4 Reasons I Shouldn’t Eat Cereal for Breakfast

December 9, 2008 · 27 comments

Posts like this probably aren’t going to get me invited to any Quaker Oats Weekends, but I do have fond memories of eating cereal for breakfast when I was a kid. Mostly it was non-sugar cereal like Corn Flakes, Cheerios or Grape Nuts to which I would sprinkle a little sugar on top with my milk - 2%, which I can’t imagine drinking today. I had a friend at whose house I used to sleep over a lot and they had this exotic milk called “Skim” that I thought was really cool. Plus they got to eat sugar cereal like Fruit Loops, which was a nice treat.

At some point my parents started buying Golden Grahams, which my dad used to call “Golden Grays” which I never quite understood until only a few years ago when he explained that what he was calling it was “Golden Graze” in tribute to the huge bowls of it I would consume. Thanks Dad!

With that as way of background, however, I try to stay away from cereal much these days. I often fail, like this morning, which reminded me of why I shouldn’t be eating cereal and was the impetus for this article, the 4 Reasons I Shouldn’t Eat Cereal for Breakfast:

  1. We Don’t Stock Good Cereal. OK, so this one could clearly be remedied, but that fact is that the cereal we buy is for our kids, and we buy cereal like Sugar Frosted Flakes, Trix, Fruity Pebbles and Lucky Charms. Recently I had some coupon deal where I got a bunch of money off for buying 10 boxes of cereal so I expanded our horizons a little bit. One of the cereals I bought was for me, because it sounded healthy - Honey Bunches of Oats. But as you will read below, even though this cereal is labeled as “Heart Healthy” it isn’t so good either. If I am going to go with cereal it’s going to mean stocking up on some non-sugary stuff and having the discipline not to add any sugar.
  2. Cereal is Expensive. The primary reason for cereal being expensive is the rising cost of wheat flour, corn meal and oats caused by a shift in crops to corn for use in Ethanol fuel. Fewer farmers are growing cereal grains, which drives up scarcity and cost. The interesting thing, though, is how the cereal makers have responded. For the most part we have not seen huge increases in the price of cereal (although $5/box is now the norm) but rather, we are seeing a decrease in the size of the cereal boxes. For the same price. Of course this isn’t a phenomenon restricted solely to cereal - have you checked your peanut butter, lately? We are currently mitigating this by buying huge double-boxes at Sam’s Club or stocking up on coupons for name brands, which certainly helps. Still, cereal is not a cheap breakfast option and it’s seemingly getting more and more expensive to consume (don’t forget rising milk prices!) - even if the price looks the same.
  3. Recommended Portion Sizes are Inhuman. I don’t measure the food I eat, I just don’t have that discipline - but every once in awhile I will look at some food item and analyze the portion sizes to see if it meets reality. Like the clearly single-use 16oz drinks that are labeled as having 2 servings so that it looks like you are only drinking 180 calories when in reality you are drinking 360 (who drinks half a bottle?). My Honey Bunches of Oats from this morning is a good example. According to it’s nutritional facts, this 14.5oz box (used to be 16oz, see above!) contains 14 servings, each containing 120 calories if you don’t include the milk. “Hey, that’s not too bad!” you may be thinking, but hold on. Recommended portion size? 3/4 of a cup. Take your cereal bowl and carefully measure 3/4 of a cup of cereal into it (not heaping!) and tell me the truth - is that how much you pour for yourself? Not me - that wouldn’t feed a hamster. I measured it out and when I have a normal (for me) bowl of cereal I actually am having 4 servings. And when I’m feeling like being really bad I use a bigger bowl that holds 6 servings. Suddenly that meal isn’t looking so good for calories or cost.
  4. Cereal Does Not Fill Me Up. Cereal is quick and convenient, but not withstanding the above, it comes with a cost. And for me that cost is being hungry again at 9:30 in the morning! Cereal simply doesn’t do it for me. I need that protein in the morning if I am going to stay satisfied until lunch or at least until a late morning snack. I know people say oatmeal “sticks to your ribs” but it doesn’t stick to mine - even with oatmeal I simply get too hungry, too soon. Which then leads to eating other things I shouldn’t be eating. And this is even if I have my 6 servings belly-buster bowl.

Sorry Jerry!

So that’s why I need to be staying away from cereal. How about you?

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Charles Martin December 9, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Wow, I almost felt guilty for the bowl of unsweetened oat cereal w/ skim milk that I had this morning. I’m sure I haven’t checked my serving size and nutrition information either.

You should probably follow this up with “four meals I should have for breakfast” (if you can come up with that many). I’m sure there is something I have not thought of as a suitable replacement for my cereal.

Don’t feel guilty, that sounds very healthy. Just watch those portions. I like the idea of a follow-up, I’ll have to think about that.

