Cereal and serving sizes

I used to be a cereal junkie – I would not only have cereal for breakfast, but I would often times have for lunch, an afternoon snack, a bedtime snack and sometimes, for supper. Okay, not all in the same day, though. I liked it because it was quick and easy and I thought, healthy. I was wrong. Sort of.

Sometimes, I would eat the good-for-you stuff like Cheerios, Wheaties, Shredded Wheat (yes, it was frosted!), Grape Nuts, Raisin Bran and such. And sometimes, I would eat the not-so-good stuff like Lucky Charms, Cap’N Crunch (the peanut butter variety), Cocoa Pebbles, Fruit Loops and more.

When I ate cereal, I would grab a bowl out of the cupboard – the one that came with our set of dishes, not some mongo bowl we bought separately because ours were too small and we wanted mongo-sized bowls. Nope, these were "thee bowls" that came with our set. Every time I poured the cereal, I never really paid attention to how much could actually fit in those mongo-sized bowls. I have one word: WOW!

Until yesterday. I was reading something on the Hungry Girl website about the serving sizes of different food items and I think cereal was mentioned, which made me think a little. (Yes, I do that from time to time.) Have you ever actually looked at what the serving size is for the cereal you’ve been eating? I was shocked. The ranges of serving sizes for the five boxes of cereal we have in our cupboard (my son and husband are still cereal junkies!) went from a half a cup to one cup, but the serving size most used was three-fourths of a cup. Yep, just a measly 3/4 cup. Really, who eats just three-fourths of a cup of cereal?

So, just for fun, I took out one of our mongo-sized bowls and poured a typical "Celeste-sized" amount of my son’s Lucky Charms into it. Then, I took the cereal and poured it into a giant-sized measuring cup. Giant-sized as in a glass, four-cup measuring device. Want to know how much was in that typical "Celeste-sized" bowl? You might be surprised.

First, I will tell you that I was shocked. I mean really, I thought our bowls were averaged-sized bowls. Like I said, they came with our set. But I guess looking back on it, we did go out and buy smaller – yes, I said, smaller – bowls because the ones we had were good for soup and such, but when we used to eat ice cream, we could go through a whole 1.5 quart container after serving up three bowls for my husband, my son and myself. So, yeah, I guess they are THAT big, which is good and bad I guess, depending on what you are eating. Ice cream, bad. Broccoli, good.

Anyway, the serving size on the box of Lucky Charms was three-fourths of a cup. 3/4 of a cup. The amount in the bowl? Three cups. Yes, 3 cups…….four times the serving size. FOUR! I seriously couldn’t believe it. A serving size – the 3/4 cup one – has 110 calories, 1 gram of fat and 1 gram of fiber. OK, the fat and fiber aren’t that bad, but take the calories and multiply that by four and it adds up. Especially, when sometimes, I wouldn’t eat just one bowl. Hmmm, no wonder I was at the store buying cereal what seemed like all the time. I really was buying it all the time. And no wonder I wasn’t ever losing weight.

After finding out how much was in the bowl, I immediately went to my Weight Watchers website and punched in a typical serving size – 3/4 cup – of Lucky Charms. It was only two points. Not bad, I thought. Then, I typed in three cups, which is the amount in the bowl, and it was 8.5 points. YIKES.

I honestly believe that cereal is one of those foods that people just eat and don’t even think about. I don’t think there are too many people out there who actually eat just one serving of their favorite brand. I mean, really, why would anyone eat just 3/4 cup of Lucky Charms. If I am going to eat cereal, I want enough to make it worth it. Come on, really? Three-fourths? I don’t think so. That’s like eating three bites, isn’t it?

Now, I should have mentioned I had no intentions of eating the cereal, I was just using it as an experiment. So, I poured it back into the box, closed it up tightly and put it back in the cupboard. My son will have no clue I tampered with his cereal! :-)

After checking out the Lucky Charms, I decided to check into a few others. Here’s what I found. A serving size of Grape Nuts consists of 200 calories, 1 gram of fat and 7 grams of fiber. I used to eat Grape Nuts on a regular basis, not only because I thought it was uber healthy, but because I really loved the taste, especially when I would cut up a banana on it. A 1/2 cup serving has 3 WW points. I guarantee you that I never ate just a 1/2 cup portion. Two cups of Grapes Nuts, however, has 15.5 points and three cups, which I am sure I ate on more than one occasion, has a whopping 23.5 points. Seriously, and I used to eat it all the time. Thank goodness I don’t anymore. 

Here’s some more: Wheaties – 3/4 cup = 1 point, 3 cups = 7.5 points; Cheerios – 1 cup = 2 points, 3 cups = 5.5 ponts; Cap’N Crunch, 3/4 cup = 2 points, 3 cups = 9 points; Frosted Shredded Wheat – 1 cup = 3 points, 3 cups = 10.5 points; Cocoa Pebbles – 3/4 = 2 points, 3 cups = 8.5 points and Raisin Bran, 1 cup = 3 points, 3 cups = 11 points.

So next time you reach for a box of cereal, just out the facts first and make sure your measuring cups are nearby or, just make sure you’re not using a mongo-sized bowl!

P.S. Check out the Confessions of a Fat Girl Facebook page and see what people have to say about the question I posted on cereal.

4 thoughts on “Cereal and serving sizes

  1. Those serving sizes are small! I used to set my bowl on a scale, tare it, and measure a serving out by weight. The label gives both volume and weight serving sizes. It’s interesting that for large flaked cereals like “Wheaties,” that when you get to the bottom of the box and get into the broken pieces, they are much more dense, and a serving size will be much smaller when going by weight.

  2. I really enjoyed this article!! In 2002 I lost over 50 lbs in 8 months on weight watchers—all these years later, I have finally gained 22 of that back(not really from over eating—from not moving around enough to burn it off) and am going to go back on weight watchers to get it OFF again. What I want to say about this article is—-3 cups of your favorite cereal is STILL less points than a Big Mac—or a Double Cheeseburger–or a giant slice of pizza. LOL—so, being a cereal lover also—I’d rather have 10 points of cereal than 8 points of cheeseburger–it just seems like more food! :) I DO believe in using your smallest bowls and using salad plates for other food—-it just makes you feel as if your serving size is bigger when it takes up a lot of space.

  3. I like kelloggs 2 scoop raisin bran cereal, but when I use the measuring cup it is a smaller serving than if I weight out the 55 gram serving listed on the box.. which is the correct amount. I am on the WW points system. I find this true for a lot of cereals.. I use the 55 grms serving, but am wondering if it is too much.
    Thanks for any insight here..

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