It’s been a long time since I’ve reached for a mainstream breakfast item. It’s not because of snobbism, nor even because of a dislike for processed food. Why? It’s most importantly because it just barely touches the sides and I always found myself hungry an hour or two later, so it made sense to move to simple whole food oriented breakfasts and enriched smoothies for the busy days. Not eating too frequently and focusing on well rounded, nutrient dense meals, gives our digestion a break in between, which also means our bodies can focus their energies elsewhere (say, like on the immune system). Now sure, there is a scale of good to bad to worse, but today I really want to just open up your critical thinking centres with the ones that promise a ‘great start to the day’ to well meaning people and simply are not delivering.
When I started doing corporate talks and preschool parent sessions to audiences who had never heard of me (instead of my community or the organic growth over time through friends of friends who already to some extent understand wholefoods) I was planning them and thinking “How am I going to convince busy, smart, productivity focused groups that their go-to quick cereal options are no good when they’ve never for a second considered they might not be?” Then it dawned on me: Talk about breakfast cereals and their ROI (return on investment). What is this ‘convenient and inexpensive thing REALLY giving us back?’ They answer? You certainly get what you pay for, and in the case of the breakfast aisle – one of the most profitable aisles in the supermarket – you really don’t get much.
Imagine my surprise when I started to analyse the cereal aisle and I found these sorts of % of the daily macronutrient requirement in the boxes per serve. (well, I wasn’t *really* surprised but I definitely was surprised about just how nutrient deficient most mainstream breakfast options are! I truly didn’t think it was going to be THIS bad once I’d formed my hypothesis and committed to heading out and researching)
Let’s take a look…
Safe to assume you’d expect at least 20% of your dietary needs (let’s leave debates about how the % and amounts are concluded by which organisations for a minute) to come from breakfast. In the breakfast aisle of the supermarket, I’m telling you I actually couldn’t find a single one where that was the case across the protein and fat components – the two things that will ensure long and steady lasting energy and blood sugars throughout your busy morning, until lunch. The results across the most popular breakfast bar, cereal and grab and go liquid breakfasts were terrible.
Here we have a whole bunch of processed, puffed, then squished into shapes grains and 6% of our daily energy requirements. 6%!!!!!
Another thing that shocked me in taking this closer look at what my instinct knew anyway? 35g is a small handful of flakes. 1 serving is completely unrealistic at 35g and it’s more like 3 x that, meaning at breakfast you’re having 24g sugar – or 6 tsp. That’s the entire day’s sugar recommendation maximum end of the 4-6 tsp a day, as per the World Health Organisation, done at breakfast! And if 8g of sugar has been decided to be 9% of the daily recommended amount, then these guys are saying that 90g of sugar is the daily recommended amount. Which is 22.5tsp a day – A little different to the World Health Organisation’s recommendation. Having to have 3 x the amount suggested as a serve also triples the price per serve, affecting the main selling point as being economical.
Let’s not even go into the fact that aside from these macro nutrients mentioned, there are additives, high processing and all the other things we talk about regularly on the blog, but today I wanted to play their game – focusing on the nutritional panel which is where we’re always told to focus (instead of the ingredient list which is a much better place to get the true picture of something’s ‘value’ to us).
It’s a very similar story with this bar by one of the biggest breakfast cereal manufacturers in the world. Look at those percentages, right? 4%??? No wonder we’re all hungry again by 9am and reaching for snacks – oh how convenient. THEIR snacks!
And again with this well known breakfast cereal in a ‘to go’ tub. It’s so obvious right? Lightbulbs all round if you’ve never taken a look at this, am I right?
And lastly, a liquid breakfast. I drank this breakfast for about 2 years. I had a lot of snacks in the cupboard and hand bag too. It just barely touched the sides – A good quick rush of energy and then BOOM. Pass me food, any food, brownie looks good type eating. Did someone say blood sugar problem? Easy to understand when you see that I would have had a cool 4.5tsp sugar for breakfast! And of course 8% of our daily ‘energy’ requirement.
I don’t know about you but 1% of our daily fats needs? 2.8% of our daily protein? It’s no wonder the ever profitable ‘snack category’ needed to be produced, to ensure we had something to get over the hunger pangs of 10am – Create the cereals that create the need for snacks. Grainy sugary things that don’t fill you so you need more grainy sugary things? Genius business model. But we’re smarter than that now, right? Don’t feel bad. If you’ve just joined the low tox life, let me introduce you to something I say: A LOT! Don’t feel bad about what you didn’t know. Ditch the guilt. Get excited about what you’re going to change from today and move forward happy, instead of looking back sad. Make sense? That’s how we do things.
