So, over the past few days there has been a LOT of coverage over childhood obesity and how the government plan on fixing this. As usual, their plans couldn’t be further from actually fixing the problem if they tried. Their solution is to replace snacks (crisps, chocolate etc) with fruit – or sugar with fructose (form of sugar_.
Obviously, fruit is better than those snack, but its not the solution at all. Snacking on fruit is fine… but it brings up the question “why do our kids need to snack”? What is causing them to want to eat between meals?
The answer is all down to what we eat at breakfast. More importantly, what we DONT eat at breakfast.
As per the attached image…. lets take a look at some popular children’s cereal. Some well known popular brands i have picked – Frosties, Sugar Puffs, Krave, Coco Pops, Cheerio’s & Crunchy Nut.
I have also given what the nutritional profile of each of these breakfasts are, and how much sugar is in each “portion”. Now i use the word “portion” loosely here…. why?
Well, they recommend that a portion of cereal is 30g with milk. Have you ever actually weighed 30g of cereal to see how much you actually get in a bowl…… not a lot! As you can see from the photo, 30g of cereal is about 2 hand full’s and that’s if you have particularly small hands.
The first thing to note and question here is “How much are you actually eating?”. I can guarantee you its more than 30g. Most people will fill their bowls up half way to three quarters of the way up, then full the rest with milk.
Leaving that to one side for a moment, lets concentrate on just how much sugar is in these portions and then try to work out what the issue is here!
Frosties = 17g per serving
Sugar Puffs = 10.5g per serving
Krave = 15g per serving
Coco Pops = 17g per serving
Cheerio’s = 12.3g per serving
Crunchy Nut = 17g per serving
For most of them, you are looking at about 50% of the cereal being sugar. Lets just take a second to think about that… in a 30g bowl of coco pops, OVER HALF of it is sugar. We’ve already established, above, that we probably eat a lot more than 30g in a serving, so just think about how much sugar you are actually eating at breakfast – or even your children are eating. Now lets also not forget the amount of sugar some people ALSO sprinkle on top of the cereal. Do you also have toast for breakfast? Jam on the toast? Nutella on the toast? Glass of orange juice perhaps? Sugar, sugar and more sugar! Its actually quite scary to think about…
I’m not even going to focus on the lack of protein or fats in the cereal for this post, but just take note that its bugger all for ALL of them. Also, where there are fats presents, its certainly not the good essential fats we need.
So what am i getting at here, apart from the obvious that the amount of sugar we are eating at breakfast is alarming, to say the least?
The original issue i addressed, above, was to do with the rise in childhood obesity and what is the root cause. Now there are many root causes… however, i strongly believe that the breakfast we are feeding our children is high up on the list. Its definitely in the top 3 main issues – the other two being lack of exercise and pure education on nutrition.
To quote (http://www.caloriesperhour.com/tutorial_sugar.php) which gives a good “basic” summary of how sugar effects our insulin hormone: – “Our pancreas creates a hormone called insulin that transports blood sugar into our body’s cells where it is used for energy. When we eat refined grains that have had most of their fibre stripped away, sugar, or other carbohydrate-rich foods that are quickly processed into blood sugar, the pancreas goes into overtime to produce the insulin necessary for all this blood sugar to be used for energy. This insulin surge tells our body that plenty of energy is readily available and that it should stop burning fat and start storing it.”
So, lets dissect what is going on here. We wake up… eat a high carbohydrate (of which sugars are also very high) meal and then trot off to work or school. Our blood sugar levels increase and we get a nice surge of energy. 8 out of 10 people (and all children) then proceed to sit behind a desk, or school desk, for the proceeding 3 to 4 hours before lunch.
While this happens, our blood sugar levels then start to fall… and they fall quickly – they crash in fact. When they crash, then fall below the baseline sugar levels we desire and then experience a sugar “low” or “Sugar Crash” as its also known.
Its at this point we have a big problem. The body is an amazing machine. It will tell you a variety of feelings for many bodily functions, so when one of them is a sugar crash, it wants you to get sugar back into the system to reach harmony within the body. How does it do this? It gives you a craving for sweet things…
The body isn’t stupid, it knows what it wants. If you are low in sugar, it will tell you to crave sugar. Simple! So we trot off and go an get a snack, or our kids go to their lunch boxes and get their snack. What snacks are these? Usually chocolates, crisps, sweets etc. All containing high sugars and thus once consumed we get a immediate lift in sugar levels, feel good again and so the cycle continues. A few moments later we will get a crash again, crave more sugar and so on.
The other issues we have is when we get these massive peaks and troughs in sugar, our attention spans are decreased, our energy levels are all over the place and unless exercise is taken into account, fat gain is an inevitable out come of the situation.
These are facts!
How many parents/teachers reading this experience their children running around like nutters for a short period of time, misbehaving, then slowing down, then going crazy again and so on? Have you ever compared this insight in activeness to the food they are eating…? Cereal, fizzy drinks, sandwiches, crisps, chocolate, sweets, fruit etc etc ALL HIGH SUGAR products. All causing peaks and troughs in energy levels and fat gain.
So what is the solution? Its quite simple… stop feeding ourselves or our children so much sugar.
What should we eat for breakfast? Again, this is simple… fats and protein. Sugar has little/no positive hormonal impact on your body – sure insulin is effected, but not in a good way. Proteins and Fats kick start a whole chain of positive hormones first thing in the morning… thyroid, testosterone, lowered cortisol etc etc the list goes on.
As a man/young boy growing up, surely the first thing we want in the morning is for our stress levels to come down and our testosterone to increase? Think about it boys…
Now don’t confuse this post and assume i’m saying “don’t eat carbs” full stop. That would be a silly assumption to make. I’m simply saying that if we cut carbs (sugars) from our breakfast meal, reduce sugar in all other meals, then our blood sugar levels are going to be a hell of a lot more stable, fat gain will reduce and we wont crave as much. In fact, studies have proven that a high fat/protein breakfast is the best start to the day if you want to increase fat loss throughout the day.
To conclude – change the way you think about breakfast. Don’t just eat cereal because its on the telly or the government tell you too. Its rubbish. Eat a good source of protein and a variety of fats first thing. Try it for just a week and see how you get on. I promise you, it’ll be a life changing experiment and you’ll never go back to eating sugar for breakfast again!