Saturday, April 13, 2024

Are breakfast cereals really healthy?

As we all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. After a good night’s sleep it is vital to break your fast with a nourishing and scrumptious meal. A nutritious breakfast can fuel you for the rest of the morning until it’s time to refuel at lunch. Eating a balanced breakfast is the key to good health and feeling energised throughout the day.  


Did you know that eating an unhealthy breakfast is actually worse than not eating breakfast at all?


The healthiest breakfast is a balanced breakfast including protein, fiber, healthy fats and carbohydrates. Unfortunately for us, some of the most popular breakfast foods like cereal do not meet these nutritional requirements, making it an insubstantial choice. 

Hiding behind lofty claims of nutrition, when it comes to unhealthy breakfast foods, cereal, although it is easy and convenient, it is actually one of the most dangerous. 


What is breakfast cereal?

Breakfast cereals are made from processed and fortified grains. It is often eaten with milk, yogurt, fruits, dry fruits or nuts. 


How are breakfast cereals made? 

Processing- the grains are processed and powdered into fine flour and then cooked.

Mixing- the flour is combined with ingredients like sugar, cocoa, water.

Extrusion- Many breakfast cereals are made using the process of extrusion, a high-temperature process that uses a machine to shape the cereal.

Drying and shaping- the cereal is then dried and shaped into the desired shapes. 


Cereals are highly loaded with sugar and refined carbs 

Additional sugar is one of the worst ingredients that can be added to your diet, especially first thing in the morning. Cereals are high in sugar and very low in protein.  Eating too much sugar or refined food can lead to health conditions later on in your life. Added sugar is often the second ingredient in breakfast cereals. The sugar spikes your blood sugar levels, then sends them crashing once the insulin in your body kicks in and your body will start craving another high carb and high sugar meal. Thus creating a vicious cycle. Excess sugar also increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Sugary or highly refined cereals are alright as an occasional treat but they are definitely not the best everyday breakfast option.


Biggest culprit of misleading health claims

Breakfast cereals are marketed as healthy often claiming to be whole grain or low fat however if you look closely at the ingredient list it has refined grains and sugar as the first few ingredients. The minuscule amounts of whole grains do now qualify breakfast cereals to be healthy. This is all a marketing gimmick to get people to believe that cereals are healthier than they actually are. 


Often marketed to children

Breakfast cereal manufacturers tend to target children as their audience by using bright colours, animated pictures and cartoons, gifts inside cereal boxes and the appeal of sugar being healthy.  Too much consumption of cereals can lead to obesity and other diet related issues among kids later on in their lives. While the colors and cartoons make the products more appealing to children, the false health claims make the parents feel better about buying these products for their children. 


The sugar in cereal can affect your brain

One of the worst things about cereal is its added sugar content.this high sugar content can affect your brain and cognitive function. Your cognitive function is lowered, bloody sugar levels are at an all time high and you’re at risk for high blood pressure along with a sugar crash. 


Cereal can leave you feeling hungrier

Cereals can definitely be a delicious way to start your morning but these processed carbohydrates with a lot of added sugar will leave you feeling hungrier throughout the day, without a doubt. Not only will it leave you hungrier but also leave you craving more sugary foods especially carbs. 


If you prefer to eat cereal for breakfast, try to  select a healthier option.

Read the ingredient list and food labels before choosing your cereal. The first two ingredients are often what the product contains the most of.  Pick a type of cereal that has limited sugar or no added sugar. Aim for high fibre per serving. Try to add some protein to your cereal and enrich it with either greek yogurt or nuts. 

If you can it is always better to choose unprocessed breakfasts like a high-protein breakfast of eggs. A high protein breakfast tends to reduce cravings and late-night snacking as well. 


Here are some other healthier breakfast options to try:

  • an omelette with vegetables like onions, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes and even some cheese. 
  • whole grain toast with an avocado and an egg
  • Greek yogurt with fruits and nuts
  • Sausages or bacon with eggs and mash
  • A fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie 
  • overnight oats, made with oats, full fat Greek yogurt, and fresh or frozen berries



Challenge your habits by not limiting yourself to typical breakfast foods for your first meal of the day. Try a different combination of foods every morning to keep things interesting and stay healthy at the same time. 

Breakfast cereals are highly processed, packed with added sugar and refined grains. Their packaging often has misleading health claims so it is best to approach cereals with a certain amount of scepticism. 

A healthy breakfast made from whole foods is not only simple but helps you start your day with plenty of nutrition. 

Choosing a breakfast that is healthy and nutritious rather than processed or refined foods is always a better choice. It will help you get your day started right.

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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