Breakfast CerealsSmart CarbsSugar

How To Screen Breakfast Cereals


Are you concerned about the amount of added sugar in breakfast cereals but need guidance on how to decode the nutrition labels? Once you apply the golden rules above you will be able to walk into any supermarket and make informed choices after just a glance at the ingredients list.  I can only imagine how confusing it can be if you don’t have my screening tool.

Making matters worse, apart from the words fat, carbohydrate, sugar and protein, there’s also fibre and sodium to be considered.  Where does one even begin to make sense of this information?  What’s important?  What’s not?

The good news is that you don’t need to be an expert in nutrition to decode the nutrition facts table on breakfast cereals.  All you need is this simple nutrition screening tool which I have revealed above.  Remember this and soon you will appreciate what’s ‘child’ or ‘heart’ friendly and what’s not.  The beauty of this tool is that its suitable for the entire family.


Ingredient List

You may have noticed that every packaged food item has an ingredient list, but what you may not know is that all ingredients are listed in descending order.   This means that heavier ingredients are listed first.

It should come as no surprise to you that high fat or high sugar foods may have vegetable fats, oils or sugar listed as their first three ingredients.


Screening tool

Any product that exceeds 10g of fat, 15g of sugar and contributes less than 5g fibre per 100g of food really is not the ideal daily breakfast choice.  If you still don’t know what I am talking about, refer to the back of the packaging of your breakfast cereal and look closely at the table called nutrition information.  Follow the column titled ‘Per 100g’.

Very few breakfast cereals actually meet the golden criteria.  Just remember these key numbers and you are good to go.

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 child’s 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?  Don’t forget that fancy sugars such as maple or coconut are still added sugars and should be eaten in moderation.


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


As a rule, dried fruit contributing to the total sugar content of the cereal is not the same as added regular sugar.  Fruit provides dietary fibre and is also a source of essential vitamins and minerals.  The ingredient list will also give you plenty of clues as to whether the breakfast cereal is suitable for your family.


Added vitamins and minerals

Don’t be swayed by the added vitamins or minerals in some breakfast cereals.  Examples include B vitamins, vitamin D and iron.  With the exception of vitamin D, a healthy balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will ensure that your child meets their daily requirements for all vitamins and minerals, naturally through food.  If you are concerned speak to your dietitian.

Remember that all children from 6 months to five years will require daily vitamins A, C and D drops.  If your child is drinking formula then you will not need to start the vitamin supplement until you make the switch from formula to cows milk.


Here’s a video that summarises the main points:



You can download the infographic above for free by clicking on this link –> How to screen breakfast cereals 

You can download Change4Life Sugar Smart mobile phone app to help you screen nutrition labels   here  .

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5 thoughts on “How To Screen Breakfast Cereals

  1. Such a useful article, especially as many breakfast products appear healthy but in fact are the opposite!

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