I may have mentioned in earlier blog posts that I have given up refined sugar for Lent this year. It has been an incredibly eye-opening experience, and I would go so far as to say that it has probably changed my view of food and the way that I eat forever. The number of foods that I've found with added sugar is quite simply shocking - as soon as you start reading labels and comparing brands it quickly becomes clear that there is sugar hidden in nearly every food available to us. Most shocking to me so far have been stock cubes, sliced ham and ready to eat cooked chicken, savoury crackers, breakfast cereals and nearly every bread product you can think of - no wonder we as a nation are all piling the weight on!
One of the first challenges that came up in my refined sugar free journey was what to eat for breakfast. Breakfast is such an important meal, it can make or break the day. On the rare occasion that I miss out on breakfast, I'm cranky, irritable, and struggle to concentrate, and that's before I've even got out of the door! When I thought about going refined-sugar free, I assumed that I would just check a few labels and buy a selection of whatever sugar-free breakfast cereals I could find, but once I started looking I realised that breakfast cereals without added sugar seem to be rarer than unicorns!
After a tantrum in the supermarket from Small Child over some very sugary cereals he wanted me to buy (the kind aimed at children I might add - the supermarkets don't make it easy for us!), I decided to introduce the no-refined sugar rule for the whole family, for breakfast at least. I'm writing this blog post in the hope that I may inspire and help others in the same predicament - it's time to reclaim our breakfast time from the clutches of the cereal companies that want to fill our children with refined sugar before the day has even begun!
Below I've listed what we have been eating for breakfast for the last few weeks, with a few other ideas thrown in to offer more variety. There is natural sugar present in the fruit that I've mentioned of course, but it's better for you than refined sugar at least, and will count towards your 5 a day too. I also haven't banned honey, although I try to keep its use down to a minimum. Please note that I am not a nutritionist or dietician; the ideas for these breakfasts are based purely on my personal knowledge and research, and what I have been serving up for myself and my family. All of these ideas are very quick and easy, and can be thrown together in a couple of minutes - very necessary for school-run days when time is a precious commodity!
Porridge with chopped banana. This is my standard 'go-to' breakfast these days - sweet and delicious, it will keep you full and satisfied all morning. If you're put off by the idea of cooking porridge every morning, don't be - it's so quick and easy to make with the help of the microwave (see recipe at the end of this post) - it literally takes two minutes to cook! You can chop the banana and use it to top the porridge, or mash it up and stir it in.
Shredded wheat with sliced strawberries. Shredded wheat is one of the very few cereals that I've found that has no added sugar whatsoever - it is made from 100% wheat with no other added ingredients, which is extremely refreshing after the long lists of ingredients that most foods have on their packets. It can taste a bit boring by itself though, so I add some extra flavour with sliced fresh strawberries. Try it with other fresh or dried fruits such as banana, raspberries, blueberries, mango, apricots or raisins.
Cheese on toast. I do love a good slice of cheese on toast! Try it with marmite spread under the cheese, or make it extra healthy with some sliced tomatoes. You could add extra flavour with a sprinkle of herbs on top too. If you're trying to avoid refined sugar do be careful of the bread that you buy - there are more brands available these days without added sugar but most mainstream bread brands do add it. Look out for the Real Bread Loaf Mark, as you can be sure anything with the mark will be free from sugar and other additives.
Porridge with jam and sesame seeds. This was one of the suggested breakfasts from a very successful diet plan I used to follow - the sesame seeds are great for an extra dose of calcium, and add interesting texture and flavour. I use 100% fruit jam by St Dalfour which has no added sugar - stir it into the porridge or dollop a teaspoon full on top - either way it tastes great!
Toast with peanut butter and banana. I had to have a good look for sugar-free peanut butter, but eventually found one made by Whole Earth which has no added sugar. You could of course have peanut butter without the banana, or even banana without the peanut butter - I like to mash banana on to toast then sprinkle it with a bit of cinnamon before eating - it's absolutely delicious!
Homemade granola. I've blogged a homemade granola recipe before - if you look at this post you'll see that it's so easy that a 5 year old can make it! I used the same recipe, but cut the honey in half and switched the cranberries for chopped dried apple - if you're avoiding refined sugar you'll need to check the labels on dried fruit, as some have sugar added (cranberries very often do). You can add whatever dried fruits, nuts or seeds you like to homemade granola, and serve it up with fresh fruit such as blueberries or sliced banana on top to change it up a bit too. Make a double batch at the weekend and store it in an airtight container for a quick breakfast all week long.
After a lengthy search online, the only other cereals that I can find without added sugar are Raisin Wheats and Alphabites by Bear Nibbles. I'd really like to try the Alpabites, as they look like the perfect children's cereal, but unfortunately I haven't yet managed to find them in any of my local shops - maybe you'll have better luck!
In the meantime, here's my porridge recipe, it really couldn't be quicker or simpler!
Really Easy Porridge Recipe
200ml milk or dairy free milk alternative
50g oats (I use rolled oatflakes)
Measure out your ingredients into a microwave-safe jug or bowl. You can substitute all or some of the milk for water if preferred. Stir and place in the microwave. Cook on high for 2 minutes, then take it out and give it a good stir. If it's still quite runny, cook it for another 30 seconds, then stir again before serving it up, either plain or with toppings of your choice. That's it!
For two people, double the ingredients up then microwave for 3 minutes, adding an extra minute at the end if necessary.
I hope that this post has shown that there are alternatives to sugary cereal out there! What do you eat for breakfast? Do you have any yummy ideas to add to my list?