General Mills thinks you’re a dumb ass, or why paying attention to nutrition labels is a good idea



from Mother Nature Network

General Mills is making cereal for all those people who sat in math class and said “Why do we have to learn this stuff? I’ll never use any of it.”

And they’re getting sued for it by the people who paid attention to arithmetic in grade school.

two boxesCheerios Protein is marketed as a more healthy variant of regular Cheerios because it is loaded with protein and protein is good for you. Of course, you have to pay a bit more for the “healthy” version. When this article was written Target offered 14 oz. boxes of regular Cheerios for $3.07, and 14.1 oz. boxes of Cheerios Protein for $3.72. You pay 65 cents (about 21%) more for Cheerios Protein but you’re getting so much more of that good protein!



Here are the first sections of the nutrition labels for Cheerios (on the left) and Cheerios Protein (on the right).

Cheerios nutrition label


Cheerios protein nutrition label

Cheerios Protein

Look at the bottom line: 3 grams of protein in a serving of regular Cheerios and 7 grams of protein in Cheerios Protein.

It looks like you’re getting over twice as much protein in Cheerios Protein.

You’re not. Why not?

Look at how much you have to eat to get your protein. The serving size for Cheerios Protein is 55 grams. Check out the serving size for regular Cheerios. 28 grams.

(Hold on a second. 28 grams. Where have I heard that before? Ah, nevermind, that’s another thing.) (Back to the cereal.)

An alarm bell should have just gone off. You get a little more than twice as much protein from Cheerios Protein than you get from regular Cheerios but you have to eat a little less than twice as much of the stuff to get it.

What happens if you have equal-size servings of Cheerios and Cheerios Protein?

2000px-Arithmetic_symbols.svgDo the math.

Regular Cheerios has 3 grams of protein for every 28 grams of cereal which is a bit more than .107 grams of protein per gram of cereal. Cheerios Protein has 7 grams of protein for every 55 grams of cereal which is a bit more than .127 grams of protein per gram of cereal. Cheerios Protein has about .02 more grams of protein per gram of cereal than regular Cheerios. That’s not very much.

Cheerios Protein’s serving size is 55 grams which gives you 7 grams of protein. Eating the same amount of regular Cheerios gives you 5.885 grams of protein, a small difference of 1.115 grams of protein per serving. If you go with regular Cheerios’ serving size of 28 grams, you get 3 grams of protein from regular Cheerios and 3.556 grams from Cheerios Protein. Again, a small difference of 0.556 grams per serving. Looked at another way, regular Cheerios has almost 85% as much protein as Cheerios Protein.

These tiny differences in the amount of protein contained in the two versions of Cheerios prompted the Center for Science in the Public Interest to file a class action lawsuit against General Mills for false advertising.

You’re not getting much more protein with Cheerios Protein but you are getting a lot more of something else.  What might that be?

sugarTake another look at the nutrition labels. A serving of Cheerios Protein has 16 grams of sugar; a serving of regular Cheerios has 1 gram of sugar. Do the math. When you adjust for serving size, a 28 gram serving of Cheerios Protein has 8.12 grams of sugar compared to regular Cheerios’ 1 gram.

Put another way, eating a bowl of Cheerios Protein involves an 18.2 per cent increase in protein and an 812 per cent increase in sugar compared to eating a bowl of regular Cheerios. When you have Cheerios Protein for breakfast you’re getting a little more protein, a lot more sugar, and a heaping helping of bullshit right there in your bowl, all courtesy of General Mills.

pt barnum

P.T. Barnum

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this is that all the information needed for you to see that General Mills is pulling a scam is right there on the nutrition labels.  All you have to do is read the labels and apply some grade-school level arithmetic. They didn’t try to hide it, they figured you were too dumb to notice.

P.T. Barnum, one of the most famous con men of all time, is credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” General Mills thinks he was talking about you.


About Kevin Murnane

I am a cognitive scientist, a freelance writer and author (Nutrition for Cyclists: Eating and Drinking Before, During and After the Ride), a musician (Parametric Monkey - stream on Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube), a bookstore owner (Monkey Books - first edition mystery, science fiction, fantasy and more, listed on ABE books, Amazon and Biblio), and a retired house painter, children's theater actor & owner, and university professor. I'm also a regular contributor to the technology section at Forbes and I write a cycling blog called Tuned In To Cycling. You can follow me on twitter @TheInfoMonkey and contact me at
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4 Responses to General Mills thinks you’re a dumb ass, or why paying attention to nutrition labels is a good idea

  1. FitCoach says:

    I’ll share this post. It’s an important message. So tired of the marketing games luring people in for profit.


  2. Siim Land says:

    Such an important notion for understanding how much the food corporations are tricking us. Make the labels as confusing as possible and call the product healthy = profit.


  3. Cheng Zhang says:

    Cheerios serving in American system is 1 cup, Protein version 1 1/4 cup. different usage of cup here. 28g x 1.25 is not 55 gg


  4. Rip Tatermen says:

    I don’t think this is malicious, it’s just a typo. Note the cup measures are 1 and 1 1/4. If the label on the right said 35 instead of 55, then (1)/(1.25) = 28/35.


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