Is Malt-o-Meal a better choice than oatmeal? Is Malt-o-Meal even healthy? Are Malt-O-Meal and Cream of Wheat the same thing? Here are my thoughts on this debate and why oatmeal is the de facto breakfast for cyclists and other endurance athletes.

What About Malt-O-Meal and Cream of Wheat?

Today’s question is about Malt-O-Meal and Cream of Wheat, and if they compare to oatmeal…

I read a lot of magazines and talk to a lot of riders about what food to eat. I’ve been riding for only 2 years. Yet, no one ever mentions malto-meal, cream of wheat or cream of rice. Are these good to eat or should I just stick with Oatmeal? I eat them anyway, but not as a meal before riding.

Thanks,
Malt-O-Matthew

Hi Matthew,

I know what you mean. I don’t think many of my buddies ever ate Cream of Wheat or even knew what it was. Whereas everyone just knows what oatmeal is. I’m not completely sure why, but the other hot cereals just don’t get any publicity it seems.

cream of wheat

I used to eat Cream of Wheat years ago. I only knew of it from my grandma – maybe that’s an indication they aren’t doing any marketing to reach younger generations? I tried Malt-O-Meal cereal too and remember it being practically the same thing.

I liked them both, but I’d get sick of them after a while and have to take a break. Oatmeal, I always liked it, and it was something I could eat every day.

Since you asked, let’s analyze this!

Malt-O-Meal vs Cream of Wheat

Let’s see if we can find the difference between Cream of Wheat and Malt o Meal.

But first, let’s list what they have in common:

  • Main ingredient is wheat
  • Mostly carbohydrates
  • No added sugar
  • A little protein
  • No fiber
  • Enriched with vitamins and minerals
  • Mix with water and you have a smooth cereal, like porridge

The two products are similar. Both have withstood the test of time. Cream of Wheat has been around since 1893. The Malt-O-Meal company was established in 1919.

These are both made of milled wheat. (For background, the wheat starts as a whole kernel. The process involves grinding them down – or milling them – until you have a fine flour, which is called farina.)

The ground wheat kernels have some wheat germ left (which provides protein) but the wheat bran is removed in the processing (so there is no fiber).

Malt-O-Meal® Original Hot Wheat cereal

Ingredients
Wheat Farina, Malted Barley. Calcium Carbonate, Ferric Orthophosphate (source of iron), Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1).

Nutrition Facts
Calories 130
Total Fat 0g
Total Carbs 27g
Fiber <1g Sugar 0g Protein 4g

Cream of Wheat® Original Enriched Farina

Ingredients
Wheat Farina, Calcium Carbonate, Defatted Wheat Germ, Ferric Orthophosphate (Iron), Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid, Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), Papain.

Nutrition Facts
Calories 120
Total Fat 0g
Total Carbs 25g
Fiber 1g
Sugar 0g
Protein 3g

From the ingredients and nutrition facts labels, you can see the products are nearly identical. Malt-O-Meal contains malted barley (who would have guessed?) in addition to the wheat, but that doesn’t make much difference in terms of nutritional value.

The noticeable differences are in terms of flavor and texture.

Cream of Wheat is very plain. There’s not much flavor to it (unless you mix in some toppings). Malt-O-Meal has the added malt, which adds some sweetness and some flavor.

(What does malt taste like? Well… it’s kinda hard to describe!)

When it comes to texture, Cream of Wheat is more finely ground than Malt O Meal. So that gives it a smoother texture. It’s more of a true breakfast porridge. Malt-O-Meal is more grainy. It’s coarse ground. (It resembles corn meal.)

So that’s really about it. The only significant difference between the two cereals is the texture. Malt-O-Meal is coarse and grainy, while Cream of Wheat is very smooth.

You can think of Malt-O-Meal as a loaf of whole wheat, “ancient grains” style bread, whereas Cream of Wheat is your basic white bread.

Given the very slight differences, I would leave it up to personal preference as to which one is better.

I wasn’t eating a gluten-free diet back when I used to eat these occasionally. But now that I am, if I was to crave one of these cereals today, I’d certainly opt for Cream of Rice to experience a hot breakfast cereal without the wheat.

Is Malt-O-Meal Healthy?

Malt-O-Meal and Cream of Wheat are essentially the same thing, at least in terms of ingredients and nutrition.

Basically, it’s milled wheat. And then they add in some vitamins and minerals, since anything naturally occurring has been lost during processing.

Both are high in carbs, low in protein. There is zero fat and no added sugar. There are slight variances in calories, carbs, and protein content – e.g. Malt-O-Meal contains an additional 1 gram of protein – but nothing substantial.

This hot cereal offers little in the way of health benefits. It’s not something that is outright unhealthy, but Malt-O-Meal is definitely not what I would consider a healthy meal.

You can enhance the nutritional value with toppings like fresh fruit, cottage cheese, nuts, and even a dash of maple syrup, but even then, I would not eat Malt-O-Meal regularly.

