Life, Oat Bran, and Uncle Sam

Oat Life
Oat Bran
vs.Uncle Sam Cereal

After I turned 7, I stopped eating frosted sugar bombs artificially-flavored
breakfast cereal made with non-terrestial foodstuffs for breakfast. My preferred
cereal was Quaker Oat Life,
which not only tasted good, but had seemingly benign ingredients. It had become
a staple though even my college years.

In 1997, the Marketing Geniuses at Quaker wanted to replace Mikey (who I assume
was now in his 40s). While they were at it, they were going to improve upon
the flavor. You know where this is going: the “new and improved” cereal
had an awful malt flavor. I actually took the time to write in a complaint.
Apparently a lot of other people felt the same way as Quaker quietly reintroduced
the original flavor a year afterwards.

Fast forward to 2003. My kids like Quaker Oat Life,
and I am thirtysomething deliberately looking for cereals with more fiber.
While sitting at the table, I had both Life and
Oat Bran boxes next to each other and wondered what the differences were between
the cereals. Since I was after fiber, I thought it would be worthwhile looking
at a cereal reknowned for its fiber content… Uncle Sam.

So, in the spirit of Rob Cockerham,
here is a comparison of what’s inside:

Skim milk Life CerealOat Bran Uncle Sam Cereal
Familiar Tagline“Got Milk?”

“Mikey Likes It!”

“Oat-bran cereal
lowers serum total and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic

“A Natural Laxative.”

ShapeWhitish fluidSquare biscuitHexagonal biscuitFlakes and seeds
SamplePhoto unavailable
ColorWhiteYellow-brownPale brownyellow brown; seeds dark brown
Package size1 gallon425g439g284g
TastePrefer 2%Slightly pastyGoodGood

*Safeway, added for Rob’s benefit.
Albertson’s is cheaper. Also, taste is highly subjective.

It’s interesting to note that the serving size for Life is very
. Giving Quaker the benefit of the doubt, we’ll conjecture it’s
because kids, the primary demographic of Life,
would eat less. For ease of comparison, we’ll adjust the serving size of
Life to be the same size as that of Oat
. Based on experience, this is not unreasonable. All units are
in grams(*) unless
otherwise specified.

I’ve deliberately left off the vitamins and minerals because I feel that
unless you’re eating a really terrible diet or have a medical condition (like
being pregnant), you probably don’t need additional vitamin supplementation.
Furthermore, too much of some vitamins can have bad effects on the body.
For example, excess iron (essential for hemoglobin production) is linked
to heart disease, and is added because the grains are usually stripped of
the bran. (Go figure)

Oat BranLife


serving size)

Uncle Sam CerealThe winner…
Box size (g)439284
Serving Size (g)575755
Price/serving$0.61$0.58$0.52Uncle Sam
Per servingRDA
Calories2,000210214190Uncle Sam
Fat<65g2.54.55Uncle Sam(*)
Sodium<2.4000.1600.2850.135Uncle Sam
Total Carbohydrates434538
Sugars9111Uncle Sam!
Dietary Fiber6410Uncle Sam!
Soluble Fiber2.00002Tie
Other28.00030.281Uncle Sam

And now we come to the brass tacks, what’s inside. Uncle Sam goes for simplicity,
and delivers, very well, on the fiber promise — almost 20% by weight! Oat
Bran has more fiber and less sugar than Life.
Uncle Sam “loses” in the fat department, but only if you’re looking
at total fat and not the composition.

