N is for Nutrition – At Breakfast

Between the 14th – 20th of November is Sugar Awareness Week, which raises awareness of the damaging effects of too much sugar in your diet. This year’s theme is ‘Breakfast’, which is the most important but sweetest meal of the day.

Breakfast provides us with a great opportunity to start our day by consuming various essential nutrients, but unfortunately, commercial breakfasts are often high in sugar.

Think about the types of food you eat for breakfast compared to your lunch or dinner. They are a lot sweeter, aren’t they? Cereals, especially kids’ ones like Coco Pops, Frosties and Sugar Puffs, are loaded with sugar. A lot of sugar also goes into making jams, marmalades, and pastes like Nutella. All those delicious croissants, pain au chocolates and other pastries are full of sugar too. Additionally, maybe you like to start your day with sugar in your coffee or tea. Then this is additional sugar on top of your already sugary meal.

When it comes to breakfast, it is so easy to consume a lot more sugar than you think you are. It can sometimes feel like you are having a dessert for breakfast, doesn’t it? This may sound great, but we need to understand what you are putting into your body and the affects you.

What are the effects of too much sugar in your diet?

Having an excess of sugar in your diet can cause you to develop acne, feel bloated, have high blood pressure and low energy levels.

However, if you consistently consume too much, this can lead to some significant health implications in the long run. For example, it can increase the risk of having heart issues as well as developing diabetes and tooth decay.

So, how much sugar should I have each day?

According to the NHS, the government guidelines for free sugar consumption will differ depending on your age. Free sugar refers to sugar that is added to food and drink, such as fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, and chocolate.

  • Adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars daily, (roughly equivalent to 7 sugar cubes).
  • Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars daily (6 sugar cubes).
  • Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars daily (5 sugar cubes).
  • There’s no guideline limit for children under the age of 4, but they’re recommended to avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with added sugar.

To determine the amount of free sugar in your food, you must look at the nutrition labels on the packaging. To put these stats into context, A bowl of Coco Pops contains 4.25 cubes of sugar, whereas Quakers Original Oats is 0.25 cubes of sugar.

What healthy breakfast options can I have instead?

Here are some healthy options you can have for breakfast:

  • Eggs (You can choose which way you want to eat them – they are a great source of protein)
  • Avocado on toast
  • Smoothies
  • Yoghurt
  • Crumpets
  • Porridge
  • Overnight oats
  • Fruit
  • Chose wholemeal bread for your toast
  • Look for reduced-sugar jams and fruit spreads
  • If you want cereal, pick a less sugary option (i.e. unsweetened wholegrain breakfast cereals that are not frosted or coated with chocolate or honey.)
  • Having less sugar in your tea or coffee

Many pre-bought food and drink products have a lot of sugars in them because they are processed. A way of cutting down your sugar intake is making the food yourself. Homemade food is a great way to know how much sugar you add to your meals.

How does a sugary breakfast affect me?

What you pick for your breakfast will affect how you feel and what you eat during the day. Your breakfast should fill you up and give you enough energy to get through until lunch. After having a sugary breakfast cereal, you might feel full and feel like you have energy. However, after an hour, your energy levels drop, and you start to feel hungry again. This is because high-sugar foods can cause a rapid rise of blood sugar, which then drops, which signals your brain that you need more sugar. This then makes you crave something sweet to keep you going until lunch. This means you are consuming even more sugar, and why it is so easy to fall into the trap of overeating and gaining weight.

The 80 – 20 Rule

We like to live by the 80-20 rule regarding our diet to balance our healthy and unhealthy foods. It’s a straightforward rule to stick to, so we wanted to share it with you. 

So, what is the rule?

The rule is that you eat healthy foods 80% of the time, and then you can treat yourself 20% of the time.

It is important to know that you do not need to eat only healthy foods to be a healthy person. It is okay to have some of the ‘bad foods’ in your diet, but you must have it in moderation. 

So, if you have a sweeter breakfast, cut down on sugar later in the day. Additionally, if you are craving something sweet during the day to keep you going, try to pick a natural sugar alternative, such as fruit, rather than a bar of chocolate or a packet of sweets. This will fulfil your sugar craving and is a much healthier alternative. It will also help prevent your sugar levels from spiking and dropping so much.

To find out more on this topic…

Listen to our ‘N is for Nutrition’ podcast episode

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