Sitting down to a bowl of cereal and milk in the morning used to be a family ritual, but it’s in decline.
Sales of cereals, including corn flakes, muesli and wheat cereal biscuits, were down by £51.8 million last year, according to research consultancy Kantar.
The reason? We’re increasingly opting for breakfasts picked up from High Street coffee shops on the way to work.
But, as we reveal here, it can be surprisingly difficult to spot saints from sinners when it comes to eating healthily.
We asked state-registered dietitian Helen Bond to assess five of the best – and five of the worst.
Have a look at the pictures and see if you can work out which five are which. Then read on to see how many you got right . . .
FIVE OF THE WORST
A. Leon smashed avocado and halloumi muffin
164g, £3.75. Calories, 446; saturated fat, 14g; sugar, 4g; protein, 21g; salt, 2.9g; fibre, n/a
EXPERT VERDICT: This has as much salt as eight 25g bags of Walkers ready salted crisps, mostly from the halloumi cheese, and some from the muffin.
Delicious, but excessive: This has as much salt as eight 25g bags of Walkers ready salted crisps
Avocado provides vitamin E, which helps protect against DNA damage, and monounsaturated fats that maintain a healthy cholesterol level, but there is a whopping 70 per cent of the daily limit of saturated fat – largely from halloumi – which may have the opposite effect.
You can replicate the goodness of avocado with sugar-free nutty muesli with milk, without the downsides. This muffin should at least keep you fairly full – the bread is made with part-wholemeal flour, providing more fibre than a white muffin.
B. Pret A Manger dairy-free coconut yoghurt bircher
159g, £2.25. Calories, 252; saturated fat, 12.4g; sugar, 12.4g; protein, 4.5g; salt, 0.1g; fibre, 1.8g
EXPERT VERDICT: With granola, berry compote and pomegranate seeds, this sounds virtuous, but it’s made with trendy coconut yoghurt, which has high levels of saturated fat (62 per cent of your recommended daily allowance).
Claims that coconut fat isn’t bad for the heart and may even help you slim are unproven – this fat could raise cholesterol.
Most of the three teaspoons of sugar in this will be the added or ‘free’ kind we’re meant to limit to seven teaspoons (30g) a day. It’s also not very high in protein so you’d feel hungry by mid-morning, especially as the pot is quite small.
Instead, a small bowl of bran flakes with semi-skimmed milk has fewer calories (166), far less saturated fat (1.4g), but double the protein (8.1g).
E. Greggs sausage breakfast baguette
229g, £2.55. Calories, 602; saturated fat, 8.2g; sugar, 3.6; protein, 27g; salt, 3.6g; fibre, n/a
EXPERT VERDICT: Clearly, a sausage baguette isn’t a health food – and this has 602 calories, equivalent to nearly four bowls of bran flakes with milk.
The salt content is high, too, at 3.6g. But this has less saturated fat than some ‘healthy’ coconut-based breakfasts, and it would at least be filling.
F. Caffè Nero Greek-style honey yoghurt and granola
160g, £2.25. Calories, 294; saturated fat, 6.5g; sugar, 26.3g; protein, 7.8g; salt, 0.2g; fibre, 2.1g
EXPERT VERDICT: This wholesome-sounding breakfast actually has the equivalent of six-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar – more than twice as much as in a bowl of bran flakes with milk.
This is close to the recommended daily limit of 30g added sugar a day.
A little will be the natural kind in the yoghurt, which doesn’t count towards your limit. But most of the sugar is from the honey, which the body processes the same way as white sugar, contributing to tooth decay and weight gain.
It also contains about a third of your daily saturated fat limit and is unlikely to be particularly filling.
I. Starbucks ham and cheddar croissant
161g, £2.99. Calories, 497; saturated fat, 15g; sugar, 2.7g; protein, 23g; salt, 2.7g; fibre, 2.7g
EXPERT VERDICT: Alarmingly, one of these has three-quarters of the daily recommended saturated fat and 45 per cent of your daily salt allowance.
