Switch from Sugary Cereals to Cereals Scored Highest in Nutritional Quality

Cereal data was taken from cerealfacts.org. The data used for the intervention was developed by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, in consultation with a steering committee of experts on nutrition and food marketing. Using the Nutrient Profiling Model, they scored cereals on the basis of ingredients within cereals, including energy, saturated fat, sugar, sodium, fiber, fruits, and vegetables.

For this specific intervention, the average of the top 10 and bottom 10 cereals by nutrition score were used. In order to standardize the measurements, the caloric information per gram was calculated. Then, the average grams per cup of the cereal for all 19 cereals was calculated (cup serving size was not available for one cereal)—39.2 grams per cup.

The calories per gram for the top 10 and bottom 10 were averaged separately. For the top 10, the average calories per gram was 3.3; for the bottom 10, the average calories per gram was 4.0. To arrive at calories per cup, the average of the calories per gram for top 10 and bottom 10 was multiplied by the grams per cup value (39.2 grams per cup). Cups (roughly the size of a baseball or fist) were selected as the serving size in the tool, as they are easier to visualize than the gram weight measurement, which varies widely by cup size depending on nutritional content and cereal density.

Though not included in the calculations, data on the average amount of cereal consumed for each age and sex group were analyzed from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2007-2010. For reference, below is a breakdown by age and sex for: (1) the percent of each group that consume cereal, (2) average grams consumed per first serving, and (3) average number of cups per first serving, standardized as described above (39.2 grams per cup).

Please note that within NHANES, the first cereal serving may take place at any point in the day, including lunch or dinner. Also, the below averages reflect solely the first serving and do not take into account if an individual consumes cereal for more than a single meal.

Sex Age Group % of Group that
Consume Cereal
Avg. Grams
Per Serving
Avg. Cups
Per 39.2 g
Both     2-5 48.41 24.9 g 0.64
Boys     2-5 47.32 25.2 g 0.64
Girls     2-5 49.64 24.6 g 0.63
Both     6-11 39.49 36.6 g 0.93
Boys     6-11 40.15 36.3 g 0.93
Girls     6-11 38.79 36.9 g 0.94
Both     12-14 34.45 45.3 g 1.16
Boys     12-14 35.49 51.9 g 1.32
Girls     12-14 33.54 39.2 g 1.0
Both     15-18 26.57 45.0 g 1.15
Boys     15-18 26.12 48.8 g 1.25
Girls     15-18 27.0 41.6 g 1.06

This intervention assumes no compensation, meaning the individual is simply removing this meal from their daily diet. If the meal is replaced by another food item, the caloric impact will be reduced. Additionally, it should be noted that there may be an added benefit in switching from sugary cereals to cereals with the highest nutritional score; while nutritionally-high cereals are more dense, and thus, may contain more calories for the same serving size, they contain more nutrients.

* The Average Caloric Impact (ACI) for this intervention is modeled based on published data from Cereal FACTS.

Studies Used in Estimates

Cereal FACTS. Nutrition Profiling Model: Appendix B. N.d.

Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. Limited Progress in the Nutrition Quality and Marketing of Children's Cereals. 2012.