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Why people eat sugary crap for breakfast

Breakfast – the most important meal of the day – has become a sugar-fest, and it’s contributing to childhood obesity.

I find my inbox is constantly awash with article that are sugar-bashing, as the world slowly starts to shift from ‘fat is the bad boy’ to realising that sugar is the real problem.

It was good to see Dr Rangan Chatterjee on the BBC One Breakfast Show recently, trying to point out how much sugar is in the typical breakfast options of cereal and toast. Our government seem, to my eyes, to be faced with overwhelming evidence that we need to change dietary advice. We have an out-of-control childhood obesity problem, predicted to add to our already rampant adult obesity problem, yet the government refuse to change dietary advice.

The same day that TV interview was recorded, I saw a blog about a radio interview with Ireland’s top dietitian, slamming low-carb eating (less sugar!) as nonsense! While it’s ultimately true that ‘eating too many calories leads to weight gain’ and no one can deny it, saying that is the whole story misses all the many factors why people eat too many calories!

There are, of course, many factors behind our obesity problems. Personally, I think breakfast is a huge problem, and the UK breakfast table is sadly dominated by cereals and toast. If you follow Mother Nature’s Diet, this obviously isn’t an issue for you anymore, as Core Principle 1 removes that starchy white mass of carbohydrates from your diet. But in reality it’s a stumbling block for a lot of people. I deliver live seminars and people come up to me all the time, or email me in the days after, saying “But what can I do for breakfast? Without cereals and toast, what is there? What can I feed my kids?”

I answer that question a lot!

And the answer is – real food! Plants and animals. You can cook some eggs, that’s the quickest and easiest healthy option for most people. I eat the same food for breakfast that I eat for my other meals – fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits. It’s just a case of putting a new habit in place. I’m rather fond of the ‘I don’t eat crap for breakfast’ habit, it works well for me personally.

You see, the truth is that breakfast cereals and toast have made people lazy. They are both quick, easy options. Really quick. Open the packet, dump some cereal in the bowl, pour on milk. Boom, breakfast in 60 seconds. Hands up. I confess, I can’t beat that, 60 seconds is too quick. I have only one healthy option that is that quick – fresh fruit. I can pick up 2 bananas and an apple and take them with me to my desk or my car and eat them ‘on the go’ – but that’s the only healthy breakfast option I have that is ready in 60 seconds or less.

Today, for my breakfast, I put a knob of butter in a frying pan, sliced and diced about a quarter of a whole red cabbage (it turns my eggs blue!) and threw that in to start simmering, then sliced and diced some savoy cabbage and threw that in too. Stirred that around for a couple of minutes, then cracked in 4 eggs. Making my breakfast took 6 or 7 minutes, maybe 8. My bad.

But I made a choice. A choice that I would prefer to get my butt out of bed 8 minutes earlier, so that I had time to take in some actual nutrition for my breakfast, rather than leaving my alarm to the last possible second and then using the ‘no time’ excuse as my reason for eating crap. And yes, it is crap.

Breakfast cereals are loaded with sugar. If they didn’t fortify the flour for making bread, and the breakfast cereals, with synthetic vitamins and minerals, it would be illegal to sell these products to you because they would make you sick – and eventually kill you. Take the time to read the link and understand why all cereals and breads have to be fortified – breakfast cereals are ‘nutritional cardboard’ and they taste like it, hence the need to add all that sugar.

I appreciate that you’ll face a challenge trying to get your kids to eat red cabbage for breakfast (though it is delicious fried in butter!) but there are plenty of options available. Scrambled eggs, fresh fruit salad, add a dollop of Greek yoghurt if it helps, fresh fruit and a few nuts, maybe make a smoothie and then you can even sneak in some veg like spinach without them noticing.

Do yourself a favour going forward and start every day the best way you can, with some quality nutrition and a few servings of fresh vegetables before you leave for work in the morning – rather than your entire day’s sugar allowance in one meal.

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