Mark my words, I reckon the modern breakfast options were created by multinationals who knew that if they were able to ‘sell’ us on breakfast flakes, bars, shakes and weird cardboard bricks, then they knew they’d have reason to create a whole new consumer “problem” to solve: We’re hungry by 9-10am and we need a solution: SNACKS. So lovely of them to make them for us too!
So there’s the reality check and while I know a lot of readers have been on this journey with me for a long time now, many of you might have friends or family who are just starting or maybe you have naysayers saying cereal’s ‘fine’ – maybe YOU reading this right now are just starting to try and make sense of why these sorts of ‘options’ just aren’t giving you the return on investment.
Basic / mainstream options to gently ‘hack’ as a baby step.
- Cereal – Switch to simpler ingredient lists, better percentages (oats will give you a better result)
- Toast – It’s a ratio and variety issue the ol’ toast for breakfast. If you’re having toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and pasta / rice accompanied dinner, that is NOT much room for anything else like veggies, meat, fish, nuts, seeds… So switch it out with smoothies, eggs + English breakfast usuals, chia puddings, oats and leftovers so that it’s not always the same thing. Toast won’t carry you far in the morning, unless it’s with an egg and thick avocado, or nut butter and banana or ‘big’ hearty toppings like those. Sourdough is advisable so that it’s easy to digest. Are they having two pieces? Cut to one and do a dippy egg, some cut veg and dips, a leftover chicken leg, a mini chia pudding along side the SINGLE slice. Variety: Become obsessed with the notion and great things will come of it I promise.
- Smoothie – Cut sweetness and up protein and fats to a more balanced level between the sugars and carbs. Perfect time for a segue!
The protein is very low in all the options above. 1 organic egg costs 80c an egg. That egg gives 13g protein along, never mind flying past all these ‘added vitamins’ shown above in terms of daily RDI. Add to that a handful of sautéed spinach and you get a load of phytonutrients and vitamins – something missing from the average breakfast cereal, unless synthetically added.
Not everyone likes eggs – or can even tolerate them, and many of my readers want something that is an on-the-run style of breakky or an “I can make it with my eyes closed” smoothie type of breakfast. I like those sorts of breakfasts too and after having eggs show up as an intolerance for me, I found breakfast all of a sudden best covered in the smoothie / breakfast bowl / breakfast ice cream style. If you love hot breakfasts and leftovers for breakky then by all means knock yourself out but the rest of the post is all about the super fast to make and fabulous world of sourcing a decent whole foods based protein powder to make breakfast as much a bang for your buck as for your health as it is for your wallet.
So, navigating the protein powder world!
There are weird fake sugars, highly processed soy proteins, genetically modified soy proteins, grain fed cow gelatine proteins (and they’re often fed genetically modified corn and soy), additives (especially in the meal replacement weight loss shakes), maltodextrin starches that are super high GI and aggravating to the GI tract, dairy derivatives, fructose and on and on we go. There’s also the issue of many of them not containing any plant fibre, fats or minerals and we don’t want a scenario of ‘protein and not a lot else’ where we have to add a billion things to get a complete and sustaining breakfast, right?
There are a small select few protein powders that do what we want them to do – and that is offer great nutrition, remove the need for a between-meal snack and the associated costs of that and taste good. I have decided to partner with their site, knowing Stu and Guy from having spoken at a conference together a couple of years ago in Tasmania. I’ve also been on their 180 Nutrition podcast talking sunscreens (controversial, I know!). I trust them, I know the product, I’ve tasted and use it regularly, I like that they have vegan AND grass fed whey protein options to suit everybody. I’m a fan of their ethos and their massive desire for us to be our best selves. It shines through in everything they do and for the 100 brands I get asked to do something with, and the 99% I say “sorry because of XYZ” – this is the 1% that I say yes to, and then get to work getting us a little deal! You can see through their podcast, their site and their social media that they truly care about people’s health.
You’ll find a discount down the bottom under these couple of recipe ideas to make super simple breakfasts that don’t cost the earth, don’t take up your time in the morning, and give us a whole lot of bang for your buck to avoid having to snack until lunch. Check out this nutritional panel compared to the ones above. Amazing what using only high quality ingredients can do, hey?
Yay – bingo! High protein (the equivalent of two small eggs in fact!) loads of essential minerals, B vitamins from plant sources for stable energy and relaxed mind, healthy fats and plant based fibre, and super low sugar so we don’t hit a mid morning low. Now we’re talking. So while the over all daily energy needs are at 9% of the serve, what we’re mixing it with isn’t the suggested ‘skim milk’ vibes of the breakfast cereal world, it will bump it up to about 15-20%. AND the nutrient variety and breakdown OF that energy is much more fuelling for our body’s needs. This will take us much further into our day than anything from the mainstream aisle could ever hope to. The lie is over. Those cereals and shakes simply don’t define a ‘meal’ if we’re to have 3 a day with a light snack. Technically you’d need 9-14 serves of those above products to come close to reaching your daily macronutrients – never mind your micro nutrients.
