Monday, August 22

When what you think is a healthy breakfast turns out to be not-so-healthy....with VIDEO

Last week I was invited to a Blogger Focus group by Kelloggs.  The point of the morning was for Kelloggs to get some direct feedback from real mums connected with many other Mums on what they thought about breakfast, how they viewed marketing messages and ultimately what Mums want.

We had their full attention.

In preparation I thought I would turn to you, the lovely readers - what you ate, if your kids ate, what was important to you.   Your answers were so similar to mine (hey, we are so cool!) and it was obvious there was a concern about sugar.

The day before my day at Kelloggs I read this article about Choice research that revealed that two types of gluten-free muesli had TWICE the amount of fat as a quarter pounder.

I had never really put fat into the equation until then, but it got me thinking.

At our breakfast table there's the usual suspects - cornflakes, ricebubbles, weet-bix and cheerios.  I pride myself on reading the labels and thought I was pretty clued-up.

But I learned alot at this meeting.   On hand were two nutritionalists, Kelloggs PR and Marketing representatives and 8 bloggers from all walks of life.
Some of the Kelloggs thinktank!!  Me, Ian from Kelloggs and Mrs Woog 
Six things I learned about breakfast and breakfast cereals in general:
1.  The word breakfast comes from:
The phrase 'break the fast' (Of not eating overnight)
2.  1 in 5 people skip breakfast regularly
Now this didn't surprise me but I've made a huge effort not to skip breakfast, I would never let my kids skip breakfast...
3.  Many Mums are literally screaming out for allergen free cereals
I never really thought about it before (I'm so lucky not to have any allergies with my kids) but wow!  Why don't we have them? Does anyone else do that? (Let me know OK?)
4.  Some Mums are calling for the toys back in the boxes...!
Yes, they really are!
5.  Role Models and Influence
I'm pretty sure all Mums on the day said that a sportsperson promoting a breakfast cereal would not influence them to buy it...would it influence you?
6.  If you read labels like me... how do you know what the RDI of your child is of particular things?
Because all the labels focus on the adults (that's the law) but you can find out the RDI's for kids 4 and over here and all about fibre and kids here.

My main focus was around sugar.  Like many Mums I worry about sending my kids off to school loaded with sugars, flavours, colours etc... and I also have concerns about their dental health.  Ian from Kelloggs did tell me that they don't sell many fruit loops and frosties these days - that gave me some comfort... I thought they'd be up there with the more popular cereals but it seems many parents are giving the idea of sugar and colours some thought.

When I raised the idea of a traffic light system the nutritionalists told me that you not only have to take into consideration the sugar content, but the nutritional value over all.  Some cereals that have no sugar or little sugar sometimes have fewer nutrients than something with a little bit more sugar.  Sometimes you're ADDING sugar, honey etc to compensate or improve the taste.

That stayed with me, so when I got home I did a bit more research (OK, call it OCD!)  and I found this from a story from A Current affair - the data from nutritionalist Joanna McMillan Price:

Group One - The best (the most healthy for you)
(Note: Cereals in each group are not ranked)
Digestive First
WBC (World's Best Cereal)
Natural Style Muesli
Traditional Oats
Guardian (I tasted this and love it!)
All Bran

Group Two
Sultana Bran
Mini Wheats (plain)

Group Three
Corn Flakes
Special K
Rice Bubbles

Group Four (the least healthy for you)
Just Right
Fruit Loops
Coco Pops

This, was literally food for thought.  Two of my 'healthy' cereals were in the third group, and two in the second.  I had to re-think our breakfast choices.  

Whilst at the Kelloggs factory and having a brief tour of the quality process (don't you like our outfits?) and we got to try a few cereals.  I actually liked the taste of the Guardian cereal, although some others didn't.  What I liked it that it had almost a malty-taste to it and although a little sweet, it wasn't overpowering.  This is because it is sweetened with raw sugar. The fact it is in the highest ranked cereals has helped me rethink my breakfast choices for me and my family.  I'm still investigating, but now I feel more informed I can look at the whole picture before making a breakfast cereal choice.

