Breakfast Cereal

A good day depends on stable blood-sugar so what you eat before work, sport or just life is really important. Although introduced only very recently, most people now start the day with a bowl of cereal. When I looked into snack bars in March, I noticed the cheery image cereal companies use to entice us to eat ultra-processed, recreational food first thing in the morning. Here’s one of Dr Unwin’s award-winning diagrams showing how badly even the blander types affect your blood-sugar.

(Similar pictures for other foods are available on the Public Health Collaboration website.)

The lined up spoons of sugar do not represent sugar added as an ingredient or even carbohydrate content; they show what happens to your blood compared to eating that much sugar. Note that the serving size is 30g (except for porridge) so if you have more than that, the effects will be greater. Anything frosted or with flavouring like honey is going to be even worse. None of these include any sugar you might put on top.

Dr David Unwin has been leading the UK in offering his diabetic patients dietary advice coupled with tailored medication. He has saved his practice £10,000s and some patients are in complete remission. He realised that added sugar in food isn’t the only problem. Our bodies quickly break down processed starches into simple sugars so he coined the phrase ‘soon to be sugar’. In terms of your blood levels, that means the difference between a slice of bread and some glucose is about 15 minutes in your stomach. All of us can benefit from reducing these foods (diabetics need to consult their doctors to keep their medication matched to their intake).

The Boxed Bunch

Surprisingly, the worst on David’s pic.

Most of the boxed cereals are made of the same things – processed grains, sugar, flavourings and added vitamins and minerals (not all in a highly bio-available form). Of those shown here, Corn Flakes and Coco Pops have the worst effect on blood sugar. A quick rise in blood sugar will be followed by insulin production leading to a crash. Peaks and troughs spell disaster; it’s no good getting weak and shaky after only a couple of hours.

Shredded Wheat prides itself on being made only with whole wheat. It’s true that it doesn’t have any added sugar or chemicals. You’d think that makes it a good bet but it’s still highly processed ‘soon to be sugar’. The diagram shows 4.8 teaspoons of sugar equivalent for 30g. One Shredded Wheat weighs 22g which is equivalent to 3.6 tsp so a typical breakfast of two is equivalent to 7.3 tsp.

Some people I know swear by Bran Flakes. They do have the most fibre and, close to Special K, a relatively lower impact.  But at 4 or 5 tsp of sugar equivalent, that’s still a lot.

Many people find that they get hungry before 10am after a box-cereal breakfast. I used to and gave it up 15 years ago.

Muesli can OK but check the ingredients or make your own. Dried fruit is a concentrated source of sugar to watch out for. Granola is generally worse as it have been sweetened. Also it’s sometimes cooked in vegetable oil which is an added problem.

The best I found was Rollagranola which you can buy on line here. Or again, you can make your own using coconut oil, proper oats, lots of nuts and seeds and no sugar or a little drizzle of maple syrup.

Here are a couple of granola recipes from Cookie and Kate and Libby at Ditch the Carbs. (You’ll have to ignore the many ads but there are excellent videos and explanations of why breakfast cereals are so terrible for our health.)

 

Breakfast of Champions

To keep feeling good throughout the day, experiment eating food in a more natural state and include protein and fat rather than eating carbohydrate on its own. I encourage people to eat some fresh plants with each meal too.

Many people find they fare well on porridge.  Natural oats release more slowly than the processed sachets and they are far cheaper. You can replace some of the oats with protein and fat as Joe Wicks does using ground flax seed, chia seeds, desiccated coconut and almond milk, topped with natural yoghurt. You could use ordinary milk, coconut milk or a dollop of cream and add some berries.

Now that it’s summer, try Jon Gabriel’s light but satisfying plain yoghurt mixed with nuts, seeds, protein powder and fruit.

Eggs are very nutritious and versatile for breakfast.  You can have them boiled, fried, poached, or as an omelette.  Most people used to ‘Go to work on an egg’.  Even as recently as the 1950, half the working population had a cooked breakfast.

Go continental with boiled eggs, avocado, ham and cheese. Save time by hard boiling your eggs the night before. Or dip avocado or buttered, wholemeal toast ‘soldiers’ in soft-boiled eggs.

Smoothies are quick to make and easy to consume. Base them on coconut milk, avocado, ground almonds, flax, spinach, whey powder, natural oats etc. Add just a little fruit for sweetness eg ¼ apple, 1” banana or a spoonful of berries. Beware high-sugar, bought smoothies and most of the recipes on the internet which have too much fruit.

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Fry-ups can sustain you for ages. Choose from bacon, egg, black pudding, sausage, mushroom, tomato (hold the beans and hash browns) or do the Aussie thing – steak and egg – perhaps with wilted spinach.

