/ Food & Drink, Health

Oh sugar! Why can’t breakfast cereals be healthier?

Cereal boxes

Our latest look at breakfast cereals shows that many are improving when it comes to salt but there’s still too much sugar in most. How easy do you find it to choose a healthy option for your morning bowl?

Which? has just carried out a survey of breakfast cereals. We’ve done this several times over the last few years and I’m always surprised at how difficult it can be to find healthier choices among the vast numbers of cereals on offer – particularly when they portray such a healthy image.

This time we found that 32 out of the 50 cereals we looked at were high in sugar. In only two cases was this due to the fruit they contained; for the rest it was added sugar.

Sugar up, salt down

It’s particularly disturbing how few healthy choices are marketed to children – 12 out of the 14 we looked at were high in sugar (Rice Krispies and Weetabix were the only exceptions). Surely it can’t be so difficult to put a cartoon character on healthier choices?

Salt was a more encouraging story and it is clear that most manufacturers have been making reductions. Just eight weren’t yet meeting the salt targets set for the end of 2012 and many had made quite significant reductions since we last looked at cereals in 2009.

We could tell all of this because we compared like with like and added traffic light colour-coding to the nutrient levels in the cereals. But this isn’t something you can do in the supermarket as labelling is so often inconsistent.

For example, eight of the fifty had no front-of-pack nutrition labelling and only 14 included traffic lights. Different serving sizes added to the confusion, as did claims about healthier aspects of some cereals (such as being low in fat) when they were high in sugar.

Breakfast should be easier than this. So isn’t it time cereal manufacturers started to produce a wider range of healthier products and labelled them simply and clearly so that you can easily spot them?


My daily breakfast cereal is Sainsburys “taste the difference” porridge with half a chopped grapefruit – no added sugar, salt or milk – very tasty and low energy release.. Found all other cereals far too sweet.

hoppingpinkrabbit says:
16 February 2012

I have the dorsets rolled porridge oat sachets (30g) I have them in sachets because they are measured for me and I am that lazy! They don’t have anything added, not even soy or milk. I have this with water and a pinch of salt, and have with this however much green tea I can tollerate (which isn’t much!) I have problems with digesting dairy so sadly cannot have a milky tea which would otherwise have been my choice but I know milk itself has sugar so maybe this is a benefit of having a weak digestive system! I like to think what I eat there is low in sugar.


I have a robust digestive system 🙂 But I don’t eat potatoes or drink either tea or coffee with sugar or milk.


Try unsweetened soya milk.



I did – I gagged – and threw the rest away 🙂

30 years ago I used to have traditional toast sausages and egg breakfasts – I was a little overweight – changed to Sainsburys porridge (don’t like texture of some popular brands) – I lost 30 lbs – never put it back.

Alison Morris-Jones says:
26 June 2018

Have you tried lacto free milk? I’ve spent over 50yrs not able to digest milk until I tried that less than a year ago & now I can have loads of milk on my cereal like a normal person instead of crunching it dry, with not the trace of a stomach ache afterwards. It even tastes ok & the smell of normal milk turns my stomach let alone the taste, although I have been adding a sprinkle of cinnamon because milk has been such a disgusting nightmare for me for so many years I needed to disguise it a little. To most people its probably a silly insignificant thing but I really look forward to my bowl of milky shreaded wheat now, instead of crunching boring dry cornflakes.


It’s quite common for adults to suffer from lactose intolerance even if they could digest it when they were younger: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lactose-intolerance/ Fortunately many people can cope with small amounts of milk or other products containing lactose.

Once you find shredded wheat boring you could try some proper muesli. Watch out for Swiss-style muesli which is pretty ghastly and more importantly for you, full of milk powder.


I suppose that I must have eaten this rubbish when I was young but now I have a bowl of muesli instead and don’t feel hungry two hours later.


Interesting – I don’t consider porridge “rubbish” but nourishing – I don’t feel hungry for two hours either.