With protein being a very big buzzword, I am not surprised that many food manufacturers are jumping on the band wagon. The latest is General Mills with the introduction of two new cereals, Cheerios Protein Oats & Honey and Cheerios Protein Honey & Cinnamon.
The products are promoted as having 11 grams (g) of protein with milk, more than half of your daily recommended whole grains, 13 vitamins and minerals, and a good source of fiber. Sounds great, right? Well, maybe three out of the four. Here’s how the new cereals stack up compared with the original Cheerios per recommended serving size:
Cheerios (1 cup): 100 calories, 2g fat (0g saturated), 20g carbs, 3g protein, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 160mg sodium
Cheerios Protein Oats & Honey (1 1/4 cups): 210 calories, 3g fat (1g saturated), 42g carbs, 7g protein, 4g fiber, 17g sugars, 280mg sodium
Cheerios Protein Honey & Cinnamon (1 1/4 cups): 220 calories, 4.5g fat (0.5g saturated), 40g carbs, 7g protein, 3g fiber, 16g sugars, 220mg sodium
It seems the “clusters” in the new cereals is where you'll find the extra protein, in the form of soy protein and lentils in the Oats & Honey, and soy protein isolate and almonds in the Honey & Cinnamon. The problem I see is that the clusters also have a whole lot of added sugars, therefore adding really minimal nutritional value to the cereal. [Tweet this fact!]
I won’t argue that having adequate protein with breakfast is essential to starting your day. Protein aids with satiety, and those who skimp on it in the morning complain of hunger sooner rather than later. But protein is not the only nutrient that should be looked at in a breakfast cereal. I never even instruct my patients to look at protein at all on the cereal package but rather fiber and sugars, with ideally the grams of fiber being greater than the grams of sugars.
I have always been a fan of classic Cheerios and will continue to be one, even though the protein is lower than the new ones. It really is not difficult to add extra protein to your breakfast cereal. First off, don’t just add 1/2 cup milk (as suggested on the Cheerios nutrition panel) but an entire cup, and then drink what remains in the bowl after you have eaten the cereal for a total 8g protein. Then you can add a tablespoon of almonds for 3g protein and a tablespoon of chia seeds for 2 more grams. And if you still want even more, then have a hardboiled egg for 6g. Now wasn’t that easy? And guess what? No added sugars!