Breakfast-on-the-go products

What should you be eating for your first meal of the day? CHOICE checks out a number of on-the-go breakfast products.

Breakfast: the most important meal of the day?

Breakfast. We're constantly told it's vital for maintaining concentration throughout the day and keeping a healthy lifestyle. Whole supermarket aisles are devoted to its many and various forms, from breakfast cereals to liquid breakfasts and even breakfast biscuits like the relatively new belVita range. And although it might not exactly be the most important meal of the day, studies have shown the health risks associated with skipping breakfast.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) says all Australians should be encouraged to start the day with a healthy breakfast, but the reality is, in many cases, this just isn't happening. And some clever marketers have pounced on the breakfast-on-the-go bandwagon, releasing several new types of ready-to-eat breakfast products designed to make the first meal of the day easy. But are they good for you?

Fancy porridge in a hurry? See our quick oats review.

What is the Health Star Rating?

The Health Star Rating is a voluntary scheme developed by consumer, health and industry groups in a government-led process. Participating companies apply a rating of between half and five stars to the front of food products, giving consumers at-a-glance information. The rating is based on the kilojoules, saturated fat, sugars, sodium, protein and fibre in 100g/mL of the product, and fruit, vegetable, nut or legume content. The scheme also includes information about key nutrients.

Breakfast biscuits

A range of breakfast biscuit products have hit the shelves of late, and we've compared their health star ratings of 16 products in a separate breakfast biscuits review. While the best rating product received 4 stars, a couple of products in our review only managed 1 star.

Breakfast biscuits are usually made from wholegrains, which we should be eating more of . And most are a source of fibre. But they're generally high in sugar, and in most cases it's added sugars that are the culprit. Butter and coconut also feature in several varieties, which bump up these products' saturated fat content (and subsequently lowers their Health Star Rating).

Overall breakfast biscuits are convenient, but if you can set aside a few extra minutes to sit down for a bowl of good quality breakfast cereal - perhaps with some fresh fruit and yoghurt - you can be nutritionally better off.

Chia pods

The Chia Co.'s Chia Pods are also marketed as a healthy on-the-go breakfast. Their fibre credentials are relatively solid – one tub of the banana flavour contains 21% of your daily fibre recommendation, the mango 22% and the vanilla bean 17%. When it comes to health star ratings, they each earn three-and-a-half stars. The good news is the pods are low in sodium, and the fruit varieties we looked at have just three ingredients: coconut milk, fruit and chia, while the vanilla flavour contains coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon and chia.

Company Health Star Rating
Banana Chia Pod The Chia Co 3 1/2 stars out of 5
Vanilla Bean Chia Pod The Chia Co 3 1/2 stars out of 5
Mango Chia Pod The Chia Co 3 1/2 stars out of 5

The importance of breakfast

According to the DAA, breakfast helps you maintain a healthy weight. "Breakfast fills you up, meaning you are less likely to experience hunger pangs throughout day and resort to snacking on high-energy, high-fat foods." It also "provides energy and leads to higher intakes of essential nutrients such as carbohydrate, dietary fibre and certain vitamins and minerals", and "eating breakfast has been linked with an improvement in literacy and numeracy skills in school children".

The DAA says it is important to eat something nutritious each morning to replenish your carbohydrate stores and refuel for the day ahead. And those who have breakfast are more likely to meet their recommended dietary intakes for vitamins and minerals compared to when breakfast was not eaten.

The oat-rageous price of convenience

Oats are recommended by the DAA as a healthy breakfast food, and there are plenty of incarnations on the supermarket shelves. So how do you choose between rolled oats, quick oats, oat sachets and the newest in oat innovation, oat single-serve cups?

The convenience factor of oat cups is clear – all you need to do is peel back the lid, add hot water and hey presto. But this convenience certainly comes at a cost. A single-serve cup of Uncle Tobys Creamy Honey Quick Oats costs $4.40 per 100g ($2.20 per pack of 50g) at Coles Online. Provide your own bowl and microwave, get the same oats in sachets, and the cost comes down to $1.29 per 100g.

Get out your own measuring implements and buy a 1kg box of plain Uncle Tobys Quick Oats (BYO bowl and honey), and you'll only pay 68c per 100g. And forego the fancy packaging, BYO bowl and honey and opt for the Coles Smart Buy Quick Oats, and you'll pay just 17c per 100g – that's less than 1/25 of the price of the Uncle Tobys cup!

Then there's the even more fancy oats brekky: still Uncle Tobys, but packaged as O&G Apple, Cinnamon and Toasted Hazelnut Oats, which will set you back $5.48 per 100g ($2.74 per cup). But the very same oats in a larger, 380g pack cost $1.97.

So, to save money and the environment, consider using your own bowl or a reusable plastic container if you need to eat on the run and have access to a microwave.

Company Health Star Rating
Apple, Cinnamon and Toasted Hazelnut
Uncle Tobys Oats 4 stars out of 5
Creamy Vanilla
Uncle Tobys Oats 4 stars out of 5

Quick and healthy breakfast ideas

The DAA suggests Australians should choose a healthy breakfast high in fibre, low in saturated fat and chock-full of vitamins and minerals. Some options include:

  • a bowl of fibre-rich, wholegrain cereal with reduced-fat milk and slices of fresh fruit or berries
  • a smoothie made from reduced-fat milk, fresh fruit and yoghurt
  • English muffins or crumpets with reduced-fat cheese, baked beans or avocado
  • untoasted muesli (check out our muesli buying guide)
  • oats
  • poached eggs on wholegrain toast with tomato.