Real foods - such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and olive oil - are nutrient-dense and good for your health.
The same cannot be said for processed foods, which usually contain empty calories, as well as significant amounts of our two main enemies: sugar and vegetable oils.
Processed foods usually contain one or more of the following:
- sugar (or sugar equivalents)
- unhealthy fats (especially vegetable oils)
- artificial flavourings
'Processed' covers all foods that are pre-boxed or in wrappers, and includes processed grains.
Think of products like breakfast cereals, baked goods, chocolate and other confectionery, ice cream, cakes, biscuits and crackers, popcorn and corn chips, potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, diet drinks, fruit juice, margarine, pasta, pizza, rice, bread and grains, honey and commercial sauces and dressings.
Hear more from Dr Brukner on the Voice of Real Australia podcast
Most children and many adults start their day with a breakfast cereal.
These cereals are marketed heavily to children with free giveaways and dubious health claims. No parent concerned about the health of their child would give them dessert for breakfast. And yet that's exactly what most breakfast cereals are.
Above you will see a table of the most popular breakfast cereals in Australia from lowest to highest sugar content, with the number of grams of sugar per 100 grams, and the teaspoons in a typical serving (50 grams).
Remember that the World Health Organisation recommends a daily sugar intake for children of no more than six teaspoons a day.
A child starting the day with a serve of Coco Pops or Frosties is already close to the ideal daily amount of added sugars.
Breakfast biscuits, which are basically breakfast cereal that can be eaten without adding milk, are becoming increasingly popular.
Popular brands include Red Tractor, My Yummy Lunchbox and Belvita as well as the cereal equivalents (NutriGrain, Weet-Bix etc). These biscuits contain 15-30 grams of sugar per 100 grams, or 2-4 teaspoons of sugar per 50 gram serving
Liquid breakfasts are also full of sugar. A 250 ml box of Up&Go, for example, contains 15.8 grams of sugar.
One box of Up&Go on the way to school or work and you're already close to your recommended sugar intake for the day!
Up&Go also contains sunflower and canola oils as well as a thickener, maltodextrin.
Just stick to real food.
- Dr Peter Brukner is a sports medicine clinician and founder of Defeat Diabetes. This is an edited extract from his book A Fat Lot of Good (Penguin Life, RRP $34.99).
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a 250 ml box of Up&Go contained 19.1 grams of sugar or 4.8 teaspoons and had an extremely high GI. Sanitarium advises that all UP&GO products are low GI (with a GI ranging between 35-44).