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.
Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Oatmeal and Cereal Pros and Cons
- 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 than cereal.
- Oats are naturally gluten free.
- Take longer to prepare than cereal.
- Tastes bland and often needs additional ingredients to taste better.
- Served quickly.
- Dry cereal is easy to take on the go as a snack.
- Tastes sweeter and has more flavor.
- Healthier options available.
- Contain more sugar and sodium than oatmeal.
- Contain additives and preservatives which oatmeal doesn’t contain.
- Costs more than oatmeal.
- Less filling.
- Most cereals are not gluten free.
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Oatmeal vs Cereal: Nutrient Comparison
Have you ever noticed how long the cereal isle 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)
|Special K (1 cup)
|Kashi Cereal (1 cup)
|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|
The cereals give oatmeal pretty stiff competition and contain many of the same types of nutrients. This causes many people to ask, which is more healthier oatmeal or cereal?
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.
Oatmeal and Cereal 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, does oatmeal or cereal have 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:
|Breakfast Cereals||Glycemic Index|
|Wheat bran Cereals||55 or less|
|Steel cut oats||55 or less|
Find out how oatmeal compared to Cream of Wheat in my article, Cream of Wheat vs Oatmeal: What’s The Difference? We Compare.
Oatmeal vs Cereal: Satiety Index
Satiety is a term used to explain the loss of appetite and feeling of fullness after eating food. The satiety index is a scale showing how full a person feels after eating a certain food.
The satiety index was developed in 1995 from a study which tested 38 foods. The foods were ranked how they satisfied a person’s hunger. 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|
Comparing the table above will help answer the question, does oatmeal keep you full longer than cereal?
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:
- High in fiber
- High in protein.
- High in volume (foods containing a lot of water or air).
- Low in energy density (foods low in calories for their weight).
Cooked oatmeal seems to fit into all four listed above.
- Oatmeal contains 7.9 grams of protein per 3/4 cup.
- Oatmeal provides 6.1 grams of fiber per 3/4 cup.
- Oatmeal weighs a good amount when prepared in relation to its calories.
- Oatmeal cooked is only 71 calories per 100 grams.
Find out how oatmeal compared to brown rice in my article, Brown Rice vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
Oatmeal vs Cereal: 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 and ask, does oatmeal taste like cereal?
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.
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.
Find out if grits or oatmeal has the better satiety in my article, Grits vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.
Oatmeal vs Cereal: 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 oat products have solved this issue and label those products gluten free. Always check the label of your oatmeal or granola products to determine if its gluten free.
Find out how oatmeal compared to quinoa in my article, Quinoa vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
The Prices of Oatmeal and Cereal
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, which costs more, oatmeal or cereal?
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.
I conducted a search of the following two supermarkets to compare the price of both.
I checked the Shoprite supermarket for the prices of regular oatmeal and cereal:
- 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 for regular oatmeal and cereal prices:
- 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.
Wrapping Up The Oatmeal and Cereal
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 of oatmeal 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, oatmeal or granola in my article, Granola vs Oatmeal: What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.
Read Next – More Oatmeal vs Food Articles!
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- USDA: Cereals, oats, regular and quick, unenriched, cooked with water, without salt
- USDA: Cereal (Kashi GOLEAN)
- USDA: Cereal (Kellog’s Special K)
- Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic index for 60+ foods
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them to Manage Your Diabetes
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: A satiety index of common foods
- Oxford Academic: Different glycemic indexes of breakfast cereals are not due to glucose entry into blood but to glucose removal by tissue
- Harvard T.H. Chan: Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Back in Time for Breakfast: An Analysis of the Changing Breakfast Cereal Aisle
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Breakfast and Breakfast Cereal Choice and Its Impact on Nutrient and Sugar Intakes and Anthropometric Measures among a Nationally Representative Sample of Australian Children and Adolescents
- Harvard Health: Tips to find the healthiest breakfast cereals
- Michigan State University: Steel cut oats are a nutrient rich way to start your day
- Bob’s Red Mill: What Are the Benefits of Steel Cut Oats?
- Colorado State University: Nutrition News – What’s the deal with steel-cut oats?
- UMass Chan Medical School: Why Steel Cut Oats?
- Wikipedia: Steel-cut oats
- Quaker: How to Prepare Quaker Oats
- Quaker: How does Quaker make Gluten Free Oats?
- Harvard T.H. Chan: Oats
- 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
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten sensitivity: when gluten free is not a fad
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Oatmeal-Containing Breakfast is Associated with Better Diet Quality and Higher Intake of Key Food Groups and Nutrients Compared to Other Breakfasts in Children
- Oldways Whole Grains Council: Whole Grains A to Z
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Oatmeal – Whole Grain Goodness
- Iowa State University: Nutrition Education: Oatmeal