Breakfast - breaking down the myth

Breakfast- Breaking Down the Myth

As a society it is extremely clear what are and what aren't 'breakfast foods'. We are very happy to accept that cereal and milk, porridge oats, toast and butter etc can be eaten as the first meal of the day, but chances are, if I were to offer you a turkey burger, fried eggs and nuts for breakfast, you'd think I was nuts... Instead most people would opt for a bowl of weetabix, semi-skimmed milk and sliced banana and feel it had been a healthy start to the day. 

We are also all aware that breakfast is 'the most important meal of the day', meaning we need to fill up on nutritious foods which will kick start our bodies and brain into action. Indeed the Weetabix website says 'research has shown that people who skip breakfast do not perform as well either physically or mentally as those who do eat breakfast. Other research demonstrates that eating breakfast could also improve your mood and behaviour.' Clearly breakfast is an important part on our list of things to do in the morning. 

However, this is where the problem lies. Are those 'standard breakfast foods' actually the nutritious options which are going to help us through the day, giving us that physical and mental energy and bringing about a good mood?

Lets analyse the standard choice of cereal, skimmed milk and banana


Glycemic index is a measurement of how fast 50g of a particular carbohydrate raises blood glucose levels and therefore insulin levels in the body. Most cereals have a glycemic index ranging from 60 to 110. As a rule, a glycemic above 50 are not great choices when trying to lose weight- due to their specific effects on blood glucose and insulin levels - (something you can read about in my other post on sugar). They release sugar into the blood quickly and only keep your energy levels high for a short time period.

Here is a list of standard cereal glycemic indexes- 

•Porridge (Oatmeal) 60
•Muesli 60
•Special K 70
•Cornflakes 76
As you can see they are all above 50 and these are the so called, 'healthy cereals'. What would that make the naughtier cereals like? 

Skimmed Milk

Most people will opt for skimmed milk over normal milk as it doesn't contain as high fat content. Firstly, fat isn't bad for you and is actually very important in our diets and so by choosing skimmed milk you are missing out on essential nutrients- (you can read about this in my Fat post). Secondly, skimmed milk has a higher glycemic index to full fat milk - 32 and 27 respectively. It also has a high insulin index which is the way we measure blood insulin response to a food compared to a reference food glucose. Full fat milk does not have this characteristic. Is this increase in blood glucose and insulin spike worth it for a bit of healthy fat? 


Glycemic Load is slightly different from glycemic index as it indicates how fast a standard portion of a particular food raises blood glucose, again giving an indication of glycemic and insulin response. Bananas have a glycemic load of 12 - yes we have established this is low, but other fruits such as cherries have a glycemic load of 3, so are there better options? 

Cereal, Milk, Bananas

Our cereal has a high glycemic index, our milk choice has a high insulin load and our choice of fruit appears to have a high glycemic load. Combining all these factors together, we are increasing the chances of gaining weight, not to mention making our body more susceptible cardiovascular risk factors and to age prematurely. Not exactly what we expected from our 'healthy breakfast choice'. 

Clearly what society has deemed 'breakfast foods' are not exactly what we should be eating to kick start our day. There are much better things we can chose which aren't going to cause spikes in insulin and cause our bodies to hold onto and store excess fat. Opt for slow release carbohydrates and definitely include protein in your meal. Berries are a great choice too when choosing a fruit. This way you are more likely to have a sustained amount of energy throughout the morning, whilst also decreasing your chances of weight gain and CV disease in the future. 
Stay tuned for my next post which will be up in a couple of days explaining and giving examples of much better breakfast options