What's For Breakfast?

'Junk food' breakfast cereals are a major concern, containing alarming amounts of sugar and salt.

About 7.5 million Australiansregularly buy cereal, but what are wereally eating? In some cases it’s more salt than a packet ofchips and more sugar than an iced doughnut.

Evencereals that may appear to be nutritious can be laced with sugar and salt,according to Australian Consumers' Association food policy officerClare Hughes.

So what keeps us buying these big brand cereals?

Perhaps it is the brightly coloured packaging, cartooncharacters, gimics and the endorsement of famous sports stars – or in some cases it may be health claims of added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Healthexperts assert that some manufacturers add vitamins and minerals to theirrecipes to hide the fact that they are so high in salt and sugarand so low in fibre that they may as well be in the confectionery isle.

“They are junk food; they're highly sweetened cereals closer to confectionery than to cereal,” nutritionist Dr. Rosemary Stanton says.

Salt is also a big issue. The Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) called on the government earlier this year to take action by setting salt target levels in certain foods, including cereal.

Professor Bruce Neal, Chair of AWASH said, “Salt reduction effortsin Australia are piecemeal and progressing too slowly”.

Australia is now lagging behind countries like the US and the UK who have already introduced salt targets for 80 different foodcategories. In the UK the national salt reduction program is alreadycredited with preventing thousands of deaths each year.

With the aim of improving public health, TheFood and Health Dialogue identified 10 priority food categories for“reformulation”. Breakfastcereals were number two on the hit list after another staple, bread.

Kellogg’s,Sanitarium, Cereal Partners Worldwide, Woolworths, Coles and Aldi haveall agreed to reduce the sodium (salt) content of their cereals by 15 per centover the next four years.

ElizabethDunford, a research associate with the AWASH at the George Institute for Global Health, says this isn't enough as only cereals that contain more than 400mg of sodium per 100g fallunder the reduction target.

Dunford also points out that “All those cerealsbetween 300mg to 400mg of sodium per 100g won’t have to bechanged, and a 15 per cent reduction on something like rice puffs, thatare 900mg of sodium per 100g, won’t make muchdifference”.

The George Institutefor Global Health has analysed 293 cereals sold in Australia. Theydiscovered that 60 per cent of the cereals that exceeded the sodiumlimit of 400mg per 100g were children’s cereals.

In a recent corporateresponsibility report Kellogg’s actually conceded that publicly cuttingsalt could lead to a slump in sales.

Moreover, 'The Parents Jury', anonline forum launched in 2004 that helps parents advocate improved children'sfood and physical activity environments, last night held its 6th annual Fame & Shame Awards, denouncing companies who market unhealthy food to children.

For the fourth year running, Kellogg's was judged by the voters to be among the main offenders.

Kellogg's were reprimanded for their Nutri-Grain ads,which earned the 'Smoke and Mirrors Award' for promoting thecereal as being good for young boys who want to become iron men.Nutri-Grain has 9g of sugar per cup of cereal, is high in salt andlow in fibre.

So are there any healthy breakfast cereals out there?

World's Best Cereal (WBC), a gluten and dairy free cereal designed by one of Australia's leading naturopaths; Dr Damian Kristof was recently featured on A Current Affair as one of Australia's Healthiest Cereals.

Click here to see how your cereal stacks up!


Emed's Comment:

You are what you eat. Really! What you eat affects your body's ability to fight disease, produce energy, perform physical activities and keep your mind sharp.

The old adage “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” still holds true today.

A recent study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has shown this eating pattern to be beneficial in controlling obesity and preventing metabolic syndrome.

“The first meal you have appears to program your metabolism for the rest of the day”, said study senior author Martin Young, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the UAB Division of Cardiovascular Disease.

So it's no surprise that conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome are on the rise when sugar laden, nutrient poor, prepackaged breakfast foods populate our shelves and media advertising.

For a nutritious breakfast cereal that is truly delicious, try Emed's favourite World's Best Cereal (WBC).


What else can I do?

Stop making excuses and give yourself the gift of a healthy and delicious breakfast!

Excuse #1 – 'I'm far too rushed'   

  • Prep the night before and layout breakfast items or mix up WBC Bircher muesli, fresh fruit and Jalna yogurt and store in the fridge. Hard boil eggs the night before and store in the fridge for a low fuss breakfast or morning snack.
  • Try a fruit smoothie or protein drink on the go. 
  • Keep a supply of portable breakfast items in your gym bag, handbag or glove box like a Metagenics Keto Bar.  

Excuse #2 – 'I'm not hungry in the morning'   

  • Time your evening meal earlier, leave the table just satisfied not too full and make a no snack rule after 8pm.
  • Have a warm glass of water with half a squeeze of lemon/lime upon rising to get your digestive juices moving.
  • Start the day with an early walk or workout to build an appetite.
  • Begin your new routine with a small piece of fresh fruit forbreakfast.  Then for morning tea try WBC Healthy Cereal or similar. Slowly increase the size of your breakfast meal over time.

Excuse #3 – 'I'm bored of cold cereal'   

  • Try steaming oatmeal or porridge with low glycemic index whole grain oats for sustained energy release.   
  • Go for poached eggs or a vegie omelette to boost your proteinintake.  Higher protein intake, along with dietary fibre, can help youfeel fuller for longer or increase your appetite satisfaction,stretching the time until you next reach for a snack.
  • Think outside the 'breakfast' square! Leftovers can be breakfast. Soup can be breakfast. Use your imagination.
  • Take time to enjoy breakfast over a lazy Sunday brunch. In today’s fast paced world, weekend breakfasts can be agreat way to regroup and eat as a family.

Take a look at your whole diet.

Eating ‘pro-inflammatory' food, likerefined wheat, excess grains, processed food, sugar and fatty foods contributes to poor health, poor immunity and anincreased risk of developing heart disease, stroke and obesity (among other conditions).

Changeyour habits now for your best chance of leading a healthy life. Read ‘Health Promoting Nutrition' and our other Nutrition articles for some sound advice.

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” 


Further Reading