We all know the importance of a child eating breakfast.
Studies show that children who eat breakfast do better at school.
They concentrate for longer, do better in tests, have fewer behavioural problems, not to mention more energy.
But how many children are actually getting a good one?
For decades now we have been told that cereal is a healthy way to start the day.
But many cereals hide a few disturbing realities.
….the huge amounts of sugar they contain.
The food standards agency says that a sugar content of 15% is considered high, and any food with this amount of sugar should be limited to a special treat.
The NHS advises we should aim to eat foods that contain less than 5% sugar.
McDonalds apple pie contains less sugar than Froot loops
If you consider that the equivalent serving of a Mcdonalds apple pie contains 17% sugar, one could argue that it would make a more nutritious breakfast; at least it contains fruit!
Just for comparison, a 30g bowl of porridge, sweetened with stewed apple or berries plus a tsp of maple syrup, contains 5g of added sugar, not to mention healthy fibre and many naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
Packaged cereals, on the other hand, have their nutrient and fibre content destroyed by the manufacturing process.
“Do you know what breakfast cereal is made of? It’s made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners!”
― Roald Dahl
Have you ever wondered how your cereal is made?
For example, Cheerio’s are all the same shape and size.
Extrusion in nutshell..
Grains are mixed with water and blended into a paste before being placed into a machine called an extruder.
The sludgy mix is then forced out of a tiny hole at high temperature and pressure. This dries them out and forms them into the desired shape.
The products is then sprayed with a coating of oil and sugar to give it a crunch.
Sadly, the very high heat and pressure destroys much of the cereal’s nutrients including the protein, raw food enzymes and essential lysine and vitamin A.
It also simplifies the carbohydrates making them more sugary and refined. Meaning they pose an increased risk of contributing to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
Furthermore, research indicates that extruded grains are toxic, especially to the nervous system.
You may have heard about the study on 18 rats that consumed either cornflakes or the cardboard box the cornflakes came in.
The rats consuming the cornflakes died before the rats eating the box.
Worryingly, before death the cornflake rats developed schizophrenic behaviour, convulsing and biting each other.
Autopsy revealed dysfunction of various organs. The rats eating the box died a few days later of malnutrition.
73% of children eat cereal
These days cereals feature in 73% of children’s weekday breakfasts.
That’s millions of children eating extruded sugary grains before heading to school.
But this was not always the case.
The traditional breakfast
Before 1900 it was considered sensible not only by the wealthy, but by the working class to eat a hearty breakfast before starting a day of taxing mental or physical labour.
Traditional breakfasts around the world reflect this theory.
Black beans, corn tortillas and eggs in Mexico.
Rice and stew in Korea.
Meats, cheese and delicious dark rye bread in Germany.
Lentil pancakes (Dosa) or Rice dumplings (Idli) with vegetable curry (Samba) and coconut chutney in South India (my particular favourite).
A full English, Scottish or American breakfast containing eggs, bacon, sausage and oatmeal amongst other things is no exception to the rule.
And cooked correctly is the breakfast of Kings.
So why is it that the majority of children are eating sugary cereals?
Please don’t be fooled by the word ‘fortified’.
This is simply clever marketing.
It means the cereal has been spray painted with a poor-quality vitamin, because the extrusion process killed any that were present in the original ingredients.
Surely this is not the breakfast to build healthy, strong, vibrant, intelligent children?
So, what is a healthy breakfast?
It’s impractical and uneconomical to think that we should all cook a full English every day, but there are plenty of other easy healthy breakfasts to be had.
Some may simply need a bit of forward planning.
Here’s a few suggestions….
Probiotic overnight oats – soaked in natural yoghurt, fruit and honey (see recipe)
Boiled egg and sourdough soldiers (sourdough tutorial).
Immune boosting breakfast smoothie (see recipe)
Low sugar beans on pumpernickel toast.
Smoked mackerel pate or smoked salmon and cream cheese on oatcakes.
Breakfast granola bar (see recipe)
Banana and peanut butter flapjack (see recipe)
Oat and blueberry muffin (see below)
And at the weekend – bubble and squeak with a poached egg. Sweet potato and almond pancakes with nut butter, frittata or huevos rancherso – spicy eggs with guacamole.
If you must buy commercial cereal, make sure it’s the unadulterated kind; wholegrain sugar-free muesli, because even health food shop cereals have been extruded.
One of our favourite ways to start the day is with a Breakfast Blueberry Muffin.
They can be made in advance and stored for a few days in a tin. It’s great when you are late for work or the school run.
Breakfast Blueberry Muffin
240g ground oats (I grind my own in a blender). Wholemeal spelt flour or ground almonds works well too.
2tsp baking powder
60g molasses, honey, maple syrup or xylitol (post on sugar coming soon).
2 medium eggs
250ml natural yoghurt (I use goat, sheep or coconut)
50g butter or coconut oil (melted)
Mix the wet ingredients together then stir them into the dry ingredients until you have a cake type mixture.
Add 150g of your chosen filling: grated carrots and cinnamon, frozen/fresh blueberries, mashed banana and walnuts, stewed apple and raisins. Or simply make up your own.
Spoon into cake cases (makes 12) and bake for 25 minutes on 170C, gas mark 4 until golden brown and cooked through. Cooking time may vary due to type of flour used.
If you’ve found this interesting, please let me know.
Equally if you have a favourite healthy breakfast you enjoy, I’d love to hear about it!