Everyone loves cereals – and how could they not? They’re yummy, crunchy, quick and easy and there’s so much variety. And then they’re healthy, too!
Or aren’t they?
The government’s Eatwell Guide certainly suggests it. You’re supposed to “choose wholegrain or higher fibre versions with less added fat, salt and sugar”. How much? It doesn’t say, but it looks like it’s meant to be a third of your food. At least it’s a third of the Eatwell Guide plate.
So, let’s pick a popular wholegrain fruit and nut granola. This definitely ticks the box of “wholegrain” and “high fibre”. It also covers an item from the green part of the Eatwell Guide (green = always good, right?). Raisins. Our granola contains dried fruit, and there are raisins on the green bit. It says there “Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.” OK, the dried fruit is one of our 5-a-day then.
There’s a banana in the fruit basket that needs eating and it would enhance the granola nicely. That’s two of the 5-a-day covered at breakfast. Excellent!
“Dairy: Choose lower fat and lower sugar options.” Right, ok. How about 150 ml of skimmed milk for the granola then.
Alongside that, we could have 150 ml orange juice. It says you can have 150 ml of fruit juice per day (Do you know how small a glass that is? I have yet to find a bottle of OJ in the shop that contains just 150ml. The smallest I’ve seen was 200ml - you’re supposed to leave 50ml for tomorrow, did you know?). Does OJ cover another of the 5-a-day? It does!
Right. Healthy breakfast ready. It amounts to 430kcal – which should be fine for one of the main meals - and contains less than 11g fat. That’s only 25% of the total calories for this breakfast. Although the Eatwell Guide infographic doesn’t go into percentage of calories, we are allowed 30% of calories from fat, but only 10% of those should come from saturated fat.
This ‘healthy’ breakfast does, however, contain 70g digestible carbohydrates. That’s good though, right? You’re meant to build your diet on a basis of starchy carbohydrates. 280 kcal of this breakfast come from digestible carbohydrates.
But did you know that this equates to 70g sugar or 14 teaspoons? And that’s with a 45g serving of cereal as defined on the cereal box. Have you ever weighed out 45g of cereal? I am quite sure that nobody eats that little. The serving size on the box is just an amount that doesn’t make the sugar content look too bad. 12g in this particular example.
A similar but healthier option is a low carb granola with berries and full fat milk. Skip the fruit juice. The best option is to make your own, but if you’re going to buy one, try Lizi’s Granola Original (careful with the other ones as extra sugar may creep in via dried fruit). The serving size on the package is slightly more generous – 50g. Not much more, but with just 4.6g sugar that’s looking much better. The total digestible carbohydrate content of this breakfast adds up to 35g, which equals 140kcal.
The WHO recommendation for daily sugar intake for adults is 35 g (7 teaspoons). So with the first breakfast alone, we have covered the sugar allowance for two days, and even the healthier option covers one daily allowance. Granted, the WHO recommendation is for “added sugar” but frankly, your cells neither know nor care where the glucose in your blood stream has come from. All starches break down to glucose in the digestive tract, although it does matter how fast that happens.
How is this possible? How can a cereal breakfast be so unhealthy? We’ve taken such care to keep this breakfast in line with the Eatwell Guide.
And therein lies the problem.
For more on breakfast and how to create a healthy one, click here.
For a better guide that is actually evidence-based and doesn’t feature junk food, click here.
If you are looking for a more personalised approach, a Diet MOT with me would be perfect for you. Click here to book.