Three months ago, my product knowledge extended from the 226 page document I tediously produced on every product in Coles as of June 2013 in my first semester of dietetics at every spare, waking moment to the products I have kept in my pantry since then.
Well, now I can tell you that the newly reformulated Carman’s fruit-free muesli has an extra 1g of fibre per 100g, and that Goodness Supergoods wholegrain barley wraps not only have a new package but they are also smaller, and contain less fibre per wrap. I know that not all natural peanut butters are nutritionally equal, and peanuts vary in saturated fat content, and I can pinpoint every non-dairy milk on the shelf without added calcium.
Anyway, my point. I have learnt a lot, and if there is one popular theme. It is the demonising of nutrients. Mainly, no, just sugar. And a whole lot of confusion at the dairy case and in our breakfast bowls.
Earlier in September this year, a systematic literature review of more than 230 papers over 30 years investigating the impacts of breakfast cereal consumption on our health was published in Advanced in Nutrition, an international peer-reviewed journal of the American Society for Nutrition. And there was good news. This handy infographic is courtesy of www.cereal4brekkie.org.au and summaries how fabulous breakfast cereals are.
But like, aren’t breakfast cereals full of sugar? Some yes, some no. That’s why I teach my clients to read labels and sift through the marketing claims so they can choose the best choice for them.
And today, because breakfast is my religion and I am loving the Carman’s Light & Crispy Berries & Flakes muesli (Thanks to Felicity for the recommendation), I’m going to share my label reading tips with you.
It’s time to crunch(y nut) the numbers.
I will point out two things on the product label first.
1. The per 100g column. Food manufacturers determine the serving sizes on their labels, and this can be inconsistent when comparing products per serving. And well, you may not eat the serve size either. What’s 35g of muesli? Exactly.
2. Below the nutrition panel is the ingredients list. This helps you interpret when fat, protein or sugar comes from. And if fat, sugar or salt is in the top three ingredients, put it back on the shelf.
Now, for the ‘what’s a good breakfast cereal?’ part.
Wholegrain breakfast cereals can help manage blood glucose levels and are associated with a lower risk of diabetes. Wholegrain means that all three parts – bran, endosperm and germ – of the grain is present. Thus, wholegrain cereals are a rich source of fibre and a good source of our B group vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Keep in mind that there are no requirements as what % of the product needs to be wholegrain for food manufacurers to slap the wholegrain label on their products. Look for words that say ‘whole’ or ‘wholegrain’ in the ingredients list. The higher the wholegrain, the better.
Breakfast is a great opportunity to boost our fibre requirements for the day. Cereals high in soluble fibre (oats, psyllium, barley) help lower total and LDL cholesterol, and a high-fibre breakfast cereals reduces risk of Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Fibre also improves our bowel function and improves our regularity. So, we need some bowel loving breakfast bowls. I’m sorry, Alliteration makes me go coco pops and a whole lot cheerio-er. Sorry, I’m not really sorry. You’re almost weetie-ing yourself, I can tell. So bad.
Anyway. The recommendations are to look for a product that contains at least 3g per serve. A standard serve size for breakfast cereals is 30g, so, because I like easy numbers, I suggest looking for a cereal that contains 10g or more fibre per 100g.
The lower the better. Techinically a low salt cereal containes less than 120mg per 100g, but anything below 400mg/100g is good. If your overall diet is low in processed foods, your salt intake won’t be too bad anway.
I kept this one till last. I’m being a little stubborn when it comes to sugar. The recommendations on this one are to aim for under 15g sugar per 100g.
If the product contains dried fruit, aim for under 25g per 100g.
If you are still concerned about the sugar content – have a look at the ingredients list as to where the sugar comes from. If you see concentrated fruit juice, corn syryp, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, golden syrup, maltodextrin, or sucrose, it has been added to the product.
So, what are some good choices?
Sanitarium Weet-bix (original, hi-bran, organic, kids)
Uncle Toby’s Vita Brits
Uncle Toby’s Oat Brits
Uncle Toby’s Shredded wheat
Be Natural 5 wholegrain flakes
All Bran Original & wheat flakes
Goodness Superfoods Heart 1st, Digestive 1st & Protein 1st
Vogel’s Ultra Bran Soy & Linseed
Carman’s Fruit Free Muesli and Light & Crispy Berries & Flakes.
What breakfast cereal are you loving right now?
P.s. Special mention to my brother for helping me think of as many breakfast cereal names as we could even though my product knowledge is at the top of my game.