Cheerios Protein Has Slightly More Protein, More Sugar Than Regular Cheerios

If you follow current food trends, you know that Americans are losing interest in breakfast cereal, but can’t get enough protein. Cereal companies see those trends, and are ready to respond with new products to entice customers back to their aisle. For example, General Mills started a line called Cheerios Protein to supplement their classic Cheerios. The problem: while Cheerios Protein has more protein per serving, it also has a lot more sugar.

The new cereal is denser than plain Cheerios. A serving of the “Oats & Honey” flavor of the new cereal is 1.25 cups, which comes in at 210 calories. One and a quarter cups of Cheerios, meanwhile, has 125 calories. If you’re measuring the amount of protein in each cereal by calorie count, Cheerios Protein barely has more protein. Yet it’s loaded up with sugar: standard Cheerios have 1 gram of sugar per serving, and Cheerios Protein have 17.

Maybe Cheerios Protein is just a catchier name than Sugar-Blasted Protein Circles. All of the sugar-containing products, which include brown sugar, sugar, corn syrup, caramel, honey, and refiner’s syrup, are there to give the cereal flavor when it has protein-adding ingredients such as ground lentils and soy protein. The “clusters” of Cheerios Protein also make the cereal more calorie-dense, but that density comes from sugar.

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We learned about the weird differences between Cheerio varieties from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is behind a class action lawsuit against General Mills. Other than the sugar issue, the nutrition-policing nonprofit also points out that while the cereal is promoted as providing 11 grams of protein, it contains only seven. Eleven grams would include the half-cup of milk that’s considered part of the serving size. Is that misleading?

The initial complaint says that the lead plaintiffs both bought Cheerios Protein assuming that they were, you know, Cheerios with some extra protein.

She believed that consuming Cheerios Protein would deliver substantially more protein than consuming original Cheerios. She would not have purchased Cheerios Protein had she understood the true nutritional profile of the product.

Somehow, “Sugar-Blasted Lentil Circles” doesn’t have the same healthy ring or brand recognition as “Cheerios Protein.”

Coe et al. v. General Mills Inc. [Complaint] (PDF)