My health craze last year lasted a good five months before it crashed and burned in the wake of A Levels. Before it’s untimely demise, I remember being obsessed with saving money on food to the point where I eventually went Homemade. I’m not that much of a stinge, but I just find it hard to trust dubious looking cereal boxes that boast High-Fibre, Low Sugar and Low Fat (more on that later). I’ll admit, I do believe the nutrition benefits touted by certain cereal brands because I’m one of those people who block supermarket aisles while scrutinising the nutrition table and list of ingredients on every single cereal box that catches my fancy. I get that absorbed.
And when I think I’ve found a cereal I would stick to religiously for breakfast, on the first bite, I think I’d very much rather eat the cardboard box it came in, and hey, it’s got tons of fibre too.
I recently came across a few articles on bogus health claims made by cereal makers and here’s a summary:
- Cereal makers market their products on the basis that they are healthy because of added vitamins and minerals. – These cereals may have a sugar content of as high as four tablespoons of sugar in one serving.
- Cereals, commercial granolas and mueslis have the right to claim that they are low in sugar. – The sugar content in them is not inclusive of the dried fruits they contain which could have a sugar content higher than their natural sugars.
- Cereals that boast weight-loss capabilities by eating one serving of it per meal make a valid claim. -This claim is valid because of the relatively low amount of calories one consumes in contrast to, say, a meal of fish and chips. This, however, is in no way a healthy and safe means to lose weight (and I was horrified to see such an advertisement by Kellogg’s in the newspaper) and will inevitably result in certain nutrient deficiencies.
While this may already make you wary of the nutrition labelling on products from now on, it still does not beat knowing how to read nutrition labels and taking the effort to scan through the list of ingredients that make up the product. Don’t be shocked to find hydrogenated vegetable oils, syrups and mind-boggling chemicals.
Heart healthy whole grains.
Now not all cereal makers are baddies. There are brands that I have stuck to for a considerable amount of time before I decided to jazz up my breakfasts with homemade yoghurt and muesli and cut fruits. I used to – and I still do – lovelovelove Posts Blueberry Morning, and if someone were to buy a box of Wheetbix home right now, I’d be having it for breakfast tomorrow morning with my favourite jam, hazelnut butter and soya bean milk (don’t give me that face, I like my soya bean milk with cereal. So there.).
Most of the time, I go ‘ Homemade’ because there’s a demand for it at home. Like how my mom prefers freshly baked bread with no added preservatives and other funky stuff, and how a large batch of muesli presents a different option to the bread that my parents eat almost every day.
So just what on earth is muesli?
Most people confuse muesli with granola . . . or with shredded cardboard.
What distinguishes between muesli and granola would be the complete, utter lack of added oil and sugar (excluding the dried fruit, if you so choose to add some). Granola is also toasted in an oven to give a lovely bronze sheen and crunchy bite while muesli may or may not be toasted. I’ve made granola a number of times before and I’ll post up a recipe for it as an alternative to muesli which may not be everyone’s thing because the raw nutty-ness of the whole grains and the low sugar content.
I find it a shame, really, that so many people are unable to appreciate the flavour and texture of whole grains because I absolutely love them. You’d be hard pressed getting me to eat white bread over wholemeal bread.
What I adore about homemade food is that you get to adjust the recipe according to your preferences and you know exactly what you put in. Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, currants, apricots, flaxseeds… The sky’s the limit, really.
If you’re a whole grain lover like me, or you’re one of those people who plain love crunchy things (ahem), give this breakfast recipe a try. Add a couple of tablespoons of this to your yoghurt, or just eat this on its own with milk.
- 