Oatmeal vs Cereal – Which is Better? Let’s Compare

Oatmeal and the wide variety of breakfast cereals are two of the most popular breakfast options. Some cereals are considered healthy causing many people to wonder if they can match oatmeal. Let’s answer, is oatmeal better than cereal?

Oatmeal is better than cereal due to its higher percentage of minerals, vitamins, fiber and benefits. Oatmeal doesn’t contain additives or preservatives which cereals contain. Oatmeal makes people feel fuller due to its better satiety score. Breakfast cereals contain more unhealthy sugar and sodium than oatmeal.

This article will include a side-by-side nutrient comparison of healthy cereals and oatmeal. In addition, I’ll compare their costs, glycemic index and satiety index.

As a Certified Health Coach many of my clients have asked me about both foods. For this reason, I’ve researched both foods for clients and my own personal use prior to and during writing this article. I also consume both for many years and continue to do so.

Oatmeal made by Kevin Garce and cereal
Oatmeal on the left and cereal on the right

Pros and Cons

Oatmeal Pros

  • Served warm and considered a comfort food.
  • Make you feel full longer.
  • More complete nutrient profile than cereal.
  • Less sugar and sodium.
  • No preservatives or additives.
  • More affordable.
  • Oats are naturally gluten free.

Oatmeal Cons

  • Take longer to prepare.
  • Tastes bland and often needs additional ingredients to taste better.

Cereal Pros

  • Served quickly.
  • Dry cereal is easy to take on the go as a snack.
  • Tastes sweeter and has more flavor.
  • Healthier options available.

Cereal Cons

  • Contain more sugar and sodium.
  • Contain additives and preservatives which oatmeal doesn’t contain.
  • Costs more.
  • Less filling.
  • Most cereals are not gluten free.

The following video compares both foods and determines which is better:

Oatmeal vs Cereal: Nutrient Comparison

Have you ever noticed how long the cereal aisle is in a supermarket? There are so many brands and types or cereals it’s impossible to compare them all to oatmeal.

Therefore, I picked a common cereal known to most as a healthy alternative to the typical high sugar options, Special K. In addition, I chose an even healthier option, Kashi, which I often eat when I don’t have the time to make oatmeal.

I didn’t find any reason to choose a high sugar option most kids like to eat. I’m unsure anybody would think one of those is as healthy as oatmeal. So, I left out my two childhood favorites, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms.

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of the nutrients contained in one cup of Special K, Kashi original and regular cooked oatmeal.

  Oatmeal (1 cup)

 

Cooked

Special K (1 cup)

 

Original

Kashi Cereal (1 cup)

 

Original

Calories 166 117 179
Protein 5.94 g 5.52 g 9.8 g
Carbohydrates 28.1 g 22.8 g 38.5 g
Fiber 3.98 g 0.43 g 10.5 g
Fat 3.56 g 0.55 g 1.79 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 mg 0 mg 
Sugar 0.63 g 3.94 g 8.58 g
Sodium 9.36 mg 207 mg 125 mg
Vitamin A 0 IU 0 IU 0 IU
Beta-carotene 0 mcg 0 mcg 0 mcg
Vitamin C 0 mg 21.1 mg 0 mg
Vitamin D 0 mcg 1.02 mcg 0 mcg
Vitamin B6 0.005 mg 2.00 mg 0.07 mg
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 14 mcg 400 mcg 55 mcg
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) 0.17 mg 0.52 mg 0.12 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.03 mg 0.59 mg 0.05 mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 0.52 mg 7.01 mg 0.88 mg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) 0.72 mg 0.01 mg 0.01 mg
Magnesium 63 mg  4 mg  52 mg
Phosphorous 180 mg  15 mg  157 mg
Potassium 164 mg 16 mg 179 mg
Iron 2.11 mg 8.68 mg 2.51 mg
Copper 0.17 mg 0.05 mg 0.54 mg
Calcium 21 mg 7 mg 80 mg
Zinc 2.34 mg 0.21 mg 0.88 mg

Nutrient Resources 1 2 3

The cereals give oatmeal pretty stiff competition and contain many of the same types of nutrients. This causes many people to ask, which is healthier?

Oatmeal is healthier than cereal due to its complete nutritional profile and fewer sugars and sodium. Cereal contains additives, colorings and preservatives oatmeal doesn’t contain. Oatmeal has a better satiety score which makes you feel full longer and eat less later. Oatmeal has a lower glycemic score than most cereals.

