Cereals have been around longer than you may think. Back in the late 1800s they started life as healthy breakfast options, however by 1939 sugars and sweetening agents were added, and health took second place to what gradually became a hugely marketable industry.
By the 50s the likes of Mr Kellogg set the norm that cereals should be our first meal of the day. Sundays may have been cereal-free zones for some, but in the main, the daily choices to ‘break your night’s fast’, had names like Cocoa Pops, Cheerios, Rice Crispies, Sugar pops and Shreddies, with most of them loaded with sugar and very few health-giving nutrients.
In the early 1900s the Swiss joined the American cereal craze and brought out muesli, a healthy mix of rolled oats, dried fruit and nuts which gained huge popularity in the 1960s, and currently sits at the top of preferred cereals in Europe.
So why are cereals so popular?
Initially, back in the late 1880s, they were a novelty but still an unknown territory, and the taste was pretty bland. Once sugar and sweetening agents were added after 1939, that was it, the world was hooked because both gluten and sugar are highly addictive. Plus they were, and remain, a quick food option. Take the cereal out of the packet, add milk or juice, and voila, breakfast is served.
The trouble is, most commercial cereals are low in nutrients and fibre – don’t have much substance to them – and the brief spike of energy from the hidden, or blatantly added, sugars crashes your system about an hour later, and you’re hungry all over again. Time for a second breakfast – and more sugary calories.
Then there’s the gluten component. Grains just ain’t what they used to be. We’ve pfaffed around with new varieties and changed old ones too much for our own good, increasing the yield perhaps but also increasing the gluten component – making them more shelf-friendly, but often less gut friendly.
Another reason for cereal’s popularity is that we are living in a fast-paced western world. Despite the apparent awareness (T.V., written articles, books, various movements) on the Worth of Real Food, and the Rise of Disease, owing to the current rubbish modern diet, the majority of the western world still yearns for something easy and packaged. Fast options to match the fast-pace of life. My cooking-from-scratch would be too old hat for most, and even though there’s a range of wonderful movements on the rise, eg. Cooking from Scratch, Mindful Eating, Slow Cooking… or just Slow, there’s still a huge part of the western world living in the fast, and even faster, lane. There resides a whole other issue for chat another day
With gluten now in the limelight as a potential intolerance food, part of my nutrition recommendations for patients with gut dysbiosis, will often include a gluten exclusion period of 1-2 weeks. A short week or two of leaving out gluten in order to find out how the person feels. Makes sense, but wow, the reaction to this suggestion can be spectacular.
‘But WHAT will I eat for breakfast!!!?’ Confused, devastated expression.
Yes, I do agree that the move from cereal, or toast, to no-cereal and no-toast is not easy. But there really are some delicious options.
So here we go. Some suggestions for anyone who says they don’t know what to eat for breakfast other than muesli, corn flakes, cheerios or toast.
If you’re a lover of eggs, how about a poached or softly boiled egg on a bed of greens. The greens replace the toast! Try fresh rocket or shredded spinach or kale – cook them lightly in broth or coconut oil and add spices of your choice, if you prefer cooked to raw.
For added interest and taste, sprinkle a mix of lightly toasted seeds on top, or add some cubes of avocado. If you haven’t overcooked your softly boiled or poached egg, the yolk will break and give you the ‘dressing’ on your bed of greens (then add some freshly ground pepper or turmeric).
This is a great protein breakfast with a wide selection of vitamins and minerals from all those greens. Plus it’s tasty and easy.
Second suggestion: Same as above but use half a large tomato instead of the greens. The tomato replaces the toast!
Or how about a thick, nourishing juice? This may be in the too-hard basket for many, but once you have your new mini blender or juicer, you won’t look back. Instructions and recipes abound, and there are loads of affordable ones on the market (my youngest at college just bought a blender for £15). Adding ground flaxseeds or chia seeds – protein – will bulk up the juice and satiate you. And remember, keep vegetables as the main ingredient rather than fruit.
Saying that, there’s nothing like a plate of exotic fruit when you’re on holidays. Papaya is one of those remarkable fruits with high concentrations of excellent anti oxidants; high in vitamin C and B vits as well as minerals, plus the enzyme papain which has anti- inflammatory properties – great if you’re suffering allergies, or digestive problems – IF, however, you tolerate exotic fruits.
Do add nuts to your fruit platter so that you’re having protein with your meal and slowing down the sugar hit from the fructose/glucose in the fruit.
If, like me, you love chai lattes try the real deal rather than the powdered mix offered by many high street coffee shops – nothing tea-like about them, just a huge sugar hit and all sorts of strange things in the powder. Mix all the whole chai spices (cardamom, ginger, allspice, cinnamon or just the ones you like) with a green tea – another immune booster – or a peppermint/green tea – even more interesting – and add the brew to some hot coconut or almond milk.
What other breakfast options are there? The range is inexhaustible because who says that breakfast has to include fruit or eggs, tomatoes or for that matter, toast or cereal?!
This week I’ve been eating chicken/veg broth every morning for breakfast. I have tailor-made my breakfast to suit what’s going on in my life, namely an infection which moved from drippy cold to heavy chest cough on the plane somewhere over Dubai.
Chicken-veg broth is nutrient-dense and easily digestible. It’s proving to be a wonderfully nourishing start to my day…even my voice returns for a brief visit after the morning hot comforting bowl.
And what benefits am I reaping from my slow-cooked chicken broth?
Firstly, loads of minerals in a form that my body can easily absorb – minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and sulphur, which are needed for every system in my body to function well. The broth also contains collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine – with glutamine and collagen being real gems as they have immune-boosting properties and soothe the digestive tract’s lining. Broth has become a real benefit to clients with digestive disorders, whether we’re talking Crohn’s, IBS, UC or leaky gut. And considering the link between auto immune diseases and gut dysbiosis, bone broth should be part of the menu for anyone with an auto immune condition.
There is nothing wrong in making up your own breakfast. A bowl of soup, or some steamed vegetables, or brown rice and avocado with nuts perhaps?
Some useful tips, however, to ensure your breakfast will sustain you longer than an hour might be:
Add a protein source to your breakfast in order to fill you up, slow down any blood glucose hit, and drip-feed your energy levels throughout the morning. This protein could be eggs, chicken, goat’s cheese, plain yoghurt, nuts, seeds or cooked pulses.
Secondly, try to add some vegetables to your breakfast plate. Our bodies just can’t be alkaline enough in this acid-food western world.
Finally, eat to enjoy! My soup has become a real comfort this week – definitely food for the soul. Hope you make yours the same