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The Breakfast Cereal Challenge

I have been mulling over which of my food hates to target this year. It’s not an easy decision. I have a few of them.

It’s not that I am a purist – hey I’m a great believer in fairy floss at a fete and I’ve even been known to stop at McDonalds for coffee at 6 am.  But industrialised fake food deceptively marketed as real food sets me off on a rant. Real food is part of the cycle of life – biomass created by plants out of light and endlessly recycled, a miracle that as far as we know exists only on this one little planet.

Last year it was muesli bars, and though I shall keep on with the Muesli Bar Challenge this year (I’ve still got a pile of recipes), I’m looking for a new target.

My thought is breakfast cereals.  The Parents Jury shames  Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain with the top award for ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ advertising. I know what it is like to try to feed young Iron Men. From age 12 to 16, my son grew over half a metre, drank 2 litres of milk at a sitting, demolished a loaf of bread in a day. Which is why it is particularly galling to have boxes of mostly air, mixed with several names for sugar, a bit of starch and a concoction of chemicals, shifted around the country at great cost in greenhouse gases and marketed as food for young men whose bones and muscles are lengthening by the day.

I used to be a non-breakfast eater.  I think it is common for women to develop the habit of getting up and just going so fast they don’t stop for breakfast till mid-morning, by which time blood sugars are so low you’re just ravenous for fast carbohydrates.  I got away with it when I was spending all day being physically active.  But these days I do too much computer work, and if I don’t eat breakfast my weight creeps up.

So that’s the Breakfast Challenge.  The rules are petty similar to the Muesli Bar Challenge –  the Challenger must be quick and easy enough that it is actually a feasible alternative to overpackaged, overpriced junk food marketed as “cereal”.  It has to be within the limits of the Witches Kitchen version of healthy and ethical, which means lots of fresh fruit and vegetables locally in season,whole grains and not too much sugar or saturated fat. And since you have to actually eat food for it to be good for you, it has to taste test as better, not just better for you.


{ 54 comments… add one }
  • umatji January 22, 2011, 12:57 pm

    Hey Linda – would like to weigh in on this one if you like – we make what my boy who is four calls super muesli. – Do you reckon that might fit the target? Let me know how to go about it if you want me to.

  • Julie January 22, 2011, 3:44 pm

    Oh, excellent! I really, really enjoyed your muesli bar challenge last year and as my kids are bored with our cereal choices of either muesli (or hot variations therof) or Weet Bix, I’m keen for some new ideas. Looking forward to your recipes 🙂

  • Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial January 22, 2011, 7:11 pm

    I think our Western concept of “cereal”, or “breakfast” for that matter, needs broadening. I can think of nothing I’d rather do than start the day with a bowl of spicy channa dhal.. 🙂

  • Linda Woodrow January 22, 2011, 8:10 pm

    Me too Celia. In fact this was one of my earliest posts – http://witcheskitchen.com.au/breakfast-dhall/. Glad someone else shares those tastes!

  • Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial January 23, 2011, 7:14 am

    Red lentils for breakfast! Sounds divine, thanks for the recipe, Linda!

  • Cassandra Schultz January 23, 2011, 4:15 pm

    I HATE cereal…I dont even like to eat in the morning…so at the moment I am doing the pureed brekky:
    a banana (peel and freeze slightly old ones, if they are around)
    and/or maybe a peach, an apricot…whatever…even a small apple works
    a handfull of frozen blueberries (Nanna’s brand are $8.99 a kg…at Coles)
    a big scoop of LSA mix
    a raw egg
    a dollop of yoghurt
    a half a handfull of rolled oats
    honey/vanilla/or whatever sweetener you like
    soy or cows milk

    if you really want to go healthy, spirulina or wheatgrass (makes it look like pond scum)

    do it to death with the bamix and DRINK
    if you dont eat anything else all day…so what? You have done your body a big favour…without chewing 🙂

    The next one I’ll send you will be the fab beans and eggs thingy…my family love it

  • Cherie January 25, 2011, 11:08 pm

    I’m very excited about this challenge too.
    And thanks for the link to the parents jury site.