The 180 Smoothie
So – now you understand my blog post pun (doing a 180 on breakfast, get it? Don’t worry, I won’t quit my day job!)
This smoothie is so, so simple it’s actually crazy. I’ve added a few optional produce soup ups. You don’t need to include them into the smoothie every day and can just keep to the core bare bones recipe – just think about your overall day and if veggies or berries are looking light on in your day for whatever reason, this smoothie is the perfect time to add them in as your ‘insurance’ top up of produce.
What you’ll need – serves 2 or 1 adult and 2 small kids
100g of the chocolate vegan pea protein or whey chocolate 180 Nutrition powder. 50g = 1 serve
270ml AYAM or other additive free coconut milk
That is literally all you need for the bare bones version. How fast is that, right?
Suggested micronutrient soup ups?
A tsp of their GREENS PLUS powder which is packed with vegetables, chlorella, blueberry, acai, goji, spirulina… All that great health insurance super food stuff!
A handful of fresh or frozen baby spinach
A handful of frozen or fresh berries
A handful of parsley
A tsp of either cinnamon, vanilla powders or both
A tsp chai spices – YUMMY variation!
A tsp honey (handy if you’re transitioning ultra sweet teeth people off processed options to give that little hint of something familiar)
Note: If you like a cooler temperature smoothie, add 6 ice cubes. You don’t want brain freeze material as the Chinese would say that messes with your CHI, but if you just don’t want it to be room temperature, then a few ice cubes is a great option.
What to do
Blend all ingredients together for a minute on high in your blender or multi cook type processor. Job done. Pour and enjoy!
Now, I do something nifty with mine, seeing as I’m always craving variety and I’m the lone breakfast smoothie person in this house and my big man and little man are eggs, spinach, bacon toast types of people…
To make the next day’s breakfast a bit different, I simply make the serves of the two smoothies as above (save time!), then with half of it I add 2 tbsp chia seeds and pop in a jar and into the fridge to have the next day with toasted buckwheat crunchy bits on top. You don’t need more chia than that as there’s ground chia in the blend that helps thicken too. You could add fresh fruit too if you fancied or other toppings such as goji berries, nuts or seeds. It is DEE licious if I do say so and so, so filling.
Now, onto the breakfast ice cream…
Breakfast Ice Cream – Serves 4-5
What you’ll need
100g 180 Nutrition Whey or Vegan Pea Protein chocolate or coconut powders (I use the coconut so the fruit flavours can come through when I do this!)
2 large over ripe bananas, peeled, cut in chunks and frozen to use for this recipe.
100g frozen berries
100g coconut yoghurt (or regular yoghurt if you enjoy / can have it)
50ml water, milk, coconut milk or nut milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla powder (optional)
What to do
Blitz all ingredients in a food processor or thermomix type contraption on high and after 15 seconds, scrape down the sides and keep going until you have an ultra thick, soft-serve texture happening. The coconut flour can make it grainy if you over mix this, so mix literally JUST until it’s all combined and then serve so it’s silky and delicious. You can hold some of the 180Nutrition mix back and sprinkle on top too for a creamier ice cream and more of a nourishing topping vibe. Have a play with the ratios and way you fancy using it.
It is that simple. Garnish with toasted seeds, buckwheat kernels, berries or nothing but it’s a great way to get great nutrition at the breakfast table without having to do a whole lot of work! Certainly not more than a minute’s work more than serving up cereal and milk. And then no need to work on or pay for lots of mid morning snacks – winning!
So while these whole food options for convenience can often seem expensive and out of reach, at $2.73 per adult serve with a few extra bits thrown in to make it about $3.50 AND you don’t have to buy any mid morning snacks because you’re actually nourished, satisfied and have slow burning fuel to get you through to lunch time? To me that is a great return on investment.
Here’s to ditching all the loud marketing messages of “goodness of whole grains” and “High fibre”. What a joke, when we look at the REAL story of exactly what these so called smart breakfast options are actually returning for us. Very little at all!
Here’s to real breakfasts made from real whole foods whether you opt for checking out the 180 Nutrition blends or start cracking an egg on sourdough. Or both, depending on the mood and speed with which you need to get breakfast happening.
No more additives, synthetics, snacking an hour after a meal or crashing down moments with a blood sugar dip after all the added sugar vanishes. We’ll be wanting none of that thank you!
Real Food. Happy Bodies