A nutritionist’s guide to choosing breakfast basics
There are a few key things to look for (and be mindful of) when buying bread, cereal and yoghurt.
OneLife staff writer
For something that should be so simple, grocery shopping can be mighty confusing. Between food labels spruiking debatable health claims, ingredients that you can’t pronounce, and the sheer number of options lining the shelves, even knowing which basics to buy can be tough.
So, we thought we’d get the advice of a professional. Aloysa Hourigan, a Senior Nutritionist from Nutrition Australia, gave us a brief guide on how to navigate the supermarket aisles when it comes to buying three key breakfast basics: bread, cereal and yoghurt.
The number one thing Aloysa recommends is to read and understand the labels on the product you’re buying so you can make sure your nutritional needs are being met.
“You need to look at two main things when you buy products in the supermarket: one being the ingredients list [ingredients must be listed in descending order], and the other being the nutritional information panel,” she says.
When it comes to choosing bread, Aloysa says that some choices are healthier than others. “It is good to choose wholegrain or wholemeal varieties over just white flour because they will contain more dietary fibre and a few more vitamins and minerals, especially the B group vitamins,” she says.
What to look for: The words ‘wholegrain’ or ‘wholemeal’. But note: this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to see the whole grains in the bread. “When it says ‘wholegrain’, what that means is that there are all parts of the grain in the food. So, it may not be there as a big grain, but it could be crushed up,” says Aloysa.
What to be mindful of: When it comes to nutritional value, plain white flour bread generally isn’t the best option, although Aloysa says, “There still are better and worse choices – you can get things like a low GI white bread that makes it break down a bit more slowly and tends to not impact on blood glucose levels quite as rapidly.”
And another thing: When you’re buying bread, check how many grams are in a slice. When the Australian dietary guidelines talk about a slice of bread, it’s referring to a 40g serve. Some bread slices are 55g each, meaning two slices are around three servings.
When choosing breakfast cereals, it can be confusing to determine if a product has added sugar as only the total sugar amount needs to be labelled, and sometimes that can come from things like dried fruit. So how much sugar is too much?
What to look for: Aloysa says, “A good rule of thumb is, on that nutrition panel, look for products that have less than 15g of sugar per 100g. If you’re looking at total fats, it’s best that it’s less than 10g per 100g, and if it’s saturated fat, it’s best if it’s less than 3g per 100g.”
What to be mindful of: Overly processed cereals that aren’t wholegrain, particularly the sweet, flakey types. “If the big flakes taste sweet, then you can be sure they have some added sugar,” says Aloysa.
And another thing: When it comes to muesli, Aloysa recommends opting for DIY if possible. “The safest way is to make your own. If you put in bran and a little bit of dried fruit, then you know exactly what’s in there,” she says. If you do need to buy it, stick to the recommended portion size, and keep in mind that plain muesli will tend to be lower in sugar than the toasted variety.
Make your #onechange
Read the nutritional labels of the breakfast basics you have sitting in your pantry right now.
As a fermented food, Aloysa says yoghurt can be a great for your gut health, but as with breads and cereals, the key is reading the labels to ensure you’re getting bang for your buck when it comes to nutritional value.
What to look for: Yoghurt should have a short ingredients list, around 100mg of calcium per 100g, and no more than 15g of sugar per 100g (though this can change if it has natural sugars from things like fruit). Some have good probiotic qualities, which are quite kind to stomachs, and some have added protein which can mean more nutritional value, particularly for kids or older people.
What to be mindful of: Check sweet yoghurts labelled with ’low fat’ and ‘no sugar’ for artificial sweeteners. “Artificial sweeteners are not considered, in small amounts, to be highly dangerous in any way, but they do encourage your desire for that super sweet taste,” says Aloysa. On top of this, many commercial yoghurts achieve a creamy texture by adding in milk solids, which results in more lactose and a slightly higher sugar content.
And another thing: It’s worth trying to steer your kids away from sugary yoghurt towards the more natural kind. “Some kids’ yoghurts are more like a dessert. I think you’ll find there’s quite a lot of added sugar in those products as well as some other additives, like added colours and flavours, which may not be great for some kids,” says Aloysa.
“Children learn what taste is as they go, so if you can offer kids more of the better yoghurts from the word ‘go’, that’s probably what they’ll grow up to like and enjoy.”
OneLife staff writers come from a range of backgrounds including health, wellbeing, music, tech, culture and the arts. They spend their time researching the latest data and trends in the health market to deliver up-to-date information, helping everyday Australians live healthier lives. This is general information only and is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances. The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.
The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.