  • cityhippyfarmgirl January 26, 2011, 7:39 am

    The other useless thing about those cereals is that my boys are hungry again within half an hour. All of them are far too high in their glyceamic index.
    During winter I make a slow roasted ‘crunchola’, big oaty clusters, a lot healthier and no where near the high price that they are sold for.

    I love a bit of dhal for breakfast too 🙂

  • tricia January 26, 2011, 6:48 pm


    Packaged breakfast ceral is one of my pet hates also. I can’t seem to wean my husband off it. I’ll serve my daughter and I a fresh vege juice or a fruit salad or polenta porridge or an egg dish – and he’ll just want his processed packaged cereal!

    Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

  • Wendi Trulson January 27, 2011, 12:33 pm

    We all need a break from the cereal boxes hubby reckons they all taste like cardboard!
    Pan Cakes… made with wholemeal flour ,chia seeds, home grown eggs and milk ( the kids can whisk this up them selves ) served with fresh fruit and yogurt go down a treat in our house

  • Linda January 27, 2011, 6:18 pm

    Hi Wendi, I agree, pancakes are so quick and easy and with fruit and yoghurt you’ve got a complete nutrient set – protein from the eggs, complex carbs from the flour, vitamins minerals – the lot! We’re having a few days at the beach at the moment, and in the cupboard of the caravan we’re staying in, I found one of those shaker pancake mixes, that I just don’t get. Why on earth do people buy them? How is it easier than mixing flour, milk and eggs?

  • Marita January 28, 2011, 9:19 am

    A great idea for your next challenge…. we will be following and trying some of your recipes.

  • Andrea Collisson January 29, 2011, 11:37 pm

    Its only from your replies that i know what you are trying to do with this breakfast challenge. Here’s my take on the topic. Ok i agree with you that there’s not a lot of useful energy in half a cup of breakfast cereal and certainly nothing to keep you going once you step outside the house.

    I love cornflakes and ricebubbles and weetbix and that sort of cereal but generally i eat porridge for breakfast everyday with a cup full of full cream milk and a dessertspoon of sugar. I need a substantial breakfast and this is it though i’ve noticed that oats-energy doesn’t last too long either.

    Nevermind, what i wanted to comment on was ricebubbles. When i was in india last year, I was amazed to discover that rice bubbles were eaten there, not for breakfast with milk and sugar but with vegetables and dry. And they were eaten in the evening and probably at other times of the day too. I was ecstatic to discover them because a) i did not want to eat them dry with vegetables and b) I felt like something western. So I would buy a big pot full of ricebubbles for almost nothing, half a litre of milk (for which i would have to run all over town to find it) for about 25 cents, and some fresh bananas. I’d leave off the sugar, fill my 500g honey pot bowl with rice bubbles, milk and chopped banana. Yum.

    If you are going to eat this sort of cereal you have to eat a lot because its mostly air. Rice bubbles are simply puffed rice. Not very harmful in my book. I suspect that cornflakes are also fairly benign though as i said earlier half a cupful won’t get you far. The manufacturers are making a killing on the price there’s no doubt.

    If that doesn’t do it for you, then i like grilled or fried tomato on wholegrain toast. Make sure to put some dried herbs on the tomatoes when cooking.

  • Linda January 30, 2011, 10:07 am

    Hi Andrea, sadly, I don’t agree with you that rice bubbles and conflakes are benign, not from a human health or a planet health perspective. Those big boxes of mostly air cost an enormous amount of greenhouse gases to transport around the country. I think you can ethically make exceptions to the “100 mile rule” for things that are rare, concentrated, economical to transport – but they fail, so badly, on every count! You could possibly also argue for exemption for things that are nutritionally superfoods, filling a hard to fill nutritional gap, but again they fail – low fibre, (rice bubbles about as low as they go!) high GI, way too much sugar and salt.
    Choice did a good review of cereals. Weet Bix is really the only one that is actually food.

    Porridge I agree with you about though. Oats are a superfood, and (specially if you buy organic oats in bulk) I think they pass my version of ethical. They’re low GI, (the traditional kind, not quick oats), high in a really good kind of soluble fibre, no added sugar, salt, or fake vitamins. Trouble is, I get bored with porridge, so the challenge is to post a year’s worth of breakfasts that are healthy for people and the planet, and that are easy and tasty enough to make rice bubbles look very un-enticing!