For a change, go fishy with a tin of mackerel plus half a pear and some seeds or indulge in smoked salmon, delicious with scrambled eggs on toast and courgette.

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Top tip – Ditch the cereal and eat a good breakfast to keep your blood sugar stable.

PS- Here’s a BBC documentary about the beginning and growth to world domination of the cereal industry.  It explains how we ended up in our current mess with millions of people damaging their health, every morning, thinking it’s a good thing to do.

And by the way, it’s the breakfast cereal business that told us we don’t have time to cook and paved the way for the whole processed food industry.  Make your health a priority and you’ll find you do have time to eat well.

Enjoy Eggs

Eggs were back in the news recently – now the Food Standards Agency says they’re good for everyone, even raw. Call me reckless but I never stopped eating runny eggs in the 80s (sorry Edwina). Salmonella levels in UK eggs are low and when British Lion-marked the hens have been vaccinated.

Does anyone remember ‘Go to Work on a Egg’ in the 1950s? OK it was an advertising slogan (Tony Hancock originals on YouTube). That’s much sounder advice than breakfast cereal ads today, so it’s galling they were not permitted a rerun in 2007 on the grounds that they promoted a non-varied diet.

An egg is a superb food in its own little package. They’re a great source of protein, used as the reference standard against which all other foods are assessed. They provide a full set of essential amino acids, in the right proportions and contain several vitamins including B2, B12, D, A and E, plus minerals like selenium, iodine and phosphorus. The fats are mainly mono-unsaturated with some brain healthy, long-chain, omega 3 fatty acids (DHA). (The fat profile depends on the hens’ diet, with free-range hens beating corn-fed, caged hens hands down.)

Don’t fear the cholesterol; it won’t affect your blood levels.  The advice to restrict the number of eggs you eat has been dropped.  I almost always include an egg in my breakfast so I don’t need to snack before lunch. Two favourites are fried steak, egg and mushrooms or a green smoothie, both of which last me about 6 hours.

Protein is very good for satisfying appetite. When I’m travelling, I take Jon Gabrielle’s omelette pizza (recipe on YouTube). It’s delicious cold as well as hot.  He uses 3 eggs but for me one is enough for a lunch.

There are lots of other great recipes at http://www.eggrecipes.co.uk/recipes. I tried the egg and chorizo one-pot. A bit of a starch-fest but a tasty and filling winter warmer.

Top tip – Go to work on an egg!

Eat a Good Breakfast

Some of my clients have improved their weight and health simply by changing their breakfast habits.

The current fashion is for carbohydrate only but this sets you up for rapid hunger, unhealthy snacking later on and weight gain. All carbohydrates are sugars, whether that’s added sugars or natural sugars, simple sugars or starches (which are chains of sugar and quickly break down into simple sugars). Cereal can be thought of as sugar, so can toast, fruit and fruit juices/smoothies; breakfast biscuits are mostly sugar. A bowl of cereal with low-fat flavoured yoghurt, and orange juice contains the equivalent of around 14 teaspoons of sugar and virtually no nutrients. Eating no breakfast is preferable to bad breakfast but what might be better?

Some people do well on porridge made from natural oats. Top with nuts and seeds. Beware the type in sachets as some contain loads of sugar. Muesli can be goodchoose one with plenty of nuts and not much dried fruit. Top with full-fat plain yoghurt.

My breakfast green smoothie prior to whizzing

My breakfast green smoothie prior to whizzing

Smoothies are quick to make and easy to consume and digest.

Base them on coconut milk, avocado, ground almonds, flax, spinach, whey powder concentrate, natural oats etc.

Add just a little fruit for sweetness eg ¼ apple, 1” banana or a spoonful of berries.

I have a smoothie 3 or 4 times a week and last for 5 or 6 hours on it.

To save time, you can batch up all the dry ingredients in advance so that in the morning you just tip them into the glass on top of your veg and fruit.

Dry ingredients ready to tip in

Dry ingredients ready to tip in

Bought smoothies are usually made from fruit so can be very sugary.  Also beware smoothie recipes on the internet as many of these include very large amounts of fruit.

Fry-ups can sustain you for ages. Choose from bacon, egg, black pudding, sausage, mushroom, tomato or do the Aussie thing – steak and egg – a favourite of mine, with wilted spinach.

Go continental with boiled eggs, ham and Boiled Eggcheese (you can save time by hard boiling an egg the night before). Dip avocado or buttered, wholemeal toast ‘soldiers’ in soft-boiled eggs.

For a change, go fishy with a tin of mackerel plus half a pear and some seeds. Or indulge in smoked salmon, delicious with scrambled eggs and courgette.

Top tip: Eat a good breakfast.