Tom Rooney December 9, 2008 at 1:22 pm

I’m been staying with a bowl of Special K each morning 1 cup size, and have some fruit midway between lunch. This helps with the weight control since I used to dine on those sausage, egg and cheese on a hard roll (sometimes 2) for my breakfast fare.

That sounds much better! You really just have a cup though? It seems SO small to me.

Levi December 9, 2008 at 1:46 pm

All good reasons to avoid cereal. The price and portion sizes have become ridiculous for sure!

A good bowl of oatmeal fills me up for hours, though.

I probably should try oatmeal again - everyone else seems to say that it stays with them for hours like that. Not sure why I would be different.

julie December 9, 2008 at 7:05 pm

I eat cereal if I want a light breakfast. No cooking, high fiber, whole grain, no sugar (I add chocolate soy milk). It doesn’t fill me up for very long, but if I’m eating lunch in a few hours, it works well, especially if I’m off to the gym and don’t want something really heavy.

“I’m eating lunch in a few hours” - that’s part of my problem, is that I usually have breakfast very early, so after a few hours people are still waking up. :-)

Greg December 9, 2008 at 9:10 pm

When I was a kid growing up, I never ate cereal. It was always a hot breakfast. As a college kid, I subsisted primarily on sausage biscuits, and eventually started on cereal — Cap ‘n Crunch. Not exactly healthy fare. Now I go for the filling cereal — lots of fiber.

Ah, Cap ‘n Crunch, I forgot about that. Yummy. For hot cereal did you eat Cream of Wheat? I tried that once I think. Not as tasty as Cap ‘n Crunch.

Greg December 10, 2008 at 6:46 am

No. I never could do mushy cereals. Oatmeal is about as far as I could go then. But only if was loaded with butter and brown sugar. With a biscuit on the side…

LisaNewton December 10, 2008 at 9:14 am

I hate to say it, but I usually don’t do breakfast. Oh, I’ll have to occasional bowl of oatmeal (which I do love), but I find I prefer to have my stomach a little empty as I start the day. But, that’s just me……………..:)

Great breakfast analysis.

Bryan December 10, 2008 at 10:39 am

I’ve got another reason for you:

Not only is most cereal bad for you in the morning, all cereal is bad for you at night.

I got into a bad, bad habit of having a bowl of cereal at night before going to bed. That breaks so many rules of healthy eating it’s not even funny.

By the way, great blog.

Angie December 10, 2008 at 11:01 am

Thank you for the laugh, the information and the trip down memory lane this morning. My siblings and I hardly ever got “good” cereal when we were growing up either. It was Corn Flakes, Cheerios and Rice Krispies in our house. But we could add sugar at will (heck my mom would make us sugar sandwiches for lunch sometimes - can you imagine???). Speaking of my mom, she used to get up with us every morning and pour our breakfast, when I was 18 I finally spoke up and said I could pour my own cereal. Oh and for hot cereal - we had oatmeal but we also had Coco Wheats. Does anyone remember those? Anyway, good information and a great reminder about serving sizes.

Sadie December 11, 2008 at 10:24 am

My husband is addicted to Raisin Nut Bran. Every week he buys 2 boxes at the store. Do you know how much that costs? He eats heaping bowls of it with 2% milk and adds a dash of heavy cream on top, and adds his own yogurt covered raisins to it. Then he tells me this is healthy. Well, yeah, compared to eating a Big Mac… *sigh* Every now and then I’ll have a small bowl of Special K. I eat it with skim milk and a dash of Splenda. I actually probably eat 1 serving. My stomach has shrunk a lot. I use more than 1 serving of milk, probably, but not the cereal, I would guess. I’ve never measured it, though. Like you, I don’t have the discipline to measure my food.

Ron December 11, 2008 at 1:14 pm

I stay away from it except…. I eat a cup of Kashi GoLean
crunch cereal on my FF yougurt every other evening as a snack.

Armen Shirvanian December 11, 2008 at 4:51 pm

I have also noticed that cereal boxes, as well as boxes for other items, are becoming smaller, while the prices are remaining the same. The marketers could spin it, by saying that they are trying to be more reasonable with portion sizes, or something of that nature, but the result is less material being provided for the same cost. Cereal sure does not appear to be filling enough, in comparison with a cooked potato or two.

Israel December 11, 2008 at 5:51 pm

I used to eat cereal all the time as a kid, and even into my college years. Now I hold back, because as you said, the serving sizes just don’t do it for me.

LisaNewton December 12, 2008 at 9:23 am

John, if you’re not having cereal this morning, why don’t you jump over to Iowa Avenue. You’ve been tagged………………:)

FitMommy December 12, 2008 at 9:41 am

We don’t do cereal in our house unless we are in a hurry. I always make old fashioned oats and egg whites scrambled for everybody. Cereal is stupidly expensive and it is a lot of sugar and crap…If I do, I will add a scoop of vanilla protein powder to the milk and then eat Kashi’s autumn wheat. That is really tasty!

