© Deena Englard

Most people eat too much cereal for breakfast, but new research from Edge Hill University suggests the amount people put in their bowls depends on which cereal they are eating.  

A team of nutritionists from the University asked participants to pour ten different cereals into bowls and assessed the portion size for each cereal as well as the nutritional implications of under or overserving. 

The findings of the study – published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition – showed that certain cereals are poured in bigger quantities than others. Granola, often seen as a healthy choice, was the worst offender with some participants pouring up to three times the recommended daily amount. 

The research was led by Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Health Dr Tom Butler who said: “I don’t think many people take notice of portion sizes and this study proves that most of us don’t know what a portion of cereal looks like or how much it weighs. 

“While some cereals were worse than others for overpouring, the fact remains that the people in our study overpoured every type of cereal tested. This is especially worrying for some of the more sugary cereals where large portions can cause real problems.”  

Dr Tom Butler

The recommended portion sizes for cereal are usually between 30g to 40g but this new study has shown that most people regularly pour double or even triple that amount.  

Of the 10 cereals tested shredded wholegrains, granolas, and oats were the worst for overpouring which researchers put down to their higher density.  

In the study, granola contained the most saturated fat and calories out of all the cereals tested. With a median serving size of 95g, this meant that participants would consume approximately double the calories compared to the recommended portion size.  One participant in the study poured 300g of granola as their typical portion, equating to 42g of sugar, roughly 12g more than an entire days maximum recommended intake for an adult male.  

“It’s clear something has got to change because current recommended portion sizes aren’t working. There is a challenge with this – do companies revise the recommended cereal portions to bring them in line with what people expect or could food manufacturers improve the nutrient profile of cereals so that people can continue to eat the cereals they love.”  

Dr Butler also found that the three worst cereals for overpouring also contain the most fibre, something that the majority of people don’t get enough of in their diets. He concludes that cereals could be reformulated to contain more fibre and less sugar, making them healthier and therefore increasing the amount of fibre eaten.  

Cereals have been reformulated before, specifically reducing the sugar content. Whilst reductions are promising, Dr Butler feels this still is not enough.  

Encouraging manufacturers to reformulate cereals and improving their nutritional properties could have a whole range of benefits including reduced heath implications and a better start to the day.  

Edge Hill offers a wide variety of applied health and social care courses which look at aspects of nutrition, psychology, public health, and wellbeing. To find out more visit the course page – www.edgehill.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/health-and-social-care/.