Spanning history, there has been a substantial change in what we consider healthy for breakfast, then and now. Now consider this, at night after dinner, we eat our next meal after a gap of 10-11 hours on an average. At night when asleep, our brain doesn’t rest. It continuously utilizes the energy in the form of glucose. As a result, our sugar levels reach rock bottom by the time we are up and about. Hence, it is quite easy for one to understand why breakfast has been given so much importance both then and now. Apart from the fact that breakfast recharges us, it also saves energy to take on the hustle and bustle of your day.
Let’s look into breakfast, a little more in detail.
The most skipped meal of the day
A famous ancient proverb “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper” is sadly forgotten. We today lead busy lives, compelling us to skip breakfast.
A nutritional gap is formed and not compensated for, in rest of the day’s meals. We then experience low energy levels, shorter attention span and reduced productivity. This in turn alters our circadian rhythm (simply put – our body clock) which maintains our metabolism pattern. In fact, those who skip breakfast feel a yearning for binging on snacks between meals. And just to prove my point a study conducted by Susan (2016), relates individuals who skip breakfast has higher BMI compared to individuals who consumed ready to eat cereals/cooked cereals for breakfast.
The Breakfast dilemma
With an extremely convenient and super-fast lifestyle, we observe a prominent shift of our dietary preferences towards ready to eat/cook foods. When we choose a perfect breakfast option, always look into products high in complex carbohydrate (which delivers the energy slowly over the course of the day), protein (as they hike your metabolism immediately) and a small amount of fat (providing satiety).
In Indian scenario, we have an array of breakfast option as Ready to eat (RTE) cereals which can be consumed without cooking accompanied with milk and fruits (Cornflakes, wheat flakes, granola bar); Ready to cook (RTC) which requires cooking in milk or water (Oats, Oatmeal, Millets) and Precooked/Processed cereals they can either be RTE or RTC (poha, upma, idli, vada).
Know your Breakfast cereal
Breakfast cereals are processed grains usually consumed as the first meal of the day. It can be consumed hot or cold accompanied with milk, fruits, yogurt and other options to increase the nutritional value. The process is simple- Corn/Ragi/Millets flours are mixed with flavouring agents, vitamin, minerals and making into a dough which then is extruded to the desired shape followed by drying and packaging.
Health vs Taste
Breakfast cereal manufacturers always claim to be a healthy alternative as in High fiber, low fat, added vitamins and minerals but what consumers overlook is the sugar content and the mode of processing which counteracts the nutritional value and causes more harm than good. Breakfast cereals are sugar coated alike their marketing techniques which coax the consumers to buy the product.
Always pay attention to the label claims and choose wisely, avoid those with high added sugar and preservatives. Limit your portion size and include protein rich – yogurt and dry fruits.
Opt for the traditional breakfast cereal option available in the market as in millet flakes free from added sugar. Millet flakes are made with a combination of rare varieties of millets – foxtail millet, little millet, proso millet. This provides a good amount of complex carbohydrates with good taste where you can still enjoy a wholesome breakfast alternative.