Are You Eating Candy Disguised as Breakfast?

A British study looked at popular breakfast cereals and concluded most of them were so loaded with sugar, they belong in the candy aisle.

Of the 50 cereals the study examined, 32 were high in sugar. That included 12 of the 14 cereals aimed at kids.

Before you dismiss this as an irrelevant study because it occurred on the other side of the pond, I want to point out American breakfast cereals are just as bad and probably worse.

Don’t believe me? Take a stroll down the cereal aisle at your local supermarket and check out a few labels.

The study winner for added sugar was Kellogg’s Frosties, which packed an astounding 37% sugar. Store-brand chocolate rice cereals pulled a close second with 36% sugar. And several store-brand honey nut cornflakes had nearly 34% sugar.

Even so-called healthy cereals in this study, such as Kellogg’s All-Bran Flakes and Special K, had 17 – 22% sugar.

This study also found inconsistent nutrition labeling and serving size among cereals.

What particularly drives me nuts (other than the high sugar) is that researchers neatly concluded since these cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, they could play a part in a “healthy balanced diet.”

I want you to define the term “healthy balanced diet” for me. And while you’re at it, explain to me the “everything in moderation” theory.

Chances are, I’ll get as many definitions as I have readers.

Dieticians and other professionals like to throw these terms around like they actually mean something. Sorry, but they’re useless phrases that sound good on paper.

But back to breakfast cereals.

Despite whatever nutrients and even protein manufacturers add, cereal is predominantly a carbohydrate. Whether that cereal is chocolate nutty fruity pellets or Special K, it converts to mostly glucose in your body.

So here’s a particular scenario. (When I say “you,” I mean hypothetically, since I know you’re smarter than to fall into this trap.)

You see an ad that Special K can help you lose a certain amount of weight in two weeks. So your mornings start with a big bowl of this cereal in skim milk with a banana and a tall glass of orange juice.

All in all, about 300 calories with almost zero fat. And probably some nonsense about whole grains too. What’s not to love about this breakfast?


For one, you’ve raised your blood sugar levels. That triggers your pancreas to release insulin, which among its other duties, stores fat.

Around mid-morning, your blood sugar levels will crash, leaving you cranky and hungry.

Chances are, you’ll visit the snack machine for low-fat chips or whatever. Maybe you’ll head to Starbucks for a 600-calorie low-fat muffin with a skim-milk latte. Or you’ll pull out a 100-Calorie pack, which again spikes and crashes your blood sugar and releases insulin. You might be so ravenous that you cave to those jelly donuts your receptionist brought in.

Can you see the vicious cycle that’s playing out?

There’s more. Your body can’t store protein. Let’s say you got sufficient protein for dinner the night before. You’re looking at about 12 hours your body has gone without fuel.  Guess where your body’s going to get that protein? From the precious muscle you worked so hard to build at the gym.

To put things succinctly: when you eat cereal for breakfast, you’re setting yourself up for metabolic disaster all day. Fat burning is the last thing happening in your body.

I think most people habitually eat cereal because it’s a fast, easy breakfast. So I want to propose some healthy, fat-burning alternatives that take about the same amount of time as breakfast cereal:

  1. PaleoMeal – this fantastic meal-replacement powder from Designs for Health comes loaded with 17 grams of high-quality whey protein plus fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to keep you full and focused for hours.
  2. Eggs – keep some hard-boiled eggs in the fridge and you have instant breakfast.
  3. Nuts and seeds
  4. Leftovers – warm up last night’s salmon and spinach (or whatever you had) for a filling, delicious breakfast.
  5. Cottage cheese with walnuts
  6. Unsweetened Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries – particularly wonderful for summer mornings when it’s too humid to cook or do much else.
  7. Organic apple slices with almond butter




  1. Megan

    I’m allergic to all nuts, peanuts, and dairy…so I often find it difficult to come up with fast, easy, and healthy breakfast ideas. But I love the apples and peanut butter idea! In place of peanut butter, I use Once Again organic sunflower seed butter. Do you recommend this as a good alternative to nut butters?