I’ve never heard of oats and egg whites - I’ll have to look into that.

goldsmith December 14, 2008 at 12:57 pm


You are so right about commercial cereals! Apart from the dubious nutritional value and sugar content of many, the other problems are the portion sizes, as you noted, and the amount of milk you need in the bowl.

Like you, I am stuck in a job where I have breakfast at 7am, and sometimes have to go til 2pm or later for lunch. The following breakfast helps with that (and even made with WHOLE milk, believe it or not, carries only 8 points on the Weightwatchers points system):

Porridge (oatmeal): 1/2 cup rolled oats cooked in one cup of water, with a good pinch of salt (important to bring out the taste in the oats);

drizzle of honey, one small cut up banana or 5 almonds on top

large cup of coffee (no sugar or sweetener)

1/2 cup of milk into the coffee and on top of the porridge

one orange

one soft-boiled egg (I use large, organic eggs that don’t carry salmonella risks)

This breakfast was recommended to me by a professional nutritionist attached to a major teaching hospital. She commended me for eating porridge (oatmeal), but pointed out that my bf was lacking protein, and recommended either an egg or a small tub of low-fat, low-sugar yoghurt. She rated the cholesterol risk of the egg as minimal.

Andrew is getting fit December 14, 2008 at 1:22 pm

I love cereal but very rarely eat it anymore. I’m an oats man now. :)

goldsmith December 14, 2008 at 2:05 pm

As a postscript to my earlier comment, I should perhaps mention that I, too, am 6ft, 230lbs, male - and it took me months to implement the nutritionist’s recommendation. I didn’t believe I could subsist on that, and I hated the idea of giving up my glass of OJ for breakfast. Still, it really does work for me - nota bene: in terms of keeping me sated until early afternoon, if need be. This is not a weight loss tip. On the other hand, I haven’t gained weight eating this way, either.

Keith December 14, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Cereal can be a useful addition to your weight-reducing eating program, but you are correct in that the sugary sorts need to be avoided.

Meals aren’t intended to fill you up, they’re intended to feed the body the nutrients it needs for a couple hours. 2-3 hours after the cereal, another small meal should be consumed in order to keep the nutrient stream fairly consistent.

As for your second and third reasons, I’m right there with you.

Good post.

Janet December 23, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Well cereal is better than doughnuts… sometimes I mix oatmeal with some cereal and yogurt on top. Needless to day starting your day with cereal is not the smartest way…

Merry Mary December 26, 2008 at 11:53 am

I like the previous comment… ‘cereal is better than donuts.’ Hehe. Sometimes it is just barely better. Cereal is actually my weakness. I LOVE it. Sugary goodness that I have trouble saying no to at breakfast or any other time. I keep rereading this post because I KNOW I shouldn’t be eating so much of it.

Rachiel Grant December 31, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Cereal is definitely a weakness of mine as well. I still enjoy some of the kids cereal from time to time. I could not agree with you more that cereal just doesn’t fill you up. I am hungry about 30 minutes after I finish a bowl.

If you truly enjoy it of course there is nothing wrong with indulging now and I again. And for some people I’m sure it is fine, but for me, and it sounds like you, we need to get something more filling on a regular basis.

FitBethlin January 2, 2009 at 3:44 pm

I have tried and tried to love cereal, but I finally gave up and just decided to embrace my love of american cheese, english muffins, eggs and canadian bacon. (Just realized the eggs are the only part of my breakfast without a nationality.) If I use egg whites, the small sized muffins and low fat cheese, it’s healthy and I don’t get so hungry. There are Jimmy Dean D-Light sandwiches that are good for days when I’m too lazy to make my own.

I do supplement with a single serving packet of oatmeal sometimes, but I really only have it as a mid-morning snack, not an entire meal.

Happy New Year!

I think that’s an important point - you have to know what works for you. If that is what it takes to satisfy you so that you can get to your next meal then go for it!

GeorgieGirl January 14, 2009 at 11:30 pm

I hear ya! Cereal is pricey and the bowl of cereal I love most (you can read about it in my post titled: A Bowl Full of Orgnanic Flax Omega-3 and Fiber) is only a 3/4 cup serving! OUCH! You’d think I would be hungry within an hour, but it really does keep me full for awhile. At least until my mid-morning fruit snack.

Lately I’ve been eating a bowl of of instant high fiber oatmeal each day for breakfast. Cinnamon swirl is my favorite. I think the added fiber helps me feel full for a longer period of time. When I was in Oklahoma I couldn’t find the oatmeal I usually eat, so I used regular oatmeal and sprinkled flax meal and cinnamon over the top. I couldn’t even detect the flax meal was added. I add the flax meal for extra heart healthy fiber and omega 3s.

I’m not trying to persuade you into eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast. LOL But it’s what is working for me now days.

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