Since starting my first ever dietetics placement back in July it has been a complete 180 from my usual life and I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind of data collection and assignments. I’ve now finished my community placement and just had my first day of food service placement. The world of dietetics is such an interesting one and whilst on my community placement, I was given the idea for this post.
I know most of us are short of time in the morning, but that’s no excuse to not eat breakfast and a healthy one at that. There are countless options for a quick breakfast, some of which can be prepared in advance and some that take a matter of minutes to whip up. Check out my previous blog post that provides some healthy snacks that could just as easily be part of a healthy breakfast.
When you may choose to have breakfast, the common breakfast cereal is the first thing to reach for no doubt, with it being calculated that about ten 750g boxes of cereal is consumed by each person per year (That’s 7.5 kgs a year!). But is that really the healthiest option?
These days there are hundreds of breakfast cereals on the market; multi coloured, chocolate flavoured, fruity, oaty, sugar laden, round, square, clustered, you name it and your local supermarket will most likely stock it. I’m sure many people would know that most of them contain quite a hearty dose of sugar, in fact much more than you really should be consuming. Not to mention it is ultimately refined sugar, which can cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels, causing a burst of energy without sustaining energy levels until your next meal. Surprisingly to some, most contain quite a bit of sodium as well (ie. salt), of which a bowl of cereal can contribute to over 1/5th of your daily sodium requirements.
Although the consumption of breakfast by adults can be a concern, an even bigger concern is whether or not children are getting a nutritious breakfast. With breakfast being such an important meal, and potentially contributing to overall growth, development (both physical and cognitive) as well as concentration in children, it is imperative that they are being fuelled with nutritious, satiating foods in the morning. A study looking at nutritional differences between children’s vs. non-children’s breakfast cereals shows the 46% of cereals marketed to children were reported to be denser in energy, sugar and sodium and lower in fibre and protein than non-children’s cereal. Yet another staggering figure was the 66% of children’s cereals that did not meet national nutrition standards!!! When you break down the figures, that is over 30% of cereals being marketed to, and consumed by children that are not nutritionally adequate.
One way you can be sure that you’re getting all the right nutrients to keep you fuelled throughout the day is by making your own breakfast cereal, my personal favourite being muesli. This way, you can know exactly what you will be putting into your body. There is a limited amount of fats and sugars when compared to the amount of oats, fruit and nuts, both of which are also preferable sources of unsaturated fats and complex carbohydrates. Keep in mind that when you’re pouring that cereal into your bowl it’s very easy to have a slip of the hand and end up with twice as much your recommended serving size, this being ½ a cup; however you don’t need to eat much of this delicious muesli to fill you up, so have a go at making my delicious Homemade Muesli.
There are so many options for nutritious, quick and easy meals that you can have for breakfast, with a few of my favourites being:
– Poached eggs and ham on wholegrain toast, with avocado
– Low fat yoghurt with fresh fruit
– Homemade muffins
– Porridge with maple syrup and fresh berries
– Fruit smoothie with LSA
If you’re at the supermarket trying to choose what cereal to buy, look for those that are least processed and have minimal amounts of sugar and sodium; such as shredded wheat, weetbix, some mueslis (be sure to check the sugar and sodium content as they can vary greatly) and rolled oats, all of which can be incorporated with other ingredients to make a nutritious and filling breakfast that will keep you fuelled until your next snack or meal.
So who doesn’t love chocolate??? I’m sure there aren’t many of you out there that don’t love the sweet, melt in the mouth feeling of a good quality piece of chocolate. There aren’t many things that can’t be fixed by a piece of this delicious treat and it’s certainly saved me in times of stress, when only chocolate will do. Chocolate is definitely a food to be enjoyed, but before you get too excited I should say that I’m not talking about any chocolate bar or block. One type in particular is the best choice and most beneficial for health; dark chocolate.
Let me start with how chocolate is made…
The process of making chocolate begins with harvesting Cacao pods, where the pods inside are then removed and left in the sun to ferment and dry, contributing to the impending ‘chocolate’ flavour. The manufacturers then take these beans, roast them, remove the outer shell and extract the nib. The nibs are then ground and liquefied to chocolates purest liquid form: Chocolate liquor. This can then be further processed into Cocoa solids and Cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter and sugar are present in all types of chocolate, however only dark and milk have cocoa liquor, which is why it is said that white chocolate is not a ‘real’ chocolate, additionally containing milk powder and vanilla. Milk chocolate has the addition of the cocoa liquor and milk powder, whilst dark chocolate has only cocoa liquor. The process of conching then occurs to grind all particles to be extremely fine and therefore undetected by the tongue, only leaving a smooth, melting mouthfeel. The final step of tempering refines the chocolate to allow for an even texture, sharp “snap” when breaking it and a glossy appearance that we see when we open a packet of chocolate.
Why choose dark chocolate?
There are many reasons you should select dark chocolate over other types. Dark chocolate is generally the purest form of chocolate, and you may have noticed a “percent cocoa” on the packet. This simply means that it has that percent of cocoa solids in it, ie. The chocolate liquor, cocoa solids and cocoa butter. For this reason, there is less room for additives such as sugar and milk powder, leaving you with a rich, strong and pure chocolate taste. Generally, the higher the cocoa percent, the better the chocolate will be, as it contains a greater amount of antioxidants. Although most of the benefits are speculation, there has been a great deal of scientific research conducted to find the various benefits of dark chocolate and cocoa. One trial found a small, but statsically significant reduction in blood pressure with consumption of flavanol-high dark chocolate and cocoa, which is thought to dilate (widen) blood vessels and thereby lead to this reduction. It is however, important to remember that there are always factors to be mindful of when looking at benefits. We’d all love to believe that we can eat as much chocolate as we want because it’s “healthy”, unfortunately this is not the case. As always, everything in moderation is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are however, some positives when it comes to chocolate.
Is chocolate not good to consume due to saturated fat?
The fat in chocolate, coming from the cocoa butter, is made up of 3 fats: oleic acid (monounsaturated fat and considered one of the heart healthy ones), stearic acid and palmitic acid. The latter two are both types of saturated fats and make up about two thirds of the fat in cocoa butter. Although we’ve all heard that saturated fats increase LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, stearic acid has been shown to neither raise nor lower these levels when consumed, so although there is saturated fat in chocolate, only one third of it has an effect on cholesterol levels. Good news for chocolate lovers!!!
There is always research being conducted and constantly new findings on how chocolate can benefit health. Unfortunately there is not yet solid evidence that it will prevent any disease or illness, however you can read more about its nutrients and particular properties that may have beneficial effects on protection against heart disease and cancer and links to as well as other factors that don’t make it as bad for obesity, diabetes, acne and migraines as people may currently think.
If you love chocolate and want to try making a healthy and delicious treat, then you MUST try my Dark Chocolate Truffles, healthier than your average bought truffle, simple to make and incredibly delicious!!!
As chocolate is very kilojoule dense for a small portion, it is recommended that consumption is limited to approximately 25g per day – that is, approximately a row of chocolate from a block or a couple of 2.5cm square pieces.
So for the chocolate lovers out there, you don’t need to give up chocolate because it’s “bad for your health”, simply be careful about how much you eat, and steer clear of sugar laden chocolate and chocolate products