Liquid breakfasts

The number of on-the-go breakfast drinks is growing, but is convenience trumping nutrition?
 
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01.Fibre furphies

breakfast-drinks-lead

Research by Roy Morgan indicates almost a quarter of Australians say they rarely have time for breakfast. Skipping the first meal of the day has been linked to reduced intake of calcium and dietary fibre.

Tapping into consumers’ increasing demand for meals on the go, liquid breakfasts touting health claims such as "high in fibre" are a growing category in the shopping aisles.

While Sanitarium’s Up&Go has ruled the market since its launch 15 years ago, selling 34 million litres through supermarkets in the past 12 months alone, other manufacturers have since entered the battle for shelf space.

CHOICE reviewed 23 products across six brands, looking at their ingredients, nutrients and sometimes unfounded assertions. 

How do the claims stack up? 

Fibre With claims such as “high in fibre”, “fibre for digestive health”, the “goodness of three grains” – you’d be forgiven for thinking the products are, well, high in fibre.

But the industry’s own voluntary Nutrient Claims Code of Practice allows products with as little as 1.5g of fibre per serve to claim they are a “source of fibre”. 

In January, a new food standard to regulate nutrition content claims on food labels was introduced, with manufacturers given three years to comply. Under the new standard, a product will be required to contain at least four grams of fibre per serve before it can claim to be a good source of fibre.

Sanitarium - whose Up&Go products claim to be high in fibre yet have under four grams per serve - is one of several manufacturers that have much to change before the 2016 deadline.

CHOICE considers breakfast products with at least 20% fibre as being very high in that nutrient, those more than 10% as high, and those with less than five per cent as low.

Of the products we analysed, all fell far short of the five per cent mark, with Aldi’s Goldenvale Quick Start coming in at just 2.3% fibre. Dairy Farmers’ Oat Express products were the lowest ranked, with just 1.2%.

Accredited practising dietitian Melanie McGrice says these numbers are very disappointing given breakfast is traditionally the meal with the highest fibre content.

Protein Similarly misleading claims can be found around protein. Come 2016, a product must offer at least 10g per serve before it can claim to be a good source of protein. Kellogg’s Nutrigrain and Coco Pops breakfast drinks both make this claim, but their protein levels come in at 9.5g and 9.8g per serve respectively. Vitasoy’s VitaGo banana and honey, chocolate, and vanilla drinks also spruik their protein levels, yet fall below what will be required.

Soluble vs insoluble fibre

Found in fruits, vegetables, oats, dried beans and lentils, soluble fibre dissolves in water and works to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Insoluble fibre – the type found in wholegrains, the outer skins of fruit and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds – promotes digestion and a healthy bowel. 

The fibre listing on the nutritional panel doesn’t distinguish between soluble and insoluble, but it’s important to note they have different roles. To receive the greatest health benefit, the Dietitians Association of Australia recommends we eat at least 30g of a wide variety of fibres each day.

Inulin, a starchy carbohydrate commonly derived from chicory root, is a favoured choice of soluble fibre in liquid breakfasts, known for its ability to add a smooth mouthfeel without unwanted taste or texture. Devondale, Kellogg’s, Sanitarium and Vitasoy all use it in their products.

McGrice says the growth of inulin as a dietary fibre in processed food places dietitians in a difficult situation. “If you’re going to skip meals, a drink is better than nothing,” she concedes. “However, I certainly don’t want to advocate that it’s fine to drink these products every day.”

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton is even less convinced. “I really believe the jury is still out as to whether inulin has the same benefits,” she says. “It is a form of soluble fibre, but whether or not it is equivalent to wholegrain fibre I think is very much in doubt.” 

 
 

 

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