Breakfast cereals are often marketed as healthy choices, but although they might have lots of added vitamins and minerals, some are high in sugar or additives.
When it comes to Special K and Original Cheerios, both are marketed as healthy options, but which is the best of the two?
In this article, I’ll be comparing each cereal head-to-head to find out which is the best for nutrition and cost, and you can also help us find out which is best for flavor by voting for your favorite.
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Before we start comparing the nutritional categories for each cereal, let’s look at the main difference between Special K and Cheerios when it comes to ingredients.
As you can see from the ingredients table below, the main difference between the two kinds of cereal is that Special K is a rice-based cereal, whereas Cheerios are predominately made from whole grain oats.
Both kinds of cereal have added sugar and salt, and both are fortified with a range of vitamins and minerals to make them more healthy.
|Cereal Type||Ingredients||Added Vitamins and Minerals|
|Kellogg’s Original Special K||Rice, wheat gluten, sugar, defatted wheat germ, contains 2% or less of salt, malt flavor, bht for freshness.||Reduced iron, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), niacinamide, Vitamin E acetate, beta-carotene, folic acid, Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), Vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12.|
|Original Cheerios||Whole Grain Oats, Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt, Tripotassium Phosphate. Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness.||Calcium Carbonate, Iron and Zinc (mineral nutrients), Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate), A B Vitamin (niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), Vitamin A (palmitate), Vitamin B1 (thiamin mononitrate), A B Vitamin (folic acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.|
Special K Vs. Cheerios Nutritional Comparison
To keep things fair and accurate, this will be based on a weight-for-weight Comparison using a serving weight of 39 grams which is the recommended portion size for both Special K and Original Cheerios.
To confirm, I will be comparing Kellogg’s Special K Original cereal against General Mills original Cheerios, which are available in stores in the USA; please note nutritional values might vary slightly depending on the country they’re manufactured in.
Best for Calorie Content
Starting with the calorie content comparison, I can confirm that Cheerios are the lower calorie option of the two at 140kcal per 39g serving compared to Special K, which contains 150kcal.
|Cereal Type||Calories Per 39g Serving|
|Original Special K||150kcal|
Best for Carbohydrate Content
Neither Special k nor Original Cheerios can be classed as low carbohydrate compared to some other breakfast options, with both containing 29g of carbs per 39g serving of cereal.
|Cereal Type||Carbohydrates Per 39g Serving|
|Original Special K||29g|
Best for Sugar Content
When choosing a breakfast cereal, sugar is an important factor because many contain much more sugar than you might expect, especially if they’re marketed as healthy.
The cereal lowest in sugar per serving of the two is Cheerios with 2g per 39g, whereas a serving of Special K contains 5g, which is the equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar per portion.
To put this into the context of a daily recommended percentage, Cheerios contain 4% compared to Special K, which contain 8%.
|Cereal Type||Sugars Per 39g Serving|
|Original Special K||5g|
Best for Protein Content
If protein is an important consideration for you when choosing a breakfast cereal, then of the two, the better option is Special K which contains 7g per serving of cereal, compared to Original Cheerios, which contain 5g.
Both kinds of cereal contain a reasonable amount of protein per serving compared to some other popular choices.
|Cereal Type||Protein Per 39g Serving|
|Original Special K||7g|
Best for Fat Content
Special K Original and Original Cheerios are both low in fat, but of the two, Special K is the lowest with only 0.5g of fat per serving and no saturated fat.
Neither Special K nor Cheerios contains any cholesterol per serving of cereal.
|Cereal Type||Fat Per 39g Serving||Of Which is Saturated Fat|
|Original Special K||0.5g||0g|
Best for Fiber Content
Another important consideration for many when choosing a breakfast cereal is fiber content. Still, when comparing the two, the best option is Original Cheerios which contain 4g of dietary fiber per serving, compared to Special K, which contains a trace amount per 39g.
|Cereal Type||Dietary Fibre per 39g Serving|
|Original Special K||<1g|
Best for Sodium/Salt Content
Most popular breakfast cereals have added sodium for extra flavor, and for our comparison, Original Special K contains more sodium per serving than Original Cheerios.
In terms of a daily value percentage, Special K contains 12% of the recommended daily intake per serving compared to Cheerios, which contain 8%.
|Cereal Type||Sodium/Salt per Serving|
|Original Special K||270mg|
Best for Vitamins/Minerals
Both Special K and Cheerios are fortified with added vitamins and minerals to make them more healthy and to help consumers reach their daily values of nutrients.
Although both have a wide range of added nutrients, Original Cheerios contain more vitamins and minerals in most categories when compared to Special K (see table below).
|Vitamin/Mineral Type||Original Special K Daily Value %||Original Cheerios Daily Value %|
Best for Flavor/Texture
Which is best for flavor and texture is subjective and ultimately down to the individual’s taste.
To get an idea of the public favorite between Special K and Cheerios, you can help us by voting for the cereal you prefer. Once you vote, the winner so far will be revealed (no personal information is required to submit your answer).
Best for Price
At the time of writing this article, an 18oz family pack of Original Special K and the same-sized box of Cheerios both cost an average of $3.98, which is equivalent to 22¢ per ounce.
Based on this information, both kinds of cereal cost the same, although this can fluctuate depending on pack sizes, offers, and where you buy them.
All categories have now been compared for nutrition and cost, and I can now reveal the cereal that is best in most categories is – Cheerios!
Original Cheerios came in best for calories, while being lower in sugar and sodium, but higher in fiber and certain vitamins and minerals than Special K Original.
It’s worth pointing out that they were similar for some categories and Special K came in best for fat and protein content.
Which is best for you ultimately comes down to which cereal you like best, but hopefully, this article has helped you make an informed choice on which is best nutritionaly.
|Comparison Category||Winner (Special K or Cheerios)|
|Best for Calorie Content||Cheerios|
|Best for Carbohydrate Content||Both the same|
|Best for Sugar Content||Cheerios|
|Best for Protein Content||Special K|
|Best for Fat Content||Special K|
|Best for Fiber Content||Cheerios|
|Best for Sodium Content||Cheerios|
|Best for Vitamins/Minerals||Cheerios|
|Best for Price||Joint Winners|
References Used for this Article
To ensure the nutritional information used in this article is accurate, I have used data from the manufacturer; the links below contain the source information: