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What Is Puffed Wheat Cereal?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet

Puffed wheat cereal is a breakfast food made by pressurizing and then quickly de-pressurizing steamed grains of whole wheat. It is usually beige and brown in color, and tends to have a spongy texture. Puffed wheat cereal to which few or no additional ingredients have been added is generally fat-free and contains only a small number of calories, although its fiber content can be somewhat low relative to certain other breakfast cereals. Some cereal manufacturers add ingredients like sugar to their puffed wheat products, which can result in a lowered nutritional value.

Usually, the first step in making the cereal is steaming grains of whole wheat to moisturize their interiors. Next, specialized machinery is used to pressurize the wheat grains, and then to quickly de-pressurize them. Due partly to the presence of moisture inside the grains, this rapid addition and removal of pressure causes the wheat to expand, or “puff” up, to several times its initial size.

Wheat berries before being puffed.
Wheat berries before being puffed.

In general, puffed wheat cereal is beige or tan in color, with flecks of a darker brown shade dotting each grain’s surface. It tends to have a slightly crunchy exterior and a somewhat spongy interior. Most people consume the cereal by pouring it into a bowl, adding milk, and then scooping up the cereal with a spoon.

When a puffed wheat cereal is produced without the addition of any other ingredients, it is usually fat-free. Further, it contains only around 60 calories for each 1 cup (16 gram) serving, a significantly lower number of calories than is found in many cereals, especially those that are highly processed. A serving tends to have fewer grams of heart-healthy fiber than an equal volume of a whole grain cereal which has not been “puffed,” however. In the eyes of some nutritionists, this low fiber content may prevent this type of cereal from being considered a health food.

It should be noted that some breakfast food manufacturers add a number of additional ingredients to their puffed wheat cereal formulations, including sugar, corn syrup, and artificial colorants. Such ingredients can significantly increase the number of calories contained in this cereal, and can also decrease its overall nutritional value. Those in search of the healthiest puffed wheat cereals may wish to scan a product’s nutrition label prior to purchase. To avoid excess calories and artificial additives, buyers should look for a product that contains only whole grain wheat.

Discussion Comments


@Scrbblchick -- I remember Sugar Smacks. I loved them. I still love them. I'll eat them right out of the box. They're horrible for you, but I don't buy them very often -- maybe once every couple of years -- because they are so very not good for you.

Otherwise, I'll also eat the unsweetened kind if I have a little Splenda to sprinkle over it. That improves the cereal tremendously.

I've always liked cold cereal, especially right out of the bag or box. I still like it as a snack, even though I don't indulge much.


Yep, some manufacturers add a lot of sugar. In the 1970s, they called the cereal Sugar Smacks and marketed it to kids with the too-cool Sugar Bear mascot.

In the 1990s, sugar became a four-letter word, so the company changed the name to Honey Smacks. Same cereal, but the perception was that honey was so much healthier than sugar. Well, maybe. If you're eating raw, unpasteurized honey.

Anyway, puffed rice cereal is still on the shelves. Some of it is the unsweetened original and some of it is still called Honey Smacks. Perception is everything, I suppose.

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    • Wheat berries before being puffed.
      By: Perytskyy
      Wheat berries before being puffed.