If we’re comparing Kashi original cereal and cooked oatmeal straight up, Kashi has the better nutritional profile. Kashi original provides a higher percentage of protein, fiber, B vitamins and most minerals.

Although Kashi does have some additives listed on the nutrient label and contains more sugar and sodium. I do eat Kashi on some mornings I don’t have much time to prepare oatmeal.

Overnight oats retain more of their nutrients and contain more than regular cooked oatmeal and Kashi. Check out how many more nutrients in my article, Overnight Oats vs Oatmeal: What’s The Difference? We Compare.

Here’s another video comparing the nutrients and more in both breakfast foods:

I personally choose oatmeal over cereal most days of the week. Sometimes I’ll eat Kashi cereal when I don’t have much time to prepare food.

Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 4. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes 5

Knowing the GI of the food consumed is important especially if blood sugar levels are a concern.

How blood sugar levels are affected:

  • Foods with a glycemic index 70 or more cause a quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
  • Foods with a glycemic index 56 to 69 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
  • Foods with a glycemic index 55 or less cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.

How foods on the GI scale are categorized as:

  • Low-GI foods: 55 or under
  • Medium-GI foods: 56-69
  • High-GI foods: 70 or over

Knowing how important the glycemic index (GI) is, and how it affects blood sugar, let’s answer, which of the two foods has a higher GI?

The glycemic index of most cereals is higher than oatmeal. Corn flakes have a GI of 93. Grape nuts have a GI of 75. Special K has a GI of 69. Wheat bran cereals have a GI of 55 or less. Rolled oats have a GI of 55 and steel cut oats have a GI under 55. 

The table below shows the glycemic index of some cereals and oatmeal from high to low:

Breakfast Cereals Glycemic Index
Cornflakes 93
Grape Nuts 75
Special K 69
Wheat bran Cereals 55 or less
Rolled oats 55
Steel cut oats 55 or less
Instant oatmeal 79

Find out how Cream of Wheat compared in my article, Cream of Wheat vs Oatmeal: What’s The Difference? We Compare.

Satiety Index

The satiety index is a scale showing how full a person feels after eating a certain food. It was developed in 1995 from a study which tested 38 foods.

Foods scoring under 100 are considered less filling and foods scoring above 100 are considered more filling 6.

The table below shows the satiety scores of eggs, oatmeal and a few other breakfast cereals.

Breakfast Food w/milk Satiety Index Score
Muesli 100%
Sustain 112%
Special K 116%
Cornflakes 118%
Eggs 150%
All-Bran 151%
Oatmeal w/milk 209%

Oatmeal has a better satiety index score than cereal meaning it will make you feel fuller longer. Oatmeal has a satiety index score of 209%. Breakfast cereals have a satiety score from 112% to 151%.

Of all the 38 total foods, oatmeal scored the fourth highest only beat by oranges, ling fish and boiled potatoes. Of the seven breakfast cereals with milk, oatmeal scored the best.

The best breakfast cereal, All-Bran, had a satiety index score of 151%. Of the 38 foods All-Bran scored the 13th best and the 2nd best of the breakfast foods.

Oatmeal has a high satiety score for the following reasons:

  1. High in fiber
  2. High in protein.
  3. High in volume (foods containing a lot of water or air).
  4. Low in energy density (foods low in calories for their weight).

Find out how brown rice compared in my article, Brown Rice vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.

a bowl of breakfast cereal with blueberries
Blueberries make any cereal better

Taste and Texture

Many times, people will pick a particular food over the other for its taste. To break the boredom, it’s not always about the nutrients. Cravings and moods have to be satisfied sometimes also.

Since both are breakfast foods, many people wonder how their tastes compare.

Oatmeal and cereal have different tastes and textures. Oatmeal is bland compared to cereal which has more flavor and sweetness due to added sugar and sodium. Some healthier cereals taste bland like oatmeal but are less earthy. Oatmeal has a creamier texture than the drier, more crunchy cereal.

Cereal will get soggier and less crunchy if it sits in milk for a longer time.

Instant or quick oatmeal have a creamier texture than the chewier rolled or steel cut oats.

To conduct some original research, I polled people in food groups and some of my readers. I asked, do you prefer the taste of oatmeal or cereal for breakfast?

  • 66% said they preferred the taste of oatmeal.
  • 30% said they preferred the taste of cereal.
  • 4% said they had no preference.

For more research I’d thought it would be fun to setup and conduct my own taste test at home. 75% of us chose oatmeal in the taste test.

Oatmeal was the winner in the battle of taste in the poll and my own taste test.

Find out which one has the better satiety in my article, Grits vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.

Gluten-Free

Oats are naturally gluten-free although some oats made for oatmeal may come into contact with gluten products, or cross-contamination is possible with machinery or during storage. Always check the label of your oatmeal for the gluten free label.

Most breakfast cereals found in the supermarket are not gluten free. There is one exception, Cherrios which is labeled gluten free and is made from whole grain oats.

Important: Although oats and granola made from just oats and honey are gluten free, they may come in contact with gluten-containing grains in storage or during transportation. Most of the Quaker products have solved this issue and label those products gluten free. Always check the label of your food products to determine if its gluten free.

Find out how quinoa compared in my article, Quinoa vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.

A woman eating a bowl of oatmeal
Eating oatmeal in the morning

The Prices

With inflation skyrocketing it seems every trip to the supermarket results in the price higher than the last time. In addition, it seems I have less groceries in my cart.

If you would like to spend less money at the supermarket, then the cost of food certainly matters. In some situations, the price may sway your decision about which food to choose more often. Therefore, let’s compare the prices of both foods.

Cereal costs 190% more than oatmeal per serving. The average price for oatmeal is $0.18 per 40 gram serving. The average price for cereal is $0.53 per serving. 

To conduct more original research, I searched the following two supermarkets to compare the price of both.

First, I visited the Shoprite supermarket:

  • Wholesome Pantry Organic old-fashioned regular oatmeal
    • $2.49 per 18 oz container (13 servings) equaling $0.19 per 40 g serving.
  • Special K Original
    • $5.29 per 19 oz box (9 servings) equaling $0.59 per 59 g serving.
  • Kashi GO Original
    • $4.29 per 13.1 oz box (6 servings) equaling $0.71 per 58 g serving.
  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch
    • $5.49 per 16.8 oz box (11 servings) equaling $0.50 per 41 g serving.

I then checked Walmart:

  • Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats
    • $4.98 per 42 oz container (30 servings) equaling $0.17 per 40 g serving.
  • Special K Original
    • $3.98 per 18 oz box (13 servings) equaling $0.31 per 39 g serving.
  • Kashi GO original
    • $5.38 per 20.5 oz box (10 servings) equaling $0.54 per 58 g serving.
Kevin Garce checking the price of oatmeal in his local supermarket
Checking the price of oatmeal in the supermarket

Wrapping Them Up

As you can see, oatmeal is the winner when it comes to most of the categories. You can choose sugar-free options and add fruit toppings to make a delicious bowl good for you.

If you have less time in the morning, then try overnight oats prepared the night before and eaten cold in the morning. They also retain more of their nutrients.

Cereals tend to contain more added sugars and won’t keep you feeling full for long. Stick to the healthier brands like Kashi.

If you’re trying to be healthier, it’s always a good idea to eat breakfast. However, what you choose in the morning counts. This meal is what powers you through the rest of your day, so you want to make healthy decisions. 

Find out which had more nutrients in my article, Granola vs Oatmeal: What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

The following video provides you with an easy oatmeal recipe:

Additional Article Resources 7 8 9

If you have any questions about this article don’t hesitate to email us. You can find an email on our contact page.

Read Next – More Oatmeal vs Food Articles!

Eggs vs Oatmeal – Which Is Better? Let’s Compare

Muesli vs Oatmeal – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Steel Cut Oatmeal vs Oatmeal: Which Is Better? Let’s Compare

Oatmeal vs Rice: Which Is More Healthy? (We Find Out)

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. USDA: Cereals, oats, regular and quick, unenriched, cooked with water, without salt[]
  2. USDA: Cereal (Kashi GOLEAN) []
  3. USDA: Cereal (Kellog’s Special K) []
  4. Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic index for 60+ foods[]
  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them to Manage Your Diabetes[]
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information: A satiety index of common foods[]
  7. Oxford Academic: Different glycemic indexes of breakfast cereals are not due to glucose entry into blood but to glucose removal by tissue[]
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base[]
  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Instant Oatmeal Increases Satiety and Reduces Energy Intake Compared to a Ready-to-Eat Oat-Based Breakfast Cereal: A Randomized Crossover Trial[]

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