A Current Affair also filmed our day at Kelloggs - and came to my house to interview me and film the frills eating breakfast - you can find the video here:

What do you think?  What helps you make a decision on what to buy at the supermarket? Is it fibre, fat, sugar, or just the taste?
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35 lovely comments:

ClaireyHewitt on August 22, 2011 at 10:11 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Wow, I knew nutria grain was full of sugar, but to put it with coco pops...I didn't know it was that bad.

Good old porridge always wins.

Diminishing Lucy on August 22, 2011 at 10:58 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Thank goddess for All Bran....

Jo on August 22, 2011 at 11:08 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I think a lot of people get hung up on sugar content, when it is really only part of the issue regarding nutrition.
Talking of RDI's,I actually think that putting the percentage of RDI on the package is really only a marketing gimmick. It makes people feel good that they are buying "nutritious" food. A RDI is a guide only to a person's needs and particuarly with energy (kj) it varies greatly amongst individuals.
The way we were taught to read food labels at university (I studied nutrition and food science) was to read the ingredient panel and the "per 100g" column on the nutrition panel, rather than per serves and RDI percentages etc.
With so much information and little understanding of what it actually all means, it's no wonder people get confused and find it hard to make good food choices.

Kristie on August 23, 2011 at 12:19 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

We do porridge a fair bit..
Tara loves nutrigrain and cheerios and mini wheats - yeah, not good. But she eats them.

Much better than her other option - One piece of white toast with butter.

Seana Smith on August 23, 2011 at 6:09 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I think the most useful thing fr mums is the lust you gave their, simple and from a trusted source. We are not big on cereal at all here; with early risingbkids we have time for boiled eggs, smoothies and I use rye bread a lot for big boys. I love porridge but tragically the kids don't. Cultural traitors!

Green Mama on August 23, 2011 at 7:34 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Once a month or so I make up a batch of museli with dried fruits and nuts and oats. I know exactly what's in it, and while I know the dried fruits have their own evils I know they are still less than what I could buy. We're up early enough that I could cook eggs like one of your earlier posters, I think we might start doing that.

Super Sarah on August 23, 2011 at 7:44 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Very interesting Liss, I don't like cereal myself and luckily both my girls love porridge but I do let them eat it with a spoonful of brown sugar. I don't worry too much about sugar content so long as I know what the nutritional value is, both girls like to snack on a handful of dry nutrigrain but neither will eat a bowlful. I often make boiled eggs or scrambled for breakfast but next year when Amy starts school its going to be a bit more difficult!

Broni on August 23, 2011 at 7:51 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Great post. I think it is really interesting how many food including cereals that we think are 'healthy' and eat are filled with sugars, salts and artificial colorings, flavourings and preservatives.

The 2 cereals we eat are in the second group .. However we used to have the Kids Weetbix that had less sugar and salt but I haven't been able to find it. :(

Thanks for sharing!!

Deb Dane on August 23, 2011 at 7:56 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Thanks for this - so interesting. I was always amazed at how many people eat nutri grain (i knew it had a fair bit of sugar in spite of all the marketing as an athlete's cereal), but found much of the 2nd and 3rd group more surprising.

We used to eat the Guardian cereal and it is really nice. My oldest either eats porridge with a spoon of honey or a bowl of weet bix crunch. Youngest is less loyal and flits between cereal, eggs, smoothies etc.

sapna on August 23, 2011 at 7:58 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

great great post.
I decide by the sugar content.
I don't like cereals full of sugar.

Anonymous said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Joanna MacMillan Price is wonderful, so even though she appeared on a tabloid TV show, I'd take her advice as gospel. Who knew Just Right was so shitty for you? I didn't see that one at all.

I'm a Lowans muesli girl. Untoasted, with a wee bit of dried fruit. The kids either get Weet Bix or Weet Bix with some fruit-based oats mixed in for less blandness.

Anisa said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Very interesting, thank you for this post.

kerrie on August 23, 2011 at 8:06 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

In June I did a woolies shopping tour with Annette Syms from the symple too good to be true cookbooks. One of the things we did was cereal and how much sugar is in most of them.
Also with Jamie's revolutionary of food course, we are told things like muesli are only a tablespoon or so on top of porridge or yoghurt.
Also those up and go's are one of the worse things to give to kids.

