Breakfast cereals ranked best to worst

We’ve ranked the most popular cereals from best to worst based on their nutritional value – in particular added sugar, fibre content, salt. Read on to get your day off to a heart-healthy start.

1. Porridge

porridge with blueberries

Porridge is our top choice for a heart healthy breakfast – when it is made with low-fat milk or water and unsweetened.  All porridge oats are wholegrains and they all contain a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which can help lower your cholesterol level if you have 3g or more of it daily, as part of a healthy diet. (A 40g serving of porridge oats contains 1.6g of beta-glucan.) As well as this, you’ll be getting the fibre from the whole grains, plus there is no added sugar or salt.

Make sure you don’t add extra sugar or salt to your porridge as this will undo all your good work – instead, try adding a banana or some fruit for extra sweetness. For every 80g that you add it will be  one of your 5-a-day at the same time.

A serving of porridge made with 40g of oats and semi-skimmed milk contains:  

Energy 1016kJ / 241kcal, 12% of your Reference Intake (RI)                          
Fat 6.2g, 9% of your RI
Saturates 2.5g, 13% of your RI
Sugars 8.2g, 9% of your RI
Salt 0.2g, 3% of your RI

A 40g serving of oats (not made up) contains:
Energy  645kJ / 152kcal, 7.6% of your RI
Fat 3.2g, 5% of your RI
Saturates 0.5g, 2.6% of your RI
Sugars 0.1g, 0.1% of your RI
Salt <0.01g, <1% of your RI

2. No added sugar or salt muesli

no added sugar muesli 

No added sugar muesli  contains a mixture of  grains, fruit and nuts and the combination will differ between brands and varieties so the amount of oat beta glucans will be more variable than porridge, which is made only of oats. The dried fruit that is added should provide all the additional sweetness you need and will also count towards your five a day but choose a muesli with no added sugar and be aware that many fruit and nut mueslis (especially tropical fruit versions) contain sweetened dried fruit, which means they have sugar added even if it isn’t listed separately  on the ingredients. Banana chips are another popular muesli ingredient that will contain added sugars and saturated fats.

A 50g Swiss-style no added sugar or salt muesli serving contains: 
Energy 758kJ / 179kcal, 9% of your RI
Fat 2.9g, 4% of your RI
Saturates 0.6g, 3% of your RI
Sugars 6.5g, 7% of your RI
Salt 0.08g, 1%

3. Shredded whole wheat cereal

shredded wheat 

Shredded whole wheat cereal with low-fat milk is the best choice of conventional breakfast cereals, because it doesn’t contain any added sugar or salt, and is high in fibre. Watch out, though, for the kind with fruit fillings, which may contain added sugar, or that are ‘frosted’ as they will almost certainly will have sugar added. Instead try adding fresh fruit such as a banana or berries for sweetness. 

A 45g serving contains:
Energy 688kJ / 163kcal, 8% of your RI
Fat 1.0g, 1% of your RI
Saturates 0.2g, 1% of your RI
Sugars 0.3g, <1% of your RI
Salt 0.02g, <1% of your RI

4. Bran flakes

Bran flakes 

Wholegrain cereals like bran flakes, malted wheat cereal  and wheat biscuits are high in fibre and will also have sugar and salt added to them usually, so avoid adding any more sugar and opt for fruits or berries for sweetness. The wholegrains mean they are high in fibre and so have benefits for your digestion too as well as your heart health.

For a ready to eat cereal that is an even more heart-healthy start to the day, swap for a shredded whole wheat cereal or no added sugar or salt muesli (see above) as these don’t contain any added sugar or salt.

A 30g serving contains:
Energy 425kJ / 100kcal, 5.0% of your RI
Fat 0.7g, 1.0% of your RI
Saturates 0.1g, 1% of your RI
Sugars 6.3g, 7% of your RI 
Salt 0.27g, 5% of your RI

5. Cornflakes

corn flakes 

Cereals like cornflakes or puffed rice served with with low-fat milk – can be part of a healthy breakfast but are low in fibre so not as good a choice as a wholegrain cereal. Adding a a piece of fruit will help to balance your breakfast as well as making it more filling to eat. These cereals, and their wholegrain equivalents, usually come with added sugar and salt but also often have added vitamins and minerals which are good for your overall health. Other low-fibre unsweetened cereals (like crisped rice or malted flakes) will be similar from a heart health point of view.

Salt levels do vary between the brands so make sure you check the nutritional labels before you buy.

A 30g serving contains:
Energy 481kJ / 113kcal, 6.0 % of your RI
Fat 0.2g, 0% of your RI
Saturates <0.1g, 0% of your RI 
Sugars 2.2g, 2% of your RI
Salt 0.13g, 2% of your RI

6. Muesli with added sugar

muesli with added sugar 

Most people naturally believe muesli to be healthy, and it does have a lot to commend it, but if you don’t check that you’re buying one with no added sugar or salt it can contain almost as much sugar as a bowl of frosted flakes. You’ll still get some health benefits from the nuts, grains and fruit but these are offset by the sugar, so be sure to always choose no-added sugar muesli.

A 50g serving contains:
Energy 755kJ / 183kcal, 9% of your RI
Fat 3.1g, 5% of your RI
Saturates 0.7g, 3% of your RI
Sugars 10.6g, 12% of your RI
Salt 0.17, 3%

  • See our infographic of how much sugar is in different foods

6. Sugar-frosted cornflakes

sugar frosted flakes 

Sugar-frosted cornflakes are high in sugar and low in  fibre as well as usually coming with added salt.  Sugar-frosted flakes are usually nutritionally similar to other sweetened cereals like chocolate rice cereals, or honey-nut coated cereals. Swapping to an unsweetened equivalent, like cornflakes or puffed rice, would be a good first step and add a serving of fruit for one of your five- a-day plus some added sweetness.

A 30g serving contains:
Energy 447kJ / 105kcal, 5% of your RI
Fat 0.2g, < 1% of your RI
Saturates <0.1, < 1% of your RI
Sugars 11.5g, 13% of your RI
Salt 0.2g, 4% of your RI

7. Granola with dried fruit, nuts or seeds

granola 

This sounds healthy but isn’t, as it’s high in fat and sugar. An average portion of granola with nuts is 60g, which without milk packs in 270 kcal and 12.3g fat of which 2.8g is saturated fat. Serve this with 125ml of full fat milk and this adds another 81 kcal and 4.6g of fat of which 2.9g is saturated fat.  Which why it made our list of 12 foods you wouldn’t believe are so fatty

Why not try swapping granola for heart-healthy no-added sugar muesli?

A 60g serving contains:
Energy 1135kJ / 270kcal, 14% of your RI
Fat 13.3g, 19% of your RI
Saturates 2.7g, 14% of your RI
Sugars 10.8g, 12% of your RI
Salt <0.01, < 1% of your RI

8. Granola with chocolate

chocolate granola 

Granola with chocolate has all the same issues that regular granola has, in that it's high in fat and sugar, but with added chocolate - so even more fat and more sugar! Granola with chocolate is best enjoyed as an occasional treat.

A 50g serving contains:
Energy 924kJ / 220kcal, 11% RI
Fat 15g, 21% RI
Saturates 6.8g, 34% RI
Sugars 24g, 27% RI
Salt 0.5g, 8% RI

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