You will get some bone-friendly calcium from the cheddar and the protein will make it filling, but at nearly 500 calories, that would need to be the case.
AND FIVE MUCH HEALTHIER ONES…
C. Leon mushroom and egg muffin
184g, £3.75. Calories, 356; saturated fat, 3.4g; sugar, 6.7g; protein, 13.7g; salt, 1.7g; fibre, 1g
EXPERT VERDICT: This muffin supplies a good balance of protein and carbohydrate, which helps keep energy levels stable and means you should feel fuller for longer.
It also has quite a low glycaemic index, a measure of how quickly it raises blood sugar (low GI diets may be useful for maintaining a healthy weight, preventing heart disease and diabetes).
Better for you: This muffin supplies a good balance of protein and carbohydrate, which helps keep energy levels stable and means you should feel fuller for longer
It’s lower in fibre – the muffin is made from half white flour, half wholemeal – and higher in salt and sugar than is ideal (probably due to the ketchup), but the levels are reasonable. The mushroom here would also count as half a portion towards your five-a-day.
D. Starbucks super scrambled eggs, tomato and spinach hot box
211g, £3.79. Calories, 211; saturated fat, 3.2g; sugar, 2g; protein, 14g; salt, 1.4g; fibre, 1.5g
EXPERT VERDICT: Protein-rich eggs make a great breakfast – they curb hunger, which can stop you reaching for biscuits mid-morning. Spinach and tomatoes provide vitamin A, needed for healthy skin, eyes and immune system.
Healthy start: Protein-rich eggs make a great breakfast – they curb hunger, which can stop you reaching for biscuits mid-morning
There’s about half a portion towards your five-a-day in this. It could be better balanced with more fibre and carbohydrate, so you might add a small wholemeal roll to make it more substantial.
G. Pret poached egg, beans and mushroom power pot
214g, £3.75. Calories, 160; saturated fat, 1.4g; sugar, 3.6g; protein, 9.7g; salt, 1.4g; fibre, 6.9g
EXPERT VERDICT: The carbohydrate (from the beans) and protein (from the egg, and some from the beans) will make this an energising breakfast. The beans also provide almost a quarter of your suggested daily fibre (30g).
Tasty treat: The carbohydrate (from the beans) and protein (from the egg, and some from the beans) will make this an energising breakfast
The 160 calories may not keep you full all morning – breakfast should provide up to 20 per cent of your daily calorie intake, so 400 for a woman and 500 for a man. But if followed with a banana and pot of low-fat natural yoghurt, it’s a good start to the day.
H. Eat porridge with banana
300g, £2.24. Calories, 234; saturated fat, 1g; sugar, 16g; protein, 12g; salt, 0g; fibre, 3.7g
EXPERT VERDICT: Porridge provides slow-release energy and is filling, but the honey and compotes that often come with coffee shop versions can make it less healthy.
Tastes good, does good: The half a banana here is a good source of potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure
This is just unsweetened porridge with a chopped banana – the sugar comes naturally from the fruit.
A 300g bowl will contain about 1.5g of beta-glucan, a type of insoluble fibre – eating 3g a day can lower cholesterol. The half a banana here is a good source of potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure.
J. Caffè Nero berry and apple overnight oats
163g, £2.45. Calories, 203; saturated fat, 2.5g; sugar, 14.4g; protein, 8.6g; salt, 0.2g; fibre, 3.4g
EXPERT VERDICT: These oats are soaked overnight with yoghurt and fruit compote. The yoghurt gives you a lot of calcium – 15 per cent of your daily requirement.
Fuller for longer: This item contains more satiating protein than you’d get from a boiled egg – a gold-standard breakfast
Unlike many shop versions, this isn’t loaded with sugar either, with just one to two teaspoons of the daily seven teaspoons limit of ‘free’ sugar from added sugar and fruit juice concentrate.
It also contains more satiating protein than you’d get from a boiled egg – a gold-standard breakfast.