Breakfast of Champions? Probably Not.
Last week I did an article on the amount of sugar in fizzy drinks. People were gobsmacked by the amount of sugar in drinks they would frequently consume. I knew fizzy drinks weren't good for me but I was genuinely shocked too when weighing out each drink's sugar content. Many people asked for more of these type posts to learn a bit more about what they're putting into their body, so this week I decided to do cereal. It's a meal all of us eat (or at least should eat) every day. We're told all the time that eating breakfast helps with concentration, metabolism and can help to maintain a steady weight. However many of us chow down a bowl of cereal in the mornings without really thinking too much about what's actually in it. I decided to get my calculator and weighing scales out again and see how much sugar is in some of the most popular breakfast cereals in Ireland.
First of all before going through what is in the boxes, I just want to say something quickly about GDAs. Food products are now required to list out the GDAs of calories, sugar, fat, saturates and salt on their packaging. However they calculate these GDAs based on a 'typical portion'. Most of the cereal boxes claimed 30g was the average portion of breakfast cereal consumed by your average Joe, but unless I am an absolute hound I seriously question this as 30g is tiny! For this reason I have calculated the average serving as 45g which you can see measured out into your average breakfast bowl below. In fact, I thought 60g was more likely to be the average serving size of cereal as most people have a second bowl or at least top up their bowl a little, but I decided to stick to 45g as weighed out and pictured below. It's worth looking at the serving sizes companies advertise on their packaging when you're considering what you're eating, as often their serving size is small which makes their GDAs sound healthier. The guideline daily amounts of sugar consumption are 85g for a child, 90g for a woman and 120g for a man,
Anyway on to the main point as to how much sugar are in your seemingly healthy breakfast cereals:
- I don't think anyone is expecting Crunchy Nut Cornflakes or Coco Pops to be a healthy breakfast option, but a whopping 16.5g each per 45g bowl? Wow... That's almost the same amount of sugar as a bag of Malteasers minus a malteaser or two (a bag of Malteasers contains 19.7g sugar). If you're a two bowl kind of person, and really who isn't, then you're already jacking up your sugar intake dramatically before you even start your day.
- I had already read that Special K was in fact not all that special and so was unsurprised to hear it had 8.55g sugar per 45g bowl, but I was very surprised that All Bran contained almost the same amount of sugar with 8.1g per 45g bowl. All Bran tastes horrid, how can it have the equivalent of almost 3 cubes of sugar per 45g bowl and still taste that bad? The mind boggles.
- Kelkin Granola is pretty grim too with 10.4g per 45g bowl. It's such a pity they add in unnecessary sugar as homemade granola is surely the nicest, healthiest and most wholesome breakfast cereal to be eaten. They're giving granola a bad name.
- Weetabix was relatively decent on the sugar scale with a 45g bowl of the stuff containing less than 2g of sugar- we'll forgive them that.
- By far and away the healthiest cereal to start the day with out of the line up is porridge with 45g of oats containing only trace amounts of naturally occurring sugars. Unlike many of the other cereals, you would be unlikely to want second a helping of porridge as 45g of oats expands so much when cooked with water and the fibre fills you right up. It seems our grandparents were on to something....
A 45g bowl contains 3.6g sugar
A 45g bowl contains 16.5g sugar
A 45g bowl contains 16.5g sugar
A 45g bowl contains 8.55g sugar
A 45g bowl contains 8.1g sugar
Kelkin Fruit and Nut Granola
A 45g bowl contains 10.4g sugar
Flahavan's Jumbo Oat
A 45g bowl contains 0.45g sugar
A 45g bowl contains 1.98g sugar
One of my favourite food writers, Michael Pollen, says that if a food is so far removed from it's natural state that you can't recognise it, you probably shouldn't eat it and I think it's a pretty good rule for breakfast cereals. For example, an oat flake looks like a flattened oat which is exactly what it is, but what on earth does a crunchy nut corn flake look like? If the word 'corn' wasn't in the name you would have no idea it was an ingredient as it has been processed beyond recognition.
There's no harm in having the odd treat and I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty about their breakfast choices, but it's good to know what you're eating. I'll sticking to the porridge for now though!