Although Cheerios are generally a nutritious choice, they fall short in certain areas.
Very low in protein
Breakfast cereals are often marketed as a complete meal option. However, the majority of them are very low in protein — and Cheerios are no exception.
Reading: Are cheerios good for you
Protein is a crucial part of a healthy diet. Including a source of high quality protein with each meal is one of the best ways to ensure you’re meeting your body’s daily protein needs.
The recommended intake for protein is a minimum of 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight. For someone who weighs 150 pounds (68 kg), that equates to a daily total of about 55 grams of protein (8).
A 1-cup (28-gram) serving of plain Cheerios with 4 ounces (120 mL) of whole or low fat cow’s milk provides only about 7 grams of protein, most of which comes from the milk.
If you intend to eat Cheerios as a meal, consider pairing it with a source of protein, such as eggs, Greek yogurt, or tofu scramble. You could also add a handful of nuts or a spoonful of nut butter to your bowl for a boost of protein and healthy fats.
May pack added sugar
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Several types of Cheerios harbor large quantities of added sugar.
For example, 1 cup (35 grams) of Honey Nut Cheerios contains 12 grams of sugar — a whopping 12 times as much sugar as the plain variety (9).
Excess sugar intake is linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Furthermore, it can contribute to the overconsumption of calories and unhealthy weight gain (10, 11).
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily added sugar intake to 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams) for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women (12).
Although occasional sugar intake is not likely harmful, it’s a good idea to be mindful of how much you’re eating, especially if Cheerios are a staple in your diet or you routinely consume more than one serving at a time.
Opting for the plain variety is your best bet for keeping your sugar intake low.
Cheerios are considered a processed food
Cheerios are a processed grain product, meaning that the ingredients used to make Cheerios undergo significant processing to create the final product.
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Although Cheerios are made with whole grain oats, which sets them apart from other cereals made with more refined grains like corn flour or white rice, many Cheerios varieties are packed with unhealthy ingredients like cane sugar, corn syrup, and preservatives (13).
What’s more, due to the processing that the oats undergo to make Cheerios, eating a bowl of Cheerios is not the same as enjoying a bowl of whole oats.
One study in 30 adults found that eating Honey Nut Cheerios resulted in a much larger blood sugar and insulin response compared with the consumption of equal portions of less processed grain products including steel cut and old fashioned oats (14).
Although Honey Nut Cheerios are high in added sugar and thus much more likely to increase blood sugar than unsweetened grain products, studies have shown that the processing of whole grains in general significantly impacts blood sugar response, with more refined products yielding larger blood sugar and insulin spikes (15, 16, 17).
Although occasionally enjoying Cheerios won’t harm your health, it’s best to choose less processed options whenever possible, especially if you regularly consumed sweetened Cheerios varieties.
For example, instead of your morning bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, try a bowl of rolled oats topped with berries and a dollop of natural nut butter instead.
Cheerios are a low protein, processed grain product, and some flavors are high in added sugar. You can balance your nutrient intake by adding a source of protein and moderating your consumption of the higher sugar varieties.
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