Malt-O-Meal and Cream of Wheat vs Oatmeal

The obvious difference is that these two hot cereals are made from wheat and oatmeal is made from oats. The grains themselves have differences, including the presence of gluten in the wheat.

Another big difference is the wheat is finely ground, to a flour, while the oats are much bigger. Even instant oats are much bigger than the wheat in the other cereals. You can judge this by eye.

What you don’t see are the nutritional differences of oats vs wheat.

Oatmeal is mostly carbs, but offers fiber, too. (Oatmeal has high dietary fiber while wheat cereals have none.) There’s also a decent amount of protein. And a little fat. So it’s a well-balanced grain.

Oatmeal does contain a tiny amount of saturated fat but I consider that a small price to pay compared to all the other benefits. Plus, it’s naturally occurring fat; it’s not like the saturated fat you get from consuming fried foods!

Oatmeal is what I would consider a healthy breakfast.

Why oatmeal is better than either one!

I find oatmeal to be a better choice than either Malt-O-Meal or Cream of Wheat, because:

  1. Oatmeal is a well-balanced meal. It contains a better blend of macronutrients plus more micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
  2. Oatmeal is more likely to help you lose weight, thanks to the hearty grains and fiber, which keep you fuller longer.
  3. You can prepare oatmeal so many different ways, from the type of oats you begin with to the flavors and toppings.
  4. Oats are naturally gluten-free.

Finally, here are a few practical reasons I don’t really eat Cream of Wheat or Cream of Rice:

1. I don’t need any more whole grain wheat or rice in my diet.

I get plenty of wheat in my diet already from whole grain bread, pita bread, and sprouted grain bread. Most baked goods come from wheat. I don’t need any more!

I enjoy eating long grain wild rice or brown rice on their own, in their natural state. I’ve never felt the need to get more by eating cereal made of it.

Oats on the other hand, I don’t really eat them outside of my oatmeal (and sometimes my homemade protein bars).

2. These hot cereals are processed foods.

The main reason I skip hot cereals now is because they’re still processed foods. I think of them like the instant oatmeal packets you can get in stores – highly processed, contain too much sugar, etc.

(Honestly this applies to all breakfast cereals, hot or cold.)

The original Cream of Wheat is basically just wheat (no added sugars and flavors), but it still reminds me too much of white flour rather than whole grains of wheat.

So I stick with oatmeal because I can get the oats plain and start fresh, which gives me much more control over the cooking process.

(Yeah, even old-fashioned rolled oats have been processed to an extent, but it’s all relative.)

3. Fewer allergens in oats

I was eating these hot cereals when I was a kid, at the same time as I was eating things like Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Apple Jacks. I have since discovered that my body prefers a gluten-free diet.

There are likely others out there that would benefit from eliminating wheat from their diet and haven’t realized it yet. So I lean toward oatmeal just to be safe.

Oatmeal. That’s what I recommend. Whether it’s rolled oats, steel cut oats, or quick oats.

Show References

Further reading: Buy some steel cut oats, cook your steel cut oats, flavor your steel cut oats, and enjoy!

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7 Comments
  1. Cream of wheat is practically the same thing as oatmeal. I prefer a heartier oatmeal over anything with “cream” in the name.

  2. @Stu

    Yeah, the texture may be similar to instant oatmeal, but oats and wheat are very, very different grains.

    Good hearty steel cut oats can’t be beat 🙂

    • My Mother-n-Law gave me her recipe for corn bread which has cream of wheat in it. My Father-n-Law could not eat corn meal. It was the best corn bread I have EVER eaten. My problem is by mistake I bought a box of Malt O Meal. I was wondering if I can substitute Meal for Cream of wheat.

  3. Hi Levi,
    I just found your site, as I was looking for information about steel cut oats. But I have to weigh in on your comments about Malt-o-Meal. I’ve been eating it since I was a child and find it as tasty and nourishing as oatmeal. It is a combination of wheat farina (from ground whole germ wheat) and malted barley. There are no processing chemicals added. They do add iron, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2. The nutritional values per serving break down as follows: Cal.-130; Total Fat: 0.5; Cholesterol-0; Sodium-0; Fiber-1g; sugars-0; carbs-27; protein-5g…nutrionally, almost identical to oatmeal, except for the added vitamins in the M-o-M. I’m not suggesting you substitute it for oatmeal if you don’t like it, but it is much heartier and better tasting than cream of wheat, and a nice variation on daily oatmeal. We always add cinnamon and fresh blueberries. It’s at least worth a try.

  4. @K.P.

    Thanks for the info and especially the comparison between Cream of Wheat and Malt-O-Meal.

    Wheat products really don’t work out well for me, but I may give it another shot out of curiosity now.

  5. I’ve been eating oatmeal and maltomeal for years. Love them the same. I add honey and raisins to both. Don’t know much about Cream of Wheat because I’ve never eaten it. Basically if you have a nice sized bowl of either of the above mentioned, you’ve got half a day’s worth of food. You’re full and feel good about it.

  6. What’s healthier cream of wheat maltomeal or oatmeal or just plain oat bran

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