot Loops and Frosties aren’t going to provide our bodies with a healthy fuel source. But many cereals marketed as good for us, nutritious and high in fibre and vitamins are actually dumping a toxic load into our bloodstream. 

That’s because most cereal is made primarily from grains. And, as we now know, grains are simply carbs by another name. When eaten, carbohydrates break down into glucose and will cause blood glucose to rise; not great even if you’re a metabolically healthy person, but a fully-fledged disaster if you have type 2 diabetes. 

So today, we’re lifting the lid on the cereal brands that masquerade as a virtuous start to the day but will secretly sabotage your low carb journey. It’s worth remembering that the World Health Organisation recommends we eat no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day, and we recommend keeping to under 50g of carbs per day (which makes the results below even more shocking).

10. All Bran 

Carbs per 100 g: 40 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: 10 tsp 

Bran cereals, such as All Bran, boast a high net carbohydrate content of approximately 35-40 g per 100 g and 9-10 teaspoons of sugar. The second and third ingredients listed on their box are sugar and barley malt extract (also sugar)! It may be rich in dietary fibre, which aids digestion and promotes gut health, but so are green leafy vegetables and psyllium. Add more of these to your diet instead and ditch this sugary load.

Nicole’s swap: Smoothie with whey protein powder, full-fat Greek yoghurt, low carb berries, nuts, almond milk

9. All Bran Wheat Flakes

Carbs per 100 g: 60 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: 10 tsp 

Wheat flakes, made from whole wheat, are promoted as a nutrient and fibre-dense cereal with around 55-60 g of net carbohydrates per 100 g. They are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals, including iron and B vitamins, but will require the body to process 13-14 teaspoons of sugar.  Look instead for low carb options like bacon and eggs or Defeat Diabetes Cinnamon Squares

Nicole’s swap: Boiled eggs and fried halloumi cheese soldiers

8. Raw ‘Natural’ Muesli

Carbs per 100 g: 50 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: 13 tsp

Like granola, muesli is a fibre-rich cereal with rolled oats, nuts, seeds, and the dreaded dried fruits. It offers around 40-50 g of net carbohydrates per 100 g, making it a carbohydrate and sugar-packed option, providing  10-13 teaspoons of sugar per 100g.

Nicole’s swap: Greek yoghurt with nuts and berries

7. Granola

Carbs per 100 g: 55 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: 14 tsp 

Granola is a versatile cereal made from rolled oats, nuts, and seeds, BUT it comes loaded with dried fruits and added sugars such as honey or syrups. It is renowned for its high carbohydrate content, providing up to 55 g of net carbohydrates per 100 g serving and 14 teaspoons of sugar. 

Nicole’s swap: Protein muffin (eggs, almond flour, bacon, cheese, spinach)

6. Nutri-Grain

Carbs per 100 g: 65 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: 16 tsps

 This cereal has a huge 65 g net carbs per 100 g and 16 teaspoons of sugar. Although promoted as high in protein, one cup will provide you with the same protein as a single egg, and this cereal has a very low fibre content. Eat three eggs with spinach and get triple the protein and more fibre with no carbs. 

Nicole’s swap: Fried eggs, ham off the bone, spinach, and tomatoes

5. Sultana Bran

Carbs per 100 g: 65 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: 16 tsps 

Sultana Bran combines wheat flakes with sweet, high-in-sugar raisins and even more added sugar. So while their marketing team wants you to believe this is a healthy start to your day, you’ll consume around 60-65 g of net carbohydrates per 100g, up to 16 teaspoons of sugar. Most definitely not a good choice for breakfast when you’re trying to defeat diabetes.

Nicole’s swap: Smoked salmon stacked on sliced avocado

4. Porridge with Banana and Milk

Carbs per 100 g: 85 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: up to 21 tsp 

Porridge, made from oats, is a fibre-rich cereal known for its heart-healthy benefits. It contains 50 g of net carbohydrates per 100g, and although it has the slight advantage of providing a good amount of soluble fibre, the oats break down to 13 teaspoons of sugar.  Adding a cup of milk and a banana adds up to 21 teaspoons of sugar. Psyllium husk is also a high source of soluble fibre with zero carbs per serve, so it’s a much better cereal choice for people with type 2 diabetes. Try some with a dollop of full-fat Greek yoghurt.

Instant breakfast oats flavoured with fruit, honey or vanilla typically contain 60-70g of carbohydrates per 100 g and 15-17 teaspoons of sugar. These cereals may be convenient and quick to prepare, making them popular for busy mornings, but they will increase your blood sugars. Grab a couple of boiled eggs instead; they’re just as quick without all those carbs!

Nicole’s swap: Protein pancakes (almond flour, eggs, almond milk)

3. Puffed Rice

Carbs per 100 g: 80 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: 20 tsp 

Puffed Rice might be a light and airy cereal, but it has a net carbohydrate content of around 80 g per 100 g, 20 teaspoons of sugar. It’s marketed as a low-calorie snack or an ingredient in various recipes, but it will most definitely increase your blood glucose levels; in my opinion, a bowl of air would be safer for someone with type 2 diabetes!

Nicole’s swap: Cheese and spinach omelette with avocado

2. Rice-based Cereal

Carbs per 100 g: 80 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: 20 tsps 

Some people will choose rice cereals as a gluten-free option, but they still provide about 80 g of net carbohydrates per 100 g, up to 20 teaspoons of sugar. They are easily digestible and are considered a suitable choice for individuals with specific dietary restrictions, but they won’t help keep your blood glucose levels stable.  An omelette is also gluten-free!

Nicole’s swap: Eggs, bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms

1. Cornflakes

Carbs per 100 g: 80 g

Teaspoons of sugar per 100 g: 20 tsps 

A breakfast staple for many, cornflakes are made from corn and typically contain 80g of net carbohydrates per 100 g. While they are low in fat, making them a popular choice for those seeking a so-called “lighter breakfast option”, they are super high in carbs, dumping up to 20 teaspoons of sugar into the blood!

Nicole’s swap: Cheese and spinach omelette with avocado

Cereals are cleverly marketed as a vital daily energy source, but carbs are non-essential macros. The body doesn’t need carbohydrates for energy; ketones made from fat can easily replace them in a low carb lifestyle. 

I advise ditching cereals and switching to essential proteins at breakfast like eggs, cheese, Greek yogurt, salmon, ham, bacon, nuts and fats such as avocado, butter, and olive oil to start to your day. Our approach at Defeat Diabetes is to reduce carbs, which convert to glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream, and fill up instead with protein and fat. Our meal plans and recipes include loads of great breakfast options that’ll keep you fuller for longer. Try a risk-free 14-day trial and see for yourself.

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