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Is That Right? Mini-Wheats have double the fiber of Cheerios?

When my family saw the current ad for Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats the other night, we all guffawed. The commercial depicts what I guess is a boxing match between a great big Mini-Wheat and a tiny little Honey-Nut Cheerio. The message: Mini-Wheats have "more than double the fiber and whole grain in every tasty bite."

Well, duh! That Mini-Wheat is enormous. Of course it's going to beat that puny Cheerio in any kind of match up, right?

Let's look at our trusty Nutrition Facts panels. Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size cereal offers 6 grams of dietary fiber per serving, providing a healthy 24 percent of the Daily Value for fiber. There is no separate DV listing for whole grain, but "whole grain wheat" is listed as the first ingredient. (The ad doesn't specify whether the Mini-Wheat is of the Bite Size or Big Bite variety; the latter has 5 grams of fiber per 180-calorie serving.)

By contrast, Honey Nut Cheerios indeed offer but 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving, just 8 percent of the Daily Value. "Whole grain oats" is the top ingredient.

Wow, that's a big difference, right? No wonder the Mini-Wheat wins!

But a quick look at the portion size tells the rest of the story. Whereas a 110-calorie serving of Cheerios is 28 grams, the serving of Mini-Wheats, at 200 calories, weighs a whopping 59 grams! At more than twice the size by weight, you'd certainly expect the Mini-Wheats to have at least twice the fiber as the Cheerios. (That Big Bite variety weighs 51 grams per serving.)

Of course, the math still favors Mini-Wheats. Twenty-eight grams of them still would have about 3 grams of fiber (or 2.5 for the larger variety). But that's not double.

This more nuanced account appears in very tiny, hard-to-read type for a few seconds during the ad: "Contains 12% to 15% more of the Daily Value for fiber than Honey Nut Cheerios cereal. Kellogg's Mini-Wheats cereals have 5 to 6 grams of fiber (20% - 24% DV) and 40 grams to 45 grams whole grain per serving; Honey Nut Cheerios cereal has 2g fiber per 28g serving (8% DV) and at least 8 grams whole grain."

I contacted Kellogg's to help me sort all this out and received this response via e-mail:

Serving sizes are identified and regulated by the U.S. FDA. The FDA regulates comparison claims for certain nutrients and requires that comparisons be made based on the RACC or Reference Amount Customarily Consumed amount. Serving size is calculated based on the appropriate RACC for that specific product and varies per cereal based on density.

Keeping in line with the FDA's regulations regarding RACC, Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats® cereals have five to six grams of fiber (20- 24 percent DV) and 40g to 49g of whole grain per serving; Honey Nut Cheerios cereal has 2g of fiber per 28g serving (8 percent DV) and at least 8 grams of whole grain. Therefore, a serving of Frosted Mini-Wheats® cereal provides more than double the fiber and whole grains per serving as a serving of Honey Nut Cheerios.

The Mini-Wheat-Cheerios contest is an excellent example of how careful you need to be when comparing products' Nutrition Facts: Be sure to check the portion size, which, despite the FDA's regulations, can seem a bit arbitrary. And be sure to do the math. That's the only way to ensure a fair contest.

(By the way, this is not the first time Is That Right? has had questions about Frosted Mini-Wheats. Read more here.)

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  November 13, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness  
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Double the fiber!? Are you s***ting me?

Posted by: tomtildrum | November 13, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Best fiber choice, IMHO, is Uncle Sam's--available in most supermarkets. Great flavor, no added sugar, and a LOT more fiber than either of these choices. Makes great bran muffins, too. The berry variety is especially good.

Posted by: kroshka | November 13, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

tomtildrum just made my day.

Posted by: financepirate | November 13, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Now I'm a big fan of fiber, but guys and gals - what about the sugar in both of these products! Stick to regular Cheerios and Shredded Wheat with Bran (zero sugar). And my system will readily vouch-the Shredded wheat with bran is absolutely better in the fiber department than cheerios!

Posted by: momE1 | November 13, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Cereal is consumed by volume. You pour a bowl and eat it. If the Mini-Wheats weigh more than the Cheerios that is what you wind up consuming. Come on.

Posted by: echyone | November 14, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

GREAT!! Keep it up!!

Posted by: carlobarlo | November 14, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Try the big, old-fashioned Shredded Wheat (serving size = 1). I don't know what the fiber content is, but it has only one ingredient: wheat.

Posted by: Putney1 | November 14, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The problem with cereals like cheerios is that they are so puffed full of air that there just isn't enough material there to really keep you going. If I eat something like that, an hour later I'm going to be starving.

Now oatmeal, that really stays with you. And it has plenty of fiber.

Posted by: floof | November 14, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Why is it such a shock that shredded wheat has more fiber than cheerios? It's fibrous. It looks fibrous.

Frosted mini wheats contain enough carbohudrate to spike your blood sugar high enough, quickly enough, to flood your body with insulin and tell it to store any excess calories as fat. Frosted mini wheats along with skim milk and a glass of orange juice is such a complete metabolic nightmare of a meal that it is a farce we have been led to believe it is anything but poison for our bodies. So, sure, there's some fiber. Big whoop. What If I eat 5 slices of bread and drink some metamucil? Does my body forget that I gave it 10 times the amount of sugar it needs to function?

Posted by: mb129 | November 18, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

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