New year often brings with it a glut of ‘news’ on healthy eating. Last week, major media sources focused on the ridiculously high level of sugar in kids breakfast cereals. It’s not news that they contain lots of sugar – they always have. Back in 2009, independent, non-profit consumer group ‘Which’ published ‘Going Against the Grain’, a report on the ‘nutritional’ content of 100 leading breakfast cereals. As you can imagine, the findings were horrifying, especially when you consider that many of the cereals analysed were aimed at children. Read our 2009 newsletter article on the subject here.
Where did breakfast cereal come from?
Like most nutritionists, the cereals aisle is not where I shop for breakfast items; it’s a destination for a bag of porridge oats and that’s pretty much it. Delve a little deeper into the history of our now institutionalized breakfast cereal and you might be surprised at where it came from. The origins of the breakfast cereal can be traced back to Dr John Harvey Kellogg, a diet guru’ with extreme views, who railed against the harmful effects of protein on digestion and promoted carbohydrates instead. Together with his brother, Will Keith Kellogg, he invented the now infamous breakfast cereal ‘Corn Flakes’ back in 1878, as a way of encouraging a higher intake of carbohydrates and vastly reducing protein intake.
Kelloggs had a contempt for protein, similar to the way that fat has been demonized more recently. These extreme views are now outdated yet unfortunately the trend for sugary breakfast cereals has somehow stuck.
Average bowl of cereal contains 3 cubes of sugar
An average bowl of breakfast cereal now contains the equivalent of around 3 cubes of sugar, so swapping this for a healthier choice is a simple way to significantly cut kids’ overall intake. This is especially important when you consider that around a quarter of 5 year olds have tooth decay, and nearly a fifth of children are already obese by the time they leave primary school. Results of the latest National Diet & Nutrition Survey also shows that most children are now eating more than double the recommended daily intake of sugar.
Latest National Diet & Nutrition Survey Results
• Most children are now eating way over double the recommended daily sugar intake.
• Although sugar intake in kids is still way too high, the study found a small reduction in the consumption of sugary drinks among 4 to 10 year olds.
• Sugar makes up 13% of children’s total daily diet and 15% of a teenager’s daily calorie intake – far more than the recommended 5%.
• Adults consume way too much sugar too – about 12% of their daily intake comes from sugar.
• These figures have remained approximately the same since 2008
• The longer term impact of higher levels of overweight and obesity include higher risks of adults developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Want to support your health? Avoid breakfast cereal
If you want to support your own and your children’s health, most mainstream breakfast cereals are generally best avoided. There are a few out there that contain less or no sugar at all but you don’t usually find these at the supermarket. The best thing you can pick up in the cereals aisle is a bag of plain porridge oats.
So what is a healthy breakfast?
A healthy breakfast should provide a balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat:
• A simple boiled egg with wholegrain toasted soldiers
• A bowl of porridge made with milk, chopped banana and a sprinkle of ground flaxseeds
• A handful of mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries) and a dollop of full fat live yoghurt topped with pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Give your taste buds time to adjust
If you’re used to eating cereal at breakfast it may take some time for your taste buds to adjust. Stick with it though and you’ll soon appreciate a range of other tastes and textures in your breakfast, not just sweet. You’ll also likely notice more balanced energy and concentration throughout the morning, fewer cravings and find it easier to maintain a balanced weight.
Make one change this year
If you only make one change this year, make it your breakfast; the benefits will soon stack up.