9 February 2017
How ‘healthy’ is your breakfast cereal?
A healthy breakfast can help to kick-start your metabolism and give you the energy you need to focus on the day ahead. Studies have linked the first meal of the day to good health and wellbeing. Benefits include reduced risk of becoming overweight, of diabetes and of heart disease.
Breakfast cereal, which offers convenience and variety in the mornings, has become a staple in many households. It provides healthy servings of carbohydrates and fibre. Recently, however, dietitians have stressed how important it is to check the ingredients on boxes of cereal. This is because certain ‘healthy’ cereal choices are actually loaded with substantial amounts of sugars and salt.
What’s in your cereal?
According to the Australian consumer website Choice, a number of factors must be taken into consideration when making healthy cereal choices.
Cereals high in sodium, sugar and saturated fat should be investigated carefully; in particular, children’s cereals in can be packed with added sugar. Experts recomment the source of each ingredient is considered, before a cereal is written off completely.
Dietitian Lauren McGuckin says: 'If one of the first ingredients listed on the box is dried fruit, you'll know that's where the sweetness is coming from.'
Choice compared 170 breakfast cereals and developed a rating guide, revealing the best and worst cereal options. The guide includes popular UK brands Nestle and Kellogg’s.
Cereals high in fibre and wholegrains, such as All Bran Original and Bran Flakes, can help maintain a healthy digestive system. These cereals contain relatively high amounts of vitamins and minerals and are highly rated in the Choice guide. Meanwhile, sugar-laden favourites such as Coco Pops and Frosties have lower ratings.
Anyone for eggs?
With such a wide range of “healthy” cereals on the supermarket shelves, it is no surprise if information and advice can begin to seem confusing or contradictory. If you are indecisive when it comes to picking out your morning cereal, why don’t you shake up your breakfast menu?
The non-profit organisation Nutrition Australia suggests a range of convenient breakfast options, which are quick to prepare. These include yoghurt, fresh fruit or vegetable smoothies and porridge. Avocado, eggs and peanut butter are also recommended choices.
Lauren McGukin notes the importance of including a protein source in your breakfast, suggesting eggs as a quick and easy option.
'There's no need to poach an egg: you can pre-hard-boil eggs and have them sitting in the fridge,' she says.
'They’ll last unshelled in the fridge for five days, so it can be as simple as putting some avocado on toast and adding the egg.'