The hidden dangers lurking in your 'healthy' breakfast

Globally speaking, placing first, third, and fifth wouldn't be too bad for the USA, New Zealand, and Australia if I was talking about America's Cup or swimming championships. But I'm not – I'm talking about the 2017 OECD's recently released report on obesity.

Why are we so unhealthy? The start of that conversation can be had at the start of the day, with breakfast. People eat nothing, or they are smashing down sugary treats that are more dessert than the first meal.

Sugar on the shelf

Speaking to nutritionist and naturopath Kate Johnston of Kore Well-Being in Sydney, I asked, "What's the biggest morning food blunder you see Australians making?"

"The biggest mistake I see people making is reaching for sugary breakfast foods," Johnston replied.

"Even those that are marketed as healthy. Products such as breakfast cereals, breakfast drinks, or even homemade smoothies can fast become a vehicle for huge amounts of sugar and little other nutrition. This sets people up on a rollercoaster of unstable blood sugars leading to things such as fatigue, low mood, brain fog, and sugar cravings."

With that, I hit the shelves to see how much sugar people are consuming and what it takes fitness-wise to burn it off:

Energy drink and blueberry muffin

I see it so often in the CBD, the businessman's breakfast of BS champions – walking down the street with a large energy drink, muffin in a bag, blabbing on the phone with potential ciggie in mouth about synergies, KPIs, and other business clichés.

That breakfast contains just under 34 teaspoons of sugar, equivalent to almost 7½ Picnic Bars.

To work off those 4600 kilojoules (1100 calories), a 110 kilogram individual would have to hit the elliptical trainer for two hours (thanks Mayo Clinic data).


Green tea smoothie and banana bread

A green tea mango smoothie sounds so healthy, doesn't it? Why not add banana bread? That combo totals 26 teaspoons of sugar, which is the same amount as 12 scoops of vanilla ice-cream.

Run Forrest run those 3250 kilojoules (778 calories) of sweetness off for an hour. That's what it takes for a 90 kilogram individual.

Pancakes with apple-mango juice

If you head into a certain global fast-food joint and down some pancakes with syrup and butter then pair it with an apple-mango juice, be prepared for a sugar high. Those 15 teaspoons of sugar are the same amount as ordering five slices of their Passionfruit Cheesecake.

Skipping rope is high intensity, and a 75 kilogram individual will need to do it for more than 45 minutes to negate 3200 kilojoules (770 calories).

Strawberry yoghurt with an Up & Go

It sounds harmless doesn't it? Good ol' yoghurt with a drink that has "the protein, energy, and fibre of two Weet-bix and milk". Don't believe the marketing hype. They complement each other in strawberry flavour and loads of sugar - 10 teaspoons' worth. If you like to start your day with a sugar spike, you can also enjoy dessert. 8½ Tim Tams have the same sugar content.

I love, yet hate, rowing because it's so damn challenging. 1500 kilojoules (360 calories) takes 40 minutes of pulling and puffing for a 75 kilogram individual to rid themselves of that berry sweetness.

Kate summarised her top five breakfast tips:

1. Drink water. Upon waking, you haven't consumed water in eight-to-10. You're dehydrated. Drink a glass of water first thing, every morning even before you reach for your morning coffee!

2. Swap sugary cereals for oats. As a wholegrain, (unflavoured) oats offer a more sustained release of sugar into your bloodstream, and if you incorporate some protein and good fats (think nuts and seeds, a dollop of natural yoghurt or even a scoop of protein powder) it will sustain you even further.

2. Go green. Veggies aren't just decoration at dinner. Incorporate them into every meal,  including breakfast! Don't feel you can only eat "breakfast foods" – serve leftover greens on the side with your eggs.

3. Always consume protein. Protein helps to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream, and studies have demonstrated that a higher protein breakfast will keep you feeling fuller for longer, as well as reduce food cravings later in the day.

Plan ahead. Unhealthy choices are made while looking for something "quick and easy" due to time constraints. Use a "weekend shopping and food prep" approach. Keep your fridge stocked with things such as homemade frittata, pre-boiled eggs, homemade muesli, and a good quality protein powder to add to healthy smoothies. Set your alarm a few minutes earlier, and prioritise starting the day with a healthy meal.

I can lead a (jogging) man to water, but if he opts to drive his whole family to the convenience store for energy drinks and muffins, that's how a country obtains an overweight and obese mark just shy of "high distinction". Ease the obesity burden with a healthier breakfast – read some labels, and consume less sugar.

Breakfast isn't about dessert and "fun" – it's all about "fuel" for a healthy and active day.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his "Cut The BS" diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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Are you guilty of a sugary-fuelled start to the day? Or do you really have the breakfast of champions? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.