Body & Fitness

The healthiest choice in breakfast cereals

Oats, berries, linseed, nuts… what makes a healthy breakfast option?

There are lots of new breakfast options available at the moment, from clusters and toppers to porridge in a pot. But how can we tell what’s going to keep us going until lunch – without blowing our calorie intake for the day?

Nutritionist Nicola Deed from FoodFighters delivers her verdict:

When buying muesli, be mindful of…

The fat and sugar content. The oats, nuts and seeds in muesli mean it can be higher in fat than other breakfast cereals. The fat from these ingredients is usually good ‘unsaturated’ fat; however, many manufacturers are upping the fat content by pouring in vegetable oils.

When looking at the nutrition panel, the fat content should be less than 10g of total fat and less than 2g of saturated fat per 100g. The ingredients list will help you identify whether the fat comes mainly from nuts and seeds or from added oils. If it’s from nuts and seeds you need not worry as long as it is portion controlled.

Many mueslis will contain added sugars, sometimes disguised as honey, golden syrup, maple syrup or glucose etc. Some of the dried fruit used may also be sweetened with extra sugar. Check the ingredients list for added sugar sneaking its way in there. Ideally you want less than 10-15g of sugar per 100g, which makes choosing a decent muesli hard.

It is recommended we get no more than 10% of our energy from added sugars. This is around 51g or 13 level tsp per day. According to the latest New Zealand national nutrition survey, around 21% of our dietary energy (kilojoules) comes from total sugars (both naturally occurring and added) which is about 27 tsp a day! Also look for products with more than 6g of fibre per 100g, as it helps keep you full.

What are healthier alternatives?

While some mueslis are high in sugar, they also provide fibre, protein and vitamins. I’d recommend you go for plain wholegrain oats then add fresh fruit to sweeten it naturally, plus nuts for essential fats. This way you can control what you add to your breakfast without the added nasties.

Vogel’s Café-Style Super Oats

With the least ingredients, no added sugar, 80 per cent wholegrain oats, 12 per cent coconut, low sugar (1.8g per 100g) and 16 per cent of your daily fibre, this is a product I’d highly recommend. The saturated fat content is higher than government guidelines. But this is to be expected as it contains both coconut and almonds – ie ‘good fat’, as long as it is portion controlled. And the high levels of fibre and protein will keep you sustained all morning.

Sanitarium – Cashew and Quinoa

The bulk of ingredients are made up of wholegrain fine cut oats (70 per cent) and cashews (9 per cent). This is low sugar and fat (even compared to Ministry of Health guidelines) and the quinoa helps to increase the protein. This is a great way to start the day.

GO breakfast Instant Rolled Oats – Berry Blast

It’s good to see something quick and easy for when you’re on the go, in this case wholegrain oats with no added colours, flavours or sweeteners. However you can make wholegrain oats with less added sugar yourself. On the plus side I absolutely love that they use freeze dried fruit as opposed to dried fruit. Just such a shame they add sugar, thickeners and salt.

Vogel’s All Good – Almond, Cashews & Linseed

With only 7 per cent sugar (1.6 tsp) per 100g, this looks like a great offering. But I’m surprised at this low figure as it contains added sugar, stevia (a plant-based sweetener), molasses and dextrose. Free of artificial colour or flavour, this cereal is high in fibre (16.3g) and low in saturated fat and will keep you full thanks to the nuts, seeds and fibre.

Hubbards Simply Muesli Clusters Berry

With only 32 per cent wholegrain oats, it makes sense that the fibre is only 5g per 100g. It also has added sugar and vegetable oil. But I do like that the cranberries aren’t coated in sugar; a nice surprise.

Hubbards Crunchy Protein Toppers

I am surprised this doesn’t contain more fat as generally when a product features vegetable oil among its ingredients it increases the fat content – and not in a good way. I do like that it has pea protein, which will help bump up the protein. The ingredient list is very long compared to the other mueslis; I feel less is more when it comes to ingredients. On the plus side, there are no artificial colours of flavours.

The smartest choice for me, and why:

Vogel’s Café-Style Super Oats is my pick. It has only has five ingredients and a very low sugar content, always a winner for me. Not only that, but the ingredients aren’t coated in anything; they are ‘clean’. This cereal is high fibre and high protein, which will help keep you feeling full all morning.

Good Health Choices approved: Smartest overall choice

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