LisaB on August 23, 2011 at 8:37 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Thanks, that was a good read and made me think about the kids breakfast cereals. We are a weetbix and oats household. In some ways we are lucky we don't have much choice with one of our kids having a peanut allergy. It rules the entire Kelloggs range out.

Linda Woodrow on August 23, 2011 at 10:57 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Breakfast cereals are one of the fake foods that set me off on a rant - big boxes of mostly air mixed with a bit of starch and sometimes a lot of sugar, and often a batch of additives with impressive sounding names that are actually just common chemicals. Overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food. I challenged myself this year to a year's worth of breakfast recipes, based on in-season ingredients, quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste. It's been a good incentive to me to treat breakfast like a real meal.

jennylou said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I always look at how processed a food is...the degrees of separation from the original source...and try for as close to the source as possible. When I was first teaching nutrition I took a tour of a wheat bix processing plant. I will never eat them again as the poor old wheat grain goes through so many stages of processing.

The only 'traditional' cereal we eat is rolled oats. We often go for savoury foods. It takes no time at all to saute some mushrooms and spinach together!

My motto is - whole, fresh, and organic wherever possible.

Vicki on August 23, 2011 at 11:45 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I'm surprised at Just Right that's what DH has and Special K too particuarly as it is marketed as 'healthy'

Me I love the new all bran flakes although I would happily eat allbran with a banana anyway and the kids will choose porridge over anything else.

I hate sending them to school after ricebubbles or cornflakes as they just seem so 'empty' of nutrition and they always seem cranky (still) after eating them which to me indicates they really haven't been satisfied

Maria Tedeschi (Mum's Word) on August 23, 2011 at 11:50 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

The other thing to look out for is whether it is High GI or not. I read an article recently that people who ate High GI cereal were more likely to develop heart problems ie blocked arteries. I tried finding the article again but couldn't.

Adding honey is better than adding sugar to cereal.

Love & stuff
Mrs M

Anonymous said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

you cal also check out Choice magazine online, they roadtest cereals but also have another section where they analyse popular kids foods and do a red/yellow/green light system. They also have a great little chart that shows you what to look for on the nutritional panels aND WHAT YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING FOR.

reality raver on August 23, 2011 at 6:00 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Surprised about Cheerios as I thought they were very sweet.

themodernparent on August 23, 2011 at 6:04 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

What i also learnt from the Melbourne Kelloggs brunch was that even those cereals that are higher in sugar are still only making up 3-5% of daily sugar intake which isn't that much considering breakfast should make up at least a quarter of our daily food intake. Does that make sense?? In other words there are many other foods throughout the day that contribute far more sugar to our diets so we need not get too caught up, especially if it means our children eating something rather than no breakfast. And also with regard to sportspeople advertising, my boys were far keener to eat Nutri grain over summer when they were doing the Nippers program as they thought it would make them iron men!

Melissa on August 23, 2011 at 7:18 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I'm diabetic, so more than just sugar, I'm worried about GI. I wish that cereals would post their GI numbers on their boxes, make it easier for people trying to follow a LOw GI diet.

Reemski on August 23, 2011 at 7:37 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I mix rolled oats with all bran and dried cranberries, no cranberries? I use fresh or dried fruit, whatever's there. Or porridge! I have to admit a weakness for those chocolate Milo things, and the blackcurrent mini wheats but they rarely (once per year) come into our house

Oscar's Mum on August 23, 2011 at 8:03 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

We have a limited range of options because of Oscar's food intolerances. He will mostly eat porridge made with low fat milk (like mum) or special K sometimes with processed bran (like Dad's cereal). His favourite at the moment is "bubbles and rings" - rice bubbles mixed with millet rings. We sweeten all our breakfasts with fruit.

Before Oscar was diagnosed I was definitely guilty of not reading labels and believing the packaging and marketing - but you can't. Nutrigrain is once of the biggest cons in breakfast cereal, and the Milo "Heart Foundation Tick" cereal is right up there with it.

