The cereal sections at supermarkets often take over most of an aisle and deciding which one to buy can be overwhelming.
But what are the differences, really? We compared five corn-based cereals, ranging from generic to all-natural, to get to the bottom of the bowl:
With all of the cereal boxes lined up in a row, we were surprised to discover that, despite differences in box sizes, the volume of product inside was either 12 or 13 ounces. (The exception here was the generic box of corn flakes, with a whopping 18 ounces of cereal.)
The difference is that lighter cereals, such as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, are packaged with more air to prevent breakage, while denser, less fragile cereals, such as Barbara’s Bakery’s Puffins, can be packaged in more compact boxes.
VERDICT: When shopping for cereal, size doesn’t matter. Instead, compare price to volume.
GENERIC vs. ICONIC
So how can White Rose, the generic corn flakes manufacturer, provide 18 ounces of flakes for just $2.59? The answer is in the cereal’s base: degermed yellow corn meal. Comparatively, Kellogg’s uses milled corn in its corn flakes.
While you may not notice a huge difference while you’re scarfing down your morning breakfast, Kellogg’s corn flakes are a deeper golden color and have a better overall texture than the generic brand, whose flakes tend to be smaller and less crinkled, and get soggy quicker.
VERDICT: Corn flake lovers, if it truly matters, spend the extra dollars on the name brand.
MOTHER-APPROVED VS. CANDY-COATED
One of General Mills’ most enduring cereals, Kix, is synonymous with its trademark slogan, “Kid tested, mother approved.” However, another General Mills’ corn puff cereal, Reese’s Puffs, isn’t significantly less healthy.
We’re talking 10 calories difference, and trivial differences in most other categories on the nutritional label. (Both also are fortified with vitamins and minerals.) While Reese’s Puffs does have 12 g sugar to Kix’s 3 g, considering the fact that most plain yogurts have double-digit sugar levels, you’re not in bad company.
VERDICT: If you have a sweet tooth, it’s better to indulge in a relatively low-sugar breakfast cereal than a post-dinner dessert, where sugar and fat contents skyrocket.
So how does a corn cereal from a boutique, health-conscious
manufacturer compare to the others?
Barbara’s Bakery’s Original Puffins cereal, which claims to be “high fiber, low fat and wheat free,” wins for calories (90 cal) and fiber (5 g) per serving. It also gets bonus points for using unsulphered molasses as a sweetner – no sugar or corn syrup. On the other hand, Puffins is the only cereal not fortified with vitamins or minerals. And some might say it tastes pretty healthy (read: bland). (Cinnamon Puffins have a much bolder flavor.)
VERDICT: If unrefined sources of sugar are a top priority, opt for Puffins, with its lightly-sweet, grown-up taste.
“To help keep you full, you want to increase your fiber and protein,” said Elizabeth Stein, NYC-based holistic nutrition advisor and creator of the Purely Elizabeth wholesome baking mixes. Stein suggested sprinkling on super food seeds: flax, chia and hemp seeds, which make a very little change in taste.