13 Jan What’s Wrong With Cereal For Breakfast?
Breakfast is often one of the meals that our clients need to make the biggest changes to when we start working with them. Do you skip breakfast altogether and then end up feeling extra hungry later in the day? Or perhaps you’re eating cereals that are marketed as ‘healthy’ but that are far from nutritionally optimal?
If you’re wondering if you can eat cereal for breakfast and still lose weight, read on…
CAN YOU EAT BREAKFAST CEREAL AND STILL LOSE WEIGHT?
Not one of our team of nutritionists recommends cereal for breakfast. Our colleagues all agree that cereal does not make for a great start to the day. However, cereal is by far the most popular breakfast in the UK. Many of us were raised on cereal which can create an attachment to it. And let’s face it, many cereals are tasty and take minimal time to prepare. But our country is facing an obesity crisis. Our rates of diabetes and other chronic, lifestyle related diseases are skyrocketing and cereals are not helping the cause. If you are committed to losing weight and leading a healthier lifestyle, you may want to reconsider your choice of breakfasts.
WHY IS CEREAL BAD FOR YOU?
Let’s start with the sugar issue. It’s true that some cereals do contain very high amounts of sugar. Some aimed at children, some not. If a cereal says ‘sugar’ or ‘honey’ or ‘chocolate’ in the title, is it not obvious that it’s going to be high in sugar? Indeed, sometimes there are obvious clues, other times, there are not.
Many healthy-looking and even cereals with ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’ in their name, like mueslis and granolas, are loaded with sugar, providing several teaspoons per serving. It is always worth checking the label on the back of the packet rather than simply buying into the marketing messages on the front. If you’re not familiar with how to work out how much sugar is in your food, you can read our step by step guide here.
It’s also important to remember that, even if a cereal doesn’t contain a high amount of added sugar, most are still based on processed carbohydrates which break down into simple sugars and behave much the same way. More about this later.
DON’T CEREALS CONTAIN VITAMINS AND MINERALS?
Those vitamins and minerals cereals claim to be full of? The ‘added goodness’? The clue is in the ‘added’. We don’t have to add vitamins to spinach or eggs or berries. They are already rich in essential nutrients. We add nutrients to processed foods like cereals and bread to replace what’s been lost in the refining process. No synthetic supplement will ever make up for food that’s rich in nutrients in the first place.
A HIGH GI START TO THE DAY
Back to the processed carbohydrates. The glycemic index (GI) rates carbohydrate foods on how fast they break down into simple sugars. The glycemic index of glucose itself is 100, so the higher the GI of a food, the faster it breaks down into sugar. While cereals like Cornflakes and Rice Krispies don’t have a huge amount of sugar added to them, their starchy carbohydrates break down in just the same way. Both have a GI of over 70 classing them as ‘high GI’, with Cornflakes coming in at 81.
Simply put, the refined, starchy carbohydrates these cereals are based on are just as bad as sugar itself.
The other problem with a breakfast of cereal is that often it lacks protein, healthy fats and fibre making it nutritionally lacking and unlikely to keep us satisfied until lunchtime.
HOW MUCH SUGAR IS IN YOUR BREAKFAST?
While we are on the subject of breakfast, let’s look at what else you might be starting your day with:
Cows milk – 9.6g (over two teaspoons) sugar per 200ml serving. Yes, cows milk contains a surprising amount of sugar. It’s naturally occurring, but sugar is sugar and it behaves exactly the same way in the body.
Orange juice – 17g (over four teaspoons) sugar per 200ml serving. Again, it’s naturally occurring, but that makes no difference I’m afraid. Same goes for apple and most other fruit juices.
Jam – this can vary in sugar content so let’s consider a high quality jam with a higher fruit content and less added sugar like Bonne Maman. Their strawberry jam contains 59g sugar per 100g. Well over half of what we spread on our toast is sugar.
This is before we start adding sugar to tea or sprinkling it over our cereal…
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU EAT CEREAL FOR BREAKFAST?
Unfortunately, there are very real consequences of starting our day with a sugar based on simple carbohydrates.
High GI carbohydrates cause a spike in our blood sugar levels. The body can only deal with so much sugar at once so what isn’t immediately used will be carried away and stored. Storage sites in the body include cells in the liver and muscles where sugar is stored as glycogen, and fat cells. Sugar and starchy carbohydrates are not your friends if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your happy weight.
There are many other reasons why existing on a ‘blood sugar rollercoaster’, where your blood sugar level spikes and dips, is not good for health. It’s a primary contributor to diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Aside from the health consequences, meals like this are not going to help your energy levels or mental alertness either. When we experience the inevitable blood sugar dip that follows this spike, with it plummets our energy levels and ability to concentrate. Blood sugar dips can make us feel tired, hungry, grumpy and craving a sugar or carb fix to bring them back up.
We see this in children. They eat cereal for breakfast and it feels like no time at all before they’re asking for snacks. When we ate cereal for breakfast, we always needed to eat before lunch time. As do many of our clients when they first come to see us.
WHAT SHOULD I EAT INSTEAD?
We teach our clients to structure meals around a source of protein, a portion of healthy fats and plenty of vegetables or salad. Some low sugar fruit may also feature.
Organic eggs are a great breakfast option. Here are a few ideas for egg based breakfasts that include healthy fats and veg too.
A smoothie can be tasty, filling and satisfying if made in the right way. Here’s how to make the perfect smoothie which includes our go-to recipe.
If you’re not ready to ditch cereal, we can highly recommend KetoHana granola as a great alternative.
We love Paleo Leap for recipe inspiration. Here they share 30 low carb, nutrient dense breakfast ideas that are bound to keep you satisfied until lunch.
Don’t forget that you can eat anything for breakfast. In this country we have a concept of ‘breakfast foods’ but don’t feel bound by this. There are many quick, healthy and delicious alternatives so get creative and try something new!
WORK WITH US
We are a team of qualified nutritionists who specialise in weight loss. If you’re ready to overcome your weight challenges, achieve your goal weight and maintain it long term, we can help. You can use this link to book in for a complimentary call. This is an opportunity to talk through your challenges with a member of our team and decide together whether one of our Intelligent Weight Loss programmes is right for you. Or contact us to request a copy of our brochure and we will get back to you soon.
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