We really do need to educate ourselves about what we are putting in our own and our children's mouths, and learn to read those labels.

katepickle on August 24, 2011 at 2:24 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Like you I went to Melbourne Kelloggs brunch with questions about sugar and additives... and I was really pleased with the information I was given.
I am now looking at the complete picture more... how much sugar is there, where does it come from how much for the RDI does it actually make up. We are really loving the new 'Just Right' with the cranberries which has more sugar than some but there is a lot of sugar in dried fruit, so I am more ok with the higher sugar content in this cereal... as opposed to say fruit loops where the sugar comes from added refined sugar.

Ann Nolan on August 24, 2011 at 3:47 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Great post Liss and it raises some really interesting issues about how DO you choose healthy breakfast cereal for children!

(Thought I would wade in to the discussion with my Cancer Council Victoria hat on)

The Obesity Policy Coalition ( is a group of health agencies including Cancer Council Victoria, Vic Health etc. They have been calling for mandatory Traffic Light labelling on processed foods for some time to enable consumers to make informed and healthier food choices.

Mandatory traffic light colours (green, orange or red) would indicate whether the levels of nutrients in a product (fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt) are low, medium or high.

The OPC is also advocating for traffic light labels to be required on menus in fast food outlets, in cafeterias and shops in public institutions, such as hospitals and schools, and on the front of vending machines etc.

(New Cancer Council Victoria research indicated that 87% of Australian consumers are in favour of traffic light labelling on food packaging.)

If you want more info about the Traffic Light Labelling system you can get it here -


(Digital Producer with the Cancer Council Victoria)


Hear Mum Roar on August 25, 2011 at 10:04 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Was great to meet you! Like Katepickle, I'm loving that new cranberry just right

Star Child on August 25, 2011 at 7:22 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Hello! I just saw you on Current Affair! Well done. I already follow Lucy's blog, and am now glad I have found yours. Well done guys, you did really well. x

Ash on August 25, 2011 at 8:42 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I also got caught by nutrigrain's name - it sounds healthy! Good thing we like oats in our house. I really enjoyed reading your post. Can't get the video to load but will go hunting on the aca site for it.

Di on August 25, 2011 at 10:50 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Great post Liss. I saw the Choice segment last week and was actually shopping for cereal today with my daughter for our road trip next week. Its the first time I've ever spent a lot of time checking the labels. I've never enjoyed the super sweet Just Right and Plus cereals. I ended up getting Cheerios (influenced by a healthy kids blog I read yesterday). Love good old fashioned porridge!

der Liebhaber on August 26, 2011 at 3:34 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

OMG, what are we feeding our kids these days! we should all start the day the Ruairi way instead!

Lexi Porter on August 26, 2011 at 5:34 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

My family is cutting back dramatically on the traditional milk & cereal breakfast as part of our journey to a healthier lifestyle.

My husband and I have made the transition to Green Smoothies for breakfast (lots of fruit and leafy greens). My daughter does fruit smoothies without the greens. My son is still a cereal eater, but the cow's milk has been replaced by home-made almond milk.

Marleen on August 27, 2011 at 3:07 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Very interesting read. My kids are weetbix kids, served with milk and a teaspoon of sugar, and sometimes bananas and I thought it was one of the healthiest. I might have to rethink their breakfast. I used to be a no breakfast girl for at least 10 years, now I force myself a UpnGo on my schoolrun drive. Not sure about the health aspect of them, but at least it is something apart from my cup of tea. It is retraining my stomach to rumble if I miss out on a morning :)

MaidInAustralia on August 27, 2011 at 7:13 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

My kids rarely eat cereal for breakfast. But they will have it dry, for snacks at school. And I know Nutrigrain is full of sugar, but so are muesli bars and other school snacks. I'm happy to pack a bag of that as a snack, or to bake cornflake cookies for morning tea. At least I know what is in them!

Anonymous said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

It's so great to see more people thinking about breakfast! We need to think about all our meals though... children aren't getting nearly enough vegetables in their diets anymore... we also need to remember that just because we cooked it ourself, it doesn't make it healthy (it may be healthier- but still not healthy).


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