It's time to look outside the cereal box! Breakfast is one of the biggest challenges that people and especially parents struggle with when choosing to eat healthier. After a good nights sleep it's crucial to eat a well-balanced meal, you are 'breaking the fast'. Breakfast provides you with the energy to sustain and nourish you through the day. This should be a good enough reason to avoid high-carb grains and cereals.
I've been busy lately reading the cereal boxes that line the aisles of our supermarket and I'm totally shocked. I haven't eaten cereal for many years and just investigating the labeling got me upset. One very popular brand had in big wording 'No Artificial Colours or Flavours' and was given a healthy star rating of 4/5. When I read the ingredients list it contained the colours, Caramel and Annatto, and this company hadn't included the additive numbers.
When I researched Caramel colour (brown) I found there were 4 different kinds (150a, 150b, 150c, 150d). 2 out of the 4 kinds could be catastrophic for anyone with asthma or liver disease and all 4 kinds are prohibited in foods for infants (it causes migraines for one of my daughters-in-law). What I found when I looked up Annatto colour (yellow - pink 160b) was - recommended to avoid. It can cause in children, head banging, headaches, hypertension, irritability, restlessness, sleep disturbance, rashes and again prohibited in foods for infants. This was from a box that was marketed to mums to choose a healthy cereal for their children.
Some facts you may not know about breakfast cereals:- They are very highly processed - the grains are heated to very high temperatures and high pressure is used to form the flakes, shapes and puffs (through this process they lose their nutrition, so the shapes are sprayed with synthetic vitamins). They are difficult to digest - grains contain phytic acid which binds to minerals in our body like zinc, calcium, iron and magnesium and this affects how we absorb nutrients and in turn, makes it difficult to digest. They are high in sugar and carbohydrates - these both raise blood sugar levels very quickly and don't sustain us and in a few hours we feel hungry again.
When I did some research on the cereal companies, it was alarming to see the marketing ideas and tools they have used over the years. Combining cheap grains with cheap sugar was like printing money. Television provided the perfect opportunity to reach consumers and as new diets became popular, cereal companies were quick to provide new products to match. We have seen low fat or light cereals, high fibre, whole grains, iron man, slimming, muscle building, just to name a few. We've also seen toys in cereal boxes to market to children. Then we saw them marketing to mums, you don't need to cook anymore. Ready-made breakfast appeared for the time-poor mum, the Muesli Bar! No spoon or bowl was needed, they were individually wrapped in good looking boxes and we all believed they were health foods.
Not all countries eat boxed cereal for breakfast:
- The Chinese eat steamed dumplings stuffed with beef/pork and vegetables or a bowl of soup, or warm rice porridge called Congee served with protein and vegetables.
- In India breakfast is curried vegetable stew and lentils or Uttapam which is a thick pancake with vegetables and served with chutney.
- Pakistan has spicy meat curry with naan.
- The Philippines eat rice with dried meat and a fried egg.
- Indonesia eats Nasi Goreng (fried rice and noodles with meat and eggs).
- Cambodia has rice noodle soup with meat and vegetables for breakfast.
Australians started eating boxed cereals when Mr Kellogg started exporting breakfast cereals from the US in the 1920s, he then built a factory in Sydney. Today, Britain, the USA and Australia are the world's largest consumers of puffed, flaked and sugared breakfast cereals.
I'm going to help you look outside the box and give you some healthy nutritional breakfast options for you and your family. It might take some time changing your family, but just one step at a time will get you started on the right track.
The best breakfast choice should be a combination of protein, vegetables, healthy fats and a little fruit. Protein is essential for the growth, development, recovery and repair of the body, also for our hormones, because of this, kids have a greater demand for protein. Protein can come from foods like meat, eggs, chia seeds, pepitas, sunflower seeds and nuts. Vegetables can be fried or raw added to smoothies, in leftover meals from the night before. Healthy fat choices could be avocado (added to smoothies, sliced with a cooked breakfast), cooking in coconut oil or drizzling olive oil over vegetables. Fruit like berries and apples and these are best eaten with a protein or fat in the meal to slow down the body absorbing the fruit sugars too quickly.
Below are a few photos of breakfast ideas from my cookbook 'The JOYful Table'. Most of these can be prepared the night before and several can be frozen and stored for 2 - 3 months.
--Eggs are ideal for breakfast (omelette, scrambled, fried, poached, hard-boiled).
- Leftover soups and dinners from the night before.
- Breakfast sausages made from minced meat and spices shaped and then frozen for convenience.
- Frittata made ahead with things like sweet potato, leftover cooked chicken and vegetables.
- Bubble & Squeak - Leftover cooked vegetables fried and scrabble in an egg.
- Paleo granola using nuts and seeds.
- Coconut yoghurt topped with berries and grain-free granola.
- Egg muffins made with bacon and vegetables.
- Smoothies that you can sneak some green vegetables into.
- Chia puddings or porridge made from apples and nuts.
On my website, you can find more breakfast ideas to prepare ahead and make the mornings easier or if you prefer a later breakfast they can be taken along with you in a jar or container.
APPLE and CINNAMON PORRIDGE (my favourite at the moment)
Cooking and preparing food should be fun. If children are helping you shop and cook, they may just try something new if they have played a part in it. Talk about food as you prepare it and what nutrients it has and how it will help them concentrate at school and grow strong muscles. It will take time for the family as they may have only known cereal for breakfast. Small steps are better than none. Please feel free to contact me if you get stumped or run out of ideas for more breakfasts.
By Susan Joy