When it comes to breakfast, we reckon it’s time to think outside the (cereal) box…
Crunching down on sugary cereals for breakfast every morning might be considered “normal” in the Western world, but it sure as hell ain’t healthy. Given that some cereals contain upwards of 40 per cent sugar, we thought it was high time we did some investigating. In fact, the sitch is so shocking that we enlisted our in-house nutritionist, Georgia, and dietitian, Chelsea, to reveal the truth about the cereals on our supermarket shelves.
Suss out the sugar quantity.
Even self-professed “healthy” cereals like granola and bran flakes can be positively swimming in the sweet stuff. While it might look fine and dandy on the sugar-front when you check out the serving size, remember that a 30–45g serving of cereal is incredibly unrealistic – we’re talking between ½ and ¾ of a cup. Most of us eat at least three times that amount! This means tripling the sugar content listed under the “per serving” heading. Because of these deceptive serving sizes, it’s estimated that kids who have sugary cereals at breakfast time are adding an extra 4kg (9 pounds) of sugar to their diet per year.
Our dietitian and recipe developer, Chelsea, had this to say…
“Unfortunately, cereals low on sugar are few and far between when we look at what supermarkets have to offer. It is important to remember that dried fruits will also cause the sugar content of a fairly innocent looking cereal to skyrocket.”
And our food and recipes manager and nutritionist, Georgia, suggests that we navigate the cereal minefield by following this simple guideline…
“Our rule of thumb for anything packaged is to make sure it contains no more than 5–7 per cent sugar per 100g. But my best tip of all? Ditch the cardboard box completely and just eat real food!”
Given that the World Health Organisation recommends no more than six teaspoons (25g) of sugar a day, you’d be hard pressed to maintain this when eating a bowl of sugary cereal every morning. In fact, you’d likely surpass this amount by the time you finish your breakfast!
Examine the ingredients.
People often think that eating healthy food requires an abundance of exotic and expensive ingredients, when in actual fact, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth! A simple breakfast of eggs, greens and sourdough toast costs a pittance and is a unbeatable way to start the day.
Georgia, our food-loving nutritionist, was raised on simple food like this…
“I grew up across the road from my Yiayia and Papou (in true Greek style), and a standard brekkie at their place was fresh ‘horta’ – AKA greens from my Papou’s garden – on toast with olive oil and lemon. He’d also teach us how to pick cucumbers, which became a competition amongst the grandkids, and cut them up fresh with a little salt and pepper”.
In comparison to the real food breakfasts we suggest at IQS, many cereals are positively loaded with weird ingredients. To make them more palatable, they’re pumped with sugar and refined carbs but lack protein and fibre – and often, they’re not cheap either! Below is the ingredient list for a breakfast cereal that’s readily available on supermarket shelves right now. Looks kinda similar to what you’d see in a store-bought cake, right? Are we seriously calling this a ‘breakfast food’?
Get real about nutrition.
Protein does many wonderful things for our beautiful bods. Studies show that people who eat protein at breakfast time maintain steady glucose and insulin levels, meaning that they don’t experience raging sugar highs or lows (and thus, the munchies). Breakfast cereals are often pretty pathetic on the protein-front, which can set you up for a day of hunger pangs. When it comes to fibre, the story is much the same – many breakfast cereals hardly make a dent in your recommended daily intake.
Surprisingly, many cereals actually contain a lot of added salt too – no thanks!
“It’s not exactly the place you would expect to see salt, but cereals can be one of the worst offenders when it comes to sodium content. Look for a cereal with less than 400mg/100g of sodium.”
So, when most supermarket options are ‘off the table’, whaddya do when you really want some cereal?
Chelsea recommends steel cut oats, regular oats or whole grain wheat biscuits with no added sugar. Why not try batch cooking our popular Coco-Nutty Granola for the week ahead? Or, try our Super Simple Porridge – when it comes to a grain-based breakfasts, you really can’t beat oats for their stellar nutrition profile! Concerned about weaning your kids off the sugary stuff? They might just thank you later – and go on to become a nutritionist, like Georgia!
“At the time, I couldn’t understand why other kids were eating Fruit Loops and Coco Pops, but now that I look back, I’m so grateful that I was raised on the real stuff. It meant that I grew up naturally favouring savoury foods and taught me how to appreciate the love of growing your own and cooking from scratch”.
Given cereal the flick? What’s your go-to meal to start the day?