I’ve gone through the most common breakfasts, working out their calorific and nutritional values and have come across some surprising information and discovered the 3 best ones to have. I was astonished to see that changing my breakfast and nothing else and I dropped 2% bodyfat in 2 weeks. I’ve gone through cereals, porridge, eggs, smoothies and lots more.
It quickly becomes clear that there are some very obvious deceptions when it comes to cereal manufacturers labeling practices and marketing. For example Special K is marketed as being a cereal to eat when losing weight but check out these facts. Per 100g, Special K has more than twice the amount of sugar, almost twice the amount of fat, has the same amount of calories and is nearly twice the price of Cornflakes. What a complete con. I cannot imagine a more obvious example of deceptive marketing. I’m not saving cornflakes is a good breakfast! Just comparing it to another of Kellogg’s other cereals.
Cornflakes has 8g of sugarSpecial K has 1.5g of fat.
Corn Flakes has 0.9g of fatSpecial K has 379 calories.
Cornflakes has 378 calories550g of Special K is €4.59
500g of Cornflakes is €2.85
Another thing that came to light is in the suggested portion sizes on cereal packaging. Cornflakes for example suggest a 30g portion. 30g is tiny and is about 1/3 of what most men would eat and probably 1/2 of what most women would eat. If I were to have 30g of cereal for breakfast I would be hungry within an hour, not just craving food but would have real physical hunger. 30g would only satisfy a very petite person or child.
To make it easier for you to figure out what your preferred portion size of cereal is, I listed them in 100g portions with 200ml of milk. I measured what I would consider a real portion for me and it was about 85g of most cereals. A good way to accurately measure your cereal without buying a scales is to reuse a 30g variety pack box and use that as your measuring cup from now on. Good luck lasting on a 30g serving though. You’ll most likely use 2-3 servings.
Alpen and Fruit & Fibre are heavier than other cereals and portion sizes are likewise going to be heavier too. 100g would be a small-medium portion for me. It was reassuring to see that Bran flakes is actually very high in fibre with 27g of fibre per 100g and the GDA is 24g. Fruit & fibre disappointingly has just 9g of fibre per 100g and is only marginally higher than other cereals. Alpen no added sugar has just 6g of sugar less than the original Alpen and is over ¼ sugar, so only marginally better.
Worryingly the cereals targeted towards children contained the highest amount of sugar. Frosties and Coco Pops are almost ½ sugar. Almost all cereals will contain genetically modified ingredients (if that’s an issue for you). Most cereals are bad, the better ones being weetabix, oatabix and bran flakes.
Depending on the ingredients. While the fruit smoothie was relatively low in calories, compared to some cereals it was still very high in sugar (40g). To equate that the long skinny sachets of sugar you see in coffee shops are 3g. Would you put 13 of those in anything that was “healthy”? Yes it has vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but there are better ways to get those. Vegetables will have those and without the huge amounts of sugars. Or eat the whole fruit to get the fibre.
On the surface breads all seem low in calories and sugars. However in my experience most people cannot maintain a healthy body fat % if they eat a lot of white bread. It will spike your blood sugar levels and your body can store fat. It will be quickly digested and leave you craving more. So while it initially is low calorie, you will soon be overcome with cravings for more and it is very addictive.
Soft wholemeal bread is pretty much white bread, usually dyed brown with sometimes a few seeds thrown in to look good. Wholegrain is very different. It is slow to digest leaving you fuller for longer and doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels so will not lead to cravings. Maintaining steady/stable blood sugar levels is the number 1 thing i recommend to getting and staying in shape.
Whole grain bread refers to the whole seed being present. The seed can be anything from wheat to barley to oats to spelt etc. It just means the whole seed is there. Whole wheat bread is just bread made with wheat as the main ingredient or grain, for that particular bread.
The vital thing that you need to look out for however is, to use bread that has as much of that full-uncrushed seed present when you eat it – not when it was being made. The outer layers of the seed contain most of the fibre and this is what takes your body time to digest, therefore slowly releasing the sugar/carbohydrate from inside. The slower and longer it takes you to digest, the better. You’ll be fuller for longer and have better blood sugar balance.
I’ve a great recipe for real whole grain bread here.
Using slimline milk will save you 50 calories and 3g of fat but has 1.2g extra sugar than full fat milk in a 200ml serving. If you don’t mind the difference in taste then it will add up a little by the end of the week (350kcals and 31g of fat). The difference is small really. For me, milk plays havoc with my sinuses and I have trouble digesting it. Almonnd milk may be a better alternative for some people.
You might be surprised to learn that many flavoured yogurts have similar amounts of calories and sugar to a Cadbury flake. When you’re comparing the sugar of any yogurt you buy, bare in mind that a sachet you would know from coffee shops is 3g, some of the popular brands have the equivalent of 7 of those sachets in a 125g tub. Would you put 7 sugars in your coffee? For more info on yogurts click here.
The 3 Best Breakfasts:
The 3 winners for me that stood out as the best breakfast to have are:
- 2 Eggs poached, scrambled or boiled with 1/2 slices of wholegrain toast.
- Porridge with either water or milk.
- 2/3 Weetabix or Oatibix with milk.
They were the 3 breakfasts that were easiest to make, already popularly used, were low sugar, low in calories, could be eaten regularly and most importantly taste good and are in a realistic portion size that would keep you fuller for longer. I should point out that the eggs are higher in fat but in 2 eggs there’s only 3.8g of saturated fat (bad fat). The RDA of saturated fat for men is 30g and 20g for women. For someone with or worried about high cholesterol, eggs may not be their preferred choice (although evidence is sketchy at best for this), or at least the yolks may not.
Be careful when adding extras to your cereals or porridge. Butter is high in fat and calories so use sparingly and old fashioned real butter is better. Fruits are high in sugar. A medium sized banana for example has 105kcals and 14g of sugar. Likewise juices are high in sugar. Avocado is high in calories so portion size is important. Use extras sparingly and in small portion sizes to avoid adding extra calorie and sugar.
When I made the switch (a few years ago) from cereals to 2x eggs and 1-2 slices of wholegrain bread for breakfast. I immediately noticed I was fuller for longer, do not suddenly get tired anymore after eating and with no other changes – dropped 2% Body Fat. My sinus and digestion is also much improved. I wish I liked porridge but just can’t get used to it, but clients get great results eating it and I recommend trying cinnamon instead of adding sugar, honey or fruit. Pinhead porridge is also like sugar porridge and much higher in fibre. I have very low cholesterol and get yearly check ups.
View the nutritional breakdown for each breakfast:
- As Kelloggs is the biggest cereal manufacturer in the world I used them. They have very good information on their website www.kelloggs.ie
- I used Flahavans as the porridge example as they also give good nutritional information on their website. Why they don’t advertise like Special K with skinny girls jumping around having fun, eating cereals is beyond me. They genuinely will help with losing weight. It’s a dreadful outdated website and in bad need of modernising and a decent marketing campaign. www.flahavans.com
- You can find info about Weetabix, Oatibix and Alpen at www.weetabix.co.uk
- The Breads I used were the most popular, easy to find ones in Ireland and I used McCambridge and Brennans. www.mccambridge.ie and www.brennansbread.ie
- For the rashers and eggs I used www.denny.ie
- For the smoothie ingredients I used several different calorie counting sites like www.calorieking.com and www.caloriecount.com. I should point out that there were vast differences in some of them and would not recommend relying on these websites for accurate nutritional information.
- For the milk I used www.avonmore.ie