  • Andrea Collisson January 30, 2011, 10:51 am

    Ah well in india they don’t add salt or sugar to the rice bubbles. No, oats are not low GI. The are middle GI. But I never get bored with porridge. Muesli is too high calorie with all those dried fruits, and high fat with all those yummy nuts, so I avoid it. Besides its too moreish so I would never stop eating it. Except if its smothered with yoghurt which i don’t think goes at all well with museli.

    Since its the packaging that is the main problem, perhaps we should be sourcing them in wholesale. Maybe the health food shops sell them like that. Anything that is transported around the country is going to cost the planet a lot but the lighter something is the less damage it does, surely. Anyway i don’t want to get into a big arguement over those sorts of things.

    But the thing is, grains are generally low rating on all these counts i think. Otherwise why would animals like birds feel the need to eat them all day long if they can. Unadulterated with sugar, they are low on calories.

    I think if you want an alternative to cereal, you can’t go past a toast based breakfast.

  • Andrea Collisson January 30, 2011, 1:14 pm

    Sorry one more. The last few posts inspired me to go off and cook pancakes for breakfast for a change. I made them like this.
    1 cup self raising flour
    pinch salt
    pinch sugar (at this stage I wasn’t sure whether they were going to be savoury pancakes or sweet.
    1 duck egg
    1 cup whole milk
    2 very ripe bananas, sliced then mashed a little bit

    I know i don’t need to write out the method. Anyway with a little butter on top, they were excellent.

  • Linda January 31, 2011, 2:41 pm

    You’ve brought up a really interesting concept, which is that “locavore” is, of course, different depending on where you are. India is a monsoonal climate, the kind of climate rice is native to, so it’s a good thing to eat there for all sorts of reasons. I’m lucky – in northern NSW we have a grower of dryland, non-irrigated, local rice, but until he started up it was a choice of contributing to the Murray Darling river system collapse, or buying imported rice – and I’m not desperate for rice enough to relish either if I have any alternative.

  • JEDDA March 4, 2011, 3:47 pm

    Hi mum. My early birthday presents ( chooks ) have settled in nicely. They look very happy. Have named the white one casper but the three blackies all look the same at the moment. One is very friendly. Going to teach matt how to hypnotise them..lol Can’t wait to start getting eggs. The herb garden is up already at the new house and I have corn and tomatos in to. The peacocks (Floyd and Pink ) are destroying my butternut pumkins but leaving the japs that grow wild down the hill. grrrr. It even loves chillies. Oh well as long as it guard the chooks better than your guard geese. strawberries go in on st paddies day mmmm yum much love and see you soon

  • Linda March 4, 2011, 4:13 pm

    Peacocks have a reputation for being good guards. I have to visit soon!

  • Mountains Mama July 7, 2011, 5:53 pm

    Love this post! I’ve just discovered your blog and am really loving it. I’m always on the lookout for new brekkie ideas…especially with kids who have allergies. I discovered a great, nutritious, gluten free crepe recipe I thought I’d share ~

    Ingredients (makes approx 10 crepes – I often double the mix)
    3/4 cup rice flour (or 1 cup if you have no tapioca)
    1/4 cup tapioca
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 cup milk (I mostly use raw goats or cows milk but have also successfully used homemade, raw macadamia milk)

    Mix (or sift) together flours and salt. Add beaten eggs and milk and whisk together till smooth. Sometimes you made need to add a little milk to get a smooth, thin batter.

    Heat fry pan or crepe pan on a medium heat, add a knob of butter (dairy or coconut work well). Puor in 1/4 cup of batter and swirl around the pan to make a thin circular shape. These don’t take long to cook, just a few minutes on each side.

    My family like to eat all together so as I have two pans going and place cooked crepes on a ceramic plate then cover with a pot lid to keep in the steam and keep them warm till we have a big pile.

    Delicious with pure maple syrup, lemon and rapadura sugar, fruit preserves or savoury fillings as well.

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