LifeOat BranUncle Sam
Key:Whole Oat FlourOat BranWhole Wheat Kernels
ColoringSugarWhole wheat flourWhole Flaxseed
PreservativeCorn flourSugarBarley Malt
VitaminWhole wheat flourCorn flourSalt
GoodRice flourBaking sodaNiacin
Not GoodSaltCalcium carbonateThiamin
Calcium carbonateSaltRiboflavin
Sodium phosphate (dough conditioner)Caramel color
Reduced ironReduced iron
NiacinamideSodium ascorbate (vitamin C)
Zinc oxideNiacinamide
BHT(Link)Zinc oxide
Yellow 5Vitamin E acetate
Yellow 6Vitamin A palmitate
Thiamin mononitrateThiamin mononitrate
Pyridoxine hydrochloridePyridoxine hydrochloride
Folic acidFolic acid

Conclusions: I was surprised how much I liked Uncle Sam
Cereal. It wins on value, fiber, and pronouncable ingredients. Oat Bran has
a slight edge to Life in nutrition, but is slightly more expensive per serving. My kids still prefer Life having identified it as a brand they know. (That’s a scary thought.)

(*) Jimmy Carter made me do this ;)qqq

27 thoughts on “Life, Oat Bran, and Uncle Sam”

  1. i bought my first box of uncle sam cereal this week and i’m addicted to it. i LOVE it!

  2. JP. Timmerman

    Thanks for the great comparison. Do you have one for Uncle Sam & Apple Cinnamon Cheerios?

    Dad just introduced me to Uncle Sam & I really like it. Unfortunately, it’s going to be expensive to have it shipped to S. Korea.

  3. Yo! I live in Canada and just discovered your site while searching for a purchasing source for Uncle Sam cereal, as mentioned in the South Beach Diet book. Following some rather extensive research, I have not been able to discover where to purchase said cereal. I know for a fact that it is not commonly available in Canada. I am told that there an online site where we can purchase. The very company that produces this products appears to not be selling across the border… Can someone help!!!

    Many thanks

    Connie D.

  4. It is difficult to find grain products (cereals, breads, etc) that are not fortified nor contain enriched flour. I’ve been searching for low folic acid cereals because my daughter is folic acid restricted two days a week (and folic acid supplemented the remaining seven days). It is complex, but has to do with weekly chemotherapy treatments.

    Thanks for creating this easy to read comparison. Uncle Sam cereal has just been added to our family’s grocery list!


  5. What is the iron content of life cinnamon for a serving?
    Also, need recipes.
    Please send.

  6. Adelina: Cinnamon life has about 12mg of iron, compared to 16mg for regular life. As I mentioned earlier, most added vitamins and minerals are unnecessary if you eat a healthy diet.

    I don’t have any recipes with breakfast cereals, per se, though you could probably substitute Uncle Sam cereal for the flax seed in my banana bread recipe.

  7. I have the same problem as Connie. I’m on the South Beach Diet and can’t find Uncle Sam or anything comparable. I was looking at bran cereals today too, but even the bran buds are just full of sugar!

  8. I bought my first box of Uncle Sam Cereal tonight and just had a bowl. It’s a very nice cereal and the taste is far from offensive. I notice on the box that there are several products that my store doesn’t carry, an instant oatmeal and a cereal with berries. Then I went to General Mills web site and found that there are also several other products by Uncle Sam that I don’t have a source for.

    Someone needs to get on the ball and put this product in all it’s variations on the web…please.

    (I’m recovering from colon surgery and this is a recommended product to keep me regular…)

  9. can anyone tell me where or how i can obtain general mills total cornflakes in canada?? i used to live in the states, and ate them all the time. i love that they have 100% of days calcium and b12. i can’t find them anywhere in canada. are they available? why not?

  10. I recently purchased a box of Uncle Sam original, at Super-Walmart. I live in eastern NC, and I don’t know if it’s available nationwide in Walmart.

  11. Just read your great comparison on cereal and discovered Uncle Sam’s cereal while on ediets.
    Isn’t it SOLUBLE fiber you want in your diet more than dietary fiber. It’s the sluble fiber which reduces cholesterol.

  12. Hi I like many of you am also addicted to Uncle Sam cereal. It is absolutely the best and I eat it everyday for breakfast and sometimes a snack with a little splenda and lite vanilla soymilk. thanks for the info I mostly bought it shopping for price one week and just love the taste supremely. pj

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