Breakfast, it is said, is the most important meal of the day. It is also often said that you should breakfast like a king and eat dinner like a pauper if you want to have high energy levels all day but avoid gaining weight at night. These expressions have been taken to heart and subsequently, there are literally hundreds of breakfast cereals available. But, does this mean that as breakfast is allegedly so important, breakfast cereals are the ideal foodstuff with which to break your night-time fast? Probably not.
Breakfast cereals – a surprising history
Breakfast cereals have been around for a long time. Back in 1906, Dr Harvey Kellogg (now there’s a name you should recognize!) invented corn flakes. This wasn’t the first dry breakfast cereal; that accolade goes to granola which was invented forty years earlier. Coincidentally, Kellogg also ran a sanatorium and, because of his strict religious beliefs, had very strong views on sex and sexuality. In an effort to curb “animalistic” sexual tendencies, Kellogg prescribed a very strict diet which included his now patented corn flakes. Simply put, Kellogg’s corn flakes were thought to reduce the urge to have sex or masturbate!
Fast forward to the 21st century and things have changed. Cornflakes are no longer linked to abstinence and while still available, have largely been replaced as the breakfast cereal of choice by even more diabolical foodstuffs.
Modern cereals and confectionery – is there a difference?
Without naming names (and therefore avoiding getting sued) a great many breakfast cereals available today is nothing but dry junk food. Have you read the ingredients of these things? It’s frightening! Some contain nothing but artificial ingredients while others are laden with refined sugars. These products are marketed as being healthy because they are “enriched with essential vitamins and minerals” but due to the high sugar content, this vitamin content is all for nothing as any essential nutrients will be used in the breakdown and digestion of the amoral sugar content.
As far as the vitamin and mineral content, many products boast that they contain 100% of your recommended daily allowance of certain nutrients. This is all well and good until you discover that RDA is purposely set very low and 100% of a very small figure is still a very small figure and really nothing to boast about!
Most cereals are marketed at children
Breakfast cereals are commonly marketed at children – that’s why cheery cartoon characters and toys feature so highly in the adverts. When I was a kid, as a special treat on holidays, I was given a small cereal selection box. These packs contained the usual corn flakes and puffed rice but also a packs of more exotic cereals containing chocolate, honey or sugar frosting. These confectionery-like breakfast cereals were consumed in small amounts and very irregularly. Now, however, for many kids they are the norm. Seriously – what are chocolate, marshmallow, toffee and other such things doing in a kid’s breakfast cereal?
These sugar-laden junk foods will lead to weight gain, low mid-morning energy and concentration levels, malnutrition (yes – you can be overfed and malnourished), tooth decay and a general lack of health. It’s no wonder that children are getting fatter!
Alternatives to breakfast cereal
So what’s the answer? Back in Kellogg’s day, before the popularity of dry breakfast cereals, rich people breakfasted on meat and eggs and the poor ate oatmeal – porridge to you and me. As is often the case, industrialization and so-called progress has taken us away from practices that are actually very healthful and while breakfast cereals are convenient, their predecessors were much more nutritious.
So, does this mean that all breakfast cereals should be avoided? Not necessarily. I understand their appeal as they are quick to prepare and easy to eat in the morning when time is against you and, if you are in the “breakfast is good” camp then even cereal is better than no breakfast.
Seek out low sugar cereals
However, there are some good tasting, relatively unrefined, low sugar cereals out there which are certainly better for you than coco sugar-crusted, honey-coated, puffed rice, nut infused clusters! When you look at the ingredients of your chosen cereal, if you see that sugar is in the top five ingredients (they’re listed by volume) then I would choose something else.
How about curry for breakfast?
Another alternative is to simply have a non-breakfast food at the start of the day. We’ve been taught that breakfast cereals are the most accepted food first thing in the morning but really – does it matter what you eat? I’ve eaten curry for breakfast on more than a few occasions and have to say that it’s actually a nice way to start the day! If you want to break away from confectionery cereals for breakfast, non-traditional morning foods can really work well. Just treat your breaking of the fast as a regular meal.
If you find early morning eating a chore – because of lack of time or lack of appetite, a smoothie can get the job done in no time at all. Simply blend some soft fruit with a cup of plain yogurt and maybe some protein powder and you have a healthy, nutritious breakfast almost as quickly as you can pour milk on cereal.
Eggs and oatmeal – the breakfast of champions!
Good old fashioned oatmeal is another good option – especially if you select organic jumbo oats. Granted, they take a little longer to cook but are infinitely better then instant brand porridge. Add some real maple syrup if you want a sweeter taste and you have a great breakfast that’ll keep you full up all morning.
No discussion on breakfasts can be had without talking about eggs. Eggs have been, for many years, the cornerstone of my breakfast. Quick to cook, easy to eat and packed with protein and other essential nutrients, eggs are an ideal start to the day. Some experts have said that eating too many eggs can be bad for you but the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests that this is piffle and, in reality, a bowl of sugar-coated cereal is far less healthy than an egg.
Do I eat cereal? Yes – on occasion. Every month or so I buy a box of luxury crunchy oat cereal as a treat. It’s normally eaten in a day and while I enjoy the taste and texture, I don’t enjoy the mid-morning near-diabetic coma that comes with it. For me, eggs will always be my breakfast of choice.