They say that breakfast should be the most important meal of the day. How many of us actually skip breakfast completely? Not enough time, or perhaps dairy intolerant? Whatever the reason, experts say that eating in the morning can set us up for the whole day.
I am trying to follow more of a balanced and healthy meal plan. It got me thinking about how I could do this, starting with breakfast. I have early starts, overnights and am ALWAYS rushed in leaving the house. So for convenience, it is often easier to just grab a tub of cereal and take to work. Are you the same?
Yes, there is fresh fruit, smoothies etc, but don’t want one every day. So, I wanted to see what happens if I made my own cereal, with ingredients that will benefit me; control my intake of sugar, salt and processed foods in general. I then went about backing up what I already knew about supermarket cereal v home-made.
My findings are not meant to be a comprehensive or scientific study, but I wanted to know what was really going on inside the cereal packet! Below is a comparison table I made against my home-made crunchy quinoa granola, along with a generic brand of supermarket granola, honey nut cornflakes and finally Kellogg’s Special K. At a first glance along the calories, you can see alarmingly that honey nut cornflakes are in a league of their own when it comes to calories, but also high carbohydrate value and added (processed sugar).
What I also realised is that they all give a serving portion of 30g. Have you ever actually weighed this out? No, either had I, until now. It is a tiny children’s size portion and I probably eat double that. Let’s be honest who actually has the time to weigh it out diligently? Therefore, most of us are eating over this value, so those nutritional values clearly shown on the front of the boxes are at best only to be taken as a reference. When it comes to cereal, we are hugely underestimating our intake of calories, sugar and carbs etc.
Back to the table with portion sizes aside – we need to get in perspective that although granolas have higher calories, carbs and often more sugar then conventional cereals. Granolas or mueslis have natural sugar and not processed, the carbs are similar value, but you gain in additional fibre, protein and minerals. You will also feel more satisfied, for longer and less likely to snack between meals.
|Homemade granola||Supermarket granola||Honey nut cornflakes *
|273 cal||257 cal||362 cal||226 cal|
Based on 60g per serving
* includes serving with semi-skimmed milk
I had already researched several recipes for quinoa (kept in the cupboard to experiment with for main meals, once I knew what to do with it). Pronounced keen-wah. Quinoa is a complete protein, unlike wheat or rice; gluten-free and easy to digest – contains all eight of the essential amino acids. It is recognised by the United Nations as a super-crop for its health benefits: packed with dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. The facts suggest it is as close to a perfect ingredient as you can get. So, this seemed a great place to start.
The majority of saturated fat and high carbs from granola comes from the nuts, but that is not all bad, if you carefully use the RIGHT kind of nuts. All nuts contain an amount of saturated fat, but they also have good fats, which helps clean up, or lower bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. This lowers the risk of strokes and heart disease. Think of nuts as a traffic light system (high – low saturated fat):
RED – Brazils, macadamias, cashews
AMBER – Walnuts, pecans, pistachios
GREEN – Hazelnuts, Almonds, Chestnuts
Seeds should most definitely be included in any granola. There seems to be divided opinion (looking at internet articles) about whether you should toast nuts and seeds and whether you actually lose essential vitamins, minerals and certain oil profiles. Without scientific proof, nothing is really confirmed, so personally from now on, I will just add add them straight from the packet.
Seeds that can boost your nutrition – chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin, sunflower, flax and wheatgerm.
Chia seeds are considered one of the healthiest and gluten-free, which makes them very appealing to coeliac‘s (aversion to gluten). Consider the following facts from just one 1 teaspoon serving:
– 2.5 times more protein than kidney beans
– 3 times the antioxidant strength of blueberries
– 3 times more iron than spinach
– 6 times more calcium than milk
– 7 times more vitamin C than oranges
– 8 times more omega-3 than salmon
– 10 times more fibre than rice
– 15 times more magnesium than broccoli
The seeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals; an excellent source of fibre, protein and antioxidants and are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Consumption of chia seeds could help reduce joint pain, aid in weight loss, deliver an energy boost and protect against serious ailments such as diabetes and heart disease.
For dried fruit, use sultanas, as opposed to raisins. For one they are lower in calories and also plumper and sweeter. The only difference between the two is that raisins are from dried white grapes and sultanas are from seedless varieties. Per 100g, sultanas have over 7 times less calories, or only 13% sugar of raisins. Also sultanas have almost 6 times less sugar or only 17% sugar content of raisins.
Other ways of looking at the nutritional values of your granola is replacing sugar for something plant based like Stevia. This contains NO calories or carbs. Stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, therefore not affecting blood glucose levels. Ideal for diabetics. For that matter as Stevia tastes sweeter, you can remove the honey and leave additional sweetness to come from the dried fruit. Personal taste aside, I don’t think that the salt brings anything to the dish.
My first recipe is below, but you can change it to your personal tastes. Use this as a launchpad and experiment. I serve mine with a tablespoon of 0% fat natural greek yoghurt (dairy-free versions available), high in probiotics (good for the gut). Banana or other freeze dried berries.
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