A Handy Guide to Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereals are notoriously confusing to choose from.  And the marketing behind them can be very manipulative.  With this is mind I have put together a handy guide to making healthier choices with cereals.  I hope you find it helpful!

ADVERTISING: Many cereals will tell you lots of positive things to draw you in, particularly childrens’ cereals.  Just because it’s wholegrain’, ‘low in fat’, ‘fortified with vitamins and iron’, has ‘no added salt’, ‘no added sugar’, ‘no artificial colours or flavours’, has a healthy sounding name or photos of glowing kids and sprigs of wheat doesn’t mean it’s not high in sugar!  

COMPARE BRANDS: Most supermarket brands and Nestle use the helpful ‘traffic light system’ on the front of the packet – this shows whether fat, sugar and salt are high (red – a bad choice), quite high (amber – not a great choice but ok sometimes) or low (green – best choice).  Kelloggs hasn’t signed up to the traffic light system – their nutrition info is all in blue – so is the least easy to understand.  

SUGAR GUIDELINES: This is the recommended amount of daily sugar for the different age groups (you don’t need to count the sugar naturally present in milk, yoghurt and whole fruit): Adults and Children over 11 years 30g; 7-10 year olds 24g; 4-6 year olds 19g.

BEST AND WORST CHOICES: The best cereals to choose are wholegrain ones (for longer-lasting energy) which are also low in sugar, salt and fat (particularly sugar).  So aim for the sugar tab on the traffic light bit to be green.  Branflakes, porridge and shredded wheat are all good choices.   Although not wholegrain, cornflakes only have 2g of sugar per 30g bowl so are an okay choice some of the time.  And definitely better than crunchy nut cornflakes, which contain 12g of sugar per 30g bowl!  This is nearly 2/3 of the daily recommended amount of sugar for a 4-6 year old.  Cinnamon Grahams and Coco Pops both contain 8g of sugar per 30g bowl.  And some mueslis and granolas can be very high in sugar.

PORTION SIZE: 30g is a small bowl and many kids and adults have much more than that for breakfast.  Try weighing out the amount you all have and then work out the total sugar – you may be shocked!  Note that some cereal boxes (usually those aimed at adults) will tell you how much sugar per 40g/45g so check closely.

MAKING CHANGES: If you/your kids love sugary cereal, consider mixing it with a healthier similar cereal and over time reducing it until you are only left with the healthier choice.   Or buy a few new, more healthy cereals for people to choose from, so atleast people feel there is some choice.  Topping cereal with fruit provides greater nutrition and a little natural sweetness.

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Effortless Egg Curry

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This totally delicious egg curry is based on a BBC recipe.  It is quick to make (about 20 minutes) and great with some rice and mango chutney.   An excellent, effortless recipe to have up your sleeve!

Effortless Egg Curry (serves 4)

Oil

2 white or red onions, thinly sliced

2 heaped tbsp curry paste (I used Patak’s Korma Paste but apparently Tikka Masala also works)

400g can chopped tomatoes

8 eggs

140g frozen peas

2 tbsp natural or Greek yoghurt

Rice and mango chutney to serve (I use microwave brown rice to save time)

Heat the oil in a pan and add the sliced onions.  Gently fry for around 10 minutes, stirring, regularly, until golden.  Stir the curry paste in for 2 minutes then add the can of chopped tomatoes and 200ml of water.  Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, boil the eggs for 9 minutes until hard boiled, remove the shells and cut in to quarters and put aside.  Add the peas and yoghurt to the curry sauce and simmer for 3 minutes.  Add the hardboiled eggs.  And your curry is complete!

Best enjoyed with rice and mango chutney on the side.

Orange and Raisin Soda Bread

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My 5 year old son and I love Nadia Hussain – former Bake Off Winner and all round loveable mum – so we made the delicious, slightly sweet soda bread from her World Book Day book Bake Me A Story.   The great thing about soda bread is that you don’t have to knead it, it is just a matter of mixing the ingredients and patting the dough in to a rough ball.  It was easy and we all loved it with a spread of butter! We replaced the dried blueberries with raisins as we had them at home already.

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My son tends to help a little then run off, then help a little more and run off, before declaring he is tired.  Which is fine, because every second helping out counts.  He helped tipping in and mixing the ingredients, cutting a cross in the loaf before baking, and tapping on the bottom of the loaf to check it was cooked (it should make a hollow sound).

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Here is the recipe!

Orange and Raisin Soda Bread (makes one loaf)

400g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

50g caster sugar

2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

100g raisins/dried cranberries/dried blueberries

Grated zest of 2 oranges

1 large egg

185ml buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk you can easily make it by mixing milk with lemon juice – mostly milk topped up with lemon juice to 185ml – it might curdle and that’s fine)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 6.  Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, oil, raisins and orange zest until combined.  Separately beat the egg with the buttermilk then pour in to the bowl with the other ingredients, and mix with a spatula.  Gently bring the dough together to form a ball, but don’t overwork it (you may need to use your hands at the end).

Place the dough on the lined tray and make two deep cuts in the top in a cross shape, nearly all the way through.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when taped on the base.

Leave to cool then enjoy with butter!  Should last 2-3 days and can be toasted.