Cereal killers


Cereal killer: how cereal serving sizes really measure up – and why bowl size can matter most

Part of the obesity crisis can be blamed on overinflated portion sizes. And for many of us, this starts early in the day when we open the cereal box and start to pour.

Breakfast cereals feature in around 60% of breakfasts – but a lot of us are simply eating far too much.

The serving sizes on cereal packets seem to resemble fantasy more than truth. On average, the recommended portion is 40g – yet when you tip this amount into a bowl, it can look a bit sparse.


Emma Clarke MSc, nutritionist for weight loss App, Nutracheck, is not surprised by the findings.

“We tried a little experiment asking people to pour a 40g portion of 3 popular breakfast cereals. Pretty much everyone served themselves way too much:

  • Muesli – 91% of people overestimated
  • Sultana Bran – 65% overestimated
  • Cheerios – 33% overestimated


 “We eat with our eyes, relying on visual cues – people pay more attention to the proportion of the bowl filled rather than the actual amount of cereal in it.

“The habit of using a visual clue for eating, rather than being conscious of satiety – how full you feel – is a tough one to break. The simplest solution is to swap to a smaller bowl and always weigh out your cereal.

“Breakfast gives the body fuel after an overnight fast – skip breakfast and you’re effectively running on empty. You’re far more likely to reach for high sugar mid-morning snacks, so a bowl of cereal can be a good start to your day – just be aware of how much you’re eating, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.”



  • James says:


    This is so true. Since using the Nutrachecker app I found that I was doing exactly this. My portion sizes for cereal (which I believed were good for me!) was actually causing me to eat nearly 800 calories before 8am!

    It’s very true though that a 40g serving of say muesli or granola doesn’t look much so it doesn’t hurt too much if sometimes you have 80g. Just bear in mind that you’re going to be eating more calories. Don’t be tempted to put loads of milk on either.. an 80g portion of granola doesn’t need a typical portion of milk for cereal (usually 125ml). You can probably get away with 80ml instead.

    Whatever you do, just ensure that you don’t skip breakfast completely! Those cakes that go round the office are doing far more damage than a bowl of cereal!

  • Susi Cave says:

    So true, I’ve switched to Quaker Oats super goodness, already measured, quick and super delicious!

  • G Holway says:

    Measure muesliwith dessert spoons if you don’t want to weigh all the time. You can’t do much damage with 3 dessert spoonsful of muesli, 125g of most yogurts (a small pot) and whatever fruit takes your fancy.

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