With a major Cereal brand pressurised to cut the sugar content in its product, experts are questioning the health quotient of packaged breakfast foods. Here's how to choose what to eat for your first meal of the day
The adage 'breakfast like a king' is sound nutritional advice, according to experts. "People who eat breakfast have a higher intake of important vitamins and minerals and lower cholesterol levels.
In the long-term, people who eat breakfast are more successful at maintaining a healthy weight," says Dr Eileen Canday, chief dietitian with Breach Candy Hospital.
Eating breakfast also impacts mood positively, and prevents irritability. "Children who eat breakfast perform better on standardised achievement tests and have fewer behaviour problems in school," adds Dr Canday.
Foods that have high amounts of carbohydrates obtained from wheat, rice, bajra, jowar or other millets are defined as cereals.
Homeopath and raw foodist Dr Neeta Dharamsey says Indian breakfast staples like poha, upma, idli and dosa are a healthier choice than packaged breakfast cereals. "Fortified foods are no better than pesticides since both are prepared in the laboratory," says Dr Dharamsey.
"Commercial breakfast cereals have added refined sugar and salt that is often hidden. Salt intake should be restricted for people suffering from hypertension or water retention problems.
Most ready-to-eat foods are very high in sodium content," says Dr Canday, who advises reading nutritional information labels carefully before you pick up a packet at the supermarket.
"Check the amount of sugar, sodium (salt), fat and additives present. Find out if the cereal has been fortified with vitamins and minerals such as iron or Vitamin D. Check the amount of omega 3 fatty acids and total fibre content as well," advises Dr Canday.
A good idea is to opt for high-fibre cereals like bran. "Oats and muesli are a good choice too as they are nutritious and contain soluble fibre, which helps rid the body of waste," offers Dr Canday.
Dr Dharamsey advocates starting the day with fruit. "Eat whatever fruit is in season and as much as your body requires.
Commercial breakfast cereals might be a more convenient option, but the same nutrients can just as easily be found in natural foods," she says.
"It's best to have breakfast early in the morning, as metabolism is highest in the morning," advises Dr Canday.
A healthy breakfast is one that includes a combination of essential nutrients and complex carbohydrates, and is low in refined sugars. "Especially for those who are obese or suffering from diabetes," says Dr Canday.
Complex carbohydrates can be found in oats, poha, idlis, dosas, upma, paratha (without oil/butter/ghee), or high-fibre breakfast cereals and are preferable to the simple carbohydrates found in sugar or maida-based
"You could have a fruit and a beverage, say tea or coffee," says Dr Canday. She also recommends including essential fats to your breakfast. Nuts such as almonds or walnuts are good. Those suffering from anaemia can add dates or raisins to their breakfast.
Protein is another key component of a good breakfast. Eggs, paneer, yoghurt and milk are good sources of protein.
Dr Dharamsey, however, advocates staying away from milk and milk products. "Most people are unaware that green leafy vegetables are also a good source of protein," says Dr Dharamsey.
"The epidemic of diabetes is due to milk. The amount of fat in dairy products is completely disproportionate to the body's requirements. Carbohydrates are not the problem, fats are," she adds.
Dr Dharamsey advises having a smoothie prepared with two bananas and eight to 10 spinach leaves, which she says is an ideal way to start the day.
"There should be no major difference in the nutritional value of the breakfast of a child and adult. The only thing is that children's breakfasts sometimes need to be made more fun and colourful," says Dr Canday.
However, Dr Canday cautions against encouraging kids to turn to sugary foods in an attempt to encourage them to eat.
"Childhood obesity is a major concern in urban areas, so children struggling with their weight should be discouraged from eating packaged foods."
"Sugar is often added to breakfast cereals to make it palatable. What food that you have prepared fresh at home are you going to be alright eating after six months, like you would packaged options?" questions Dr Dharamsey.
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Beyonc ©'s favourite way to begin the day is with a bowl of Granola cereal. The Crazy In Love singer is also said to be a big fan of bran.
Purab Kohli, Actor
Breakfast is the meal I look forward to most. I eat a fruit first thing in the morning, followed two hours later by porridge with dried fruits, milk and honey, and eggs. Oats are my ideal breakfast cereal. You might catch me eating muesli with yoghurt and a drizzle of honey in the middle of the night. On weekends, I indulge in a solid Indian breakfast, and eat aloo parathas or dosas.
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Breakfast is typically idlis or muesli with warm milk, fresh watermelon juice and a banana. I love Chocos, but I find it too sweet, so I usually combine it with wheat or cornflakes.
Minissha Lamba, Actress
Muesli is my favourite breakfast cereal. I like to have it with cold milk. I love dried fruits, which combined with the crunchiness of rolled oats, provides me with the right taste, nutrition and energy that I need to start my day with.
Fruits and Veggies
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For supermodel and mother-of-two Claudia Schiffer, eating nothing but fruits and veggies right up to noon helps maintain her svelte figure.
Oats and muesli are a good choice for breakfast; they are nutritious and contain soluble fibre, which helps rid the body of waste. You should also eat whatever fruit is in season.
Dr Eileen Canday, chief dietitian, Breach Candy Hospital
Popular cereal brand Kellogg's plans to reduce sugar levels in Coco Pops in the UK, next year. A report published in UK-based daily The Guardian, earlier this month, announced that Kellogg's would reduce the sugar content in Coco Pops by 15% around next year, this time. Coco Pops currently contain 37% sugar per 100 gm.
The move, alleged to be the result of a sustained campaign by health groups, will reduce the sugar content to one-and-a-half teaspoons per serving, eliminating almost 750 tonnes of sugar from the country's diet annually.
Apart from sugar, breakfast cereals typically contain large amounts of salt. Experts warn that consuming a diet high in salt can result in health complications, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Children who eat high salt diets are at a greater risk of heart attacks and heart failure as adults.
High-fibre, hot cereal is the best choice. Though there are several brands of cold cereal that are high in fibre and low in sugar also available.
Eat two slices of toast or a whole grain bagel. You can spread the toast or bagel with low-sugar fruit spread or applesauce or low-fat butter.
Veggie or fruit smoothie
Doodhi + tomato juice or carrot + beetroot + mint leave (pudina) or watermelon + mint leaves (pudina) are options. "Take any fruit and add a green leafy vegetable to get your dose of protein," advises Dr Dharamsey.
Indian breakfasts, including poha, upma, idli, dosa and even parathas (ideally minus the oil/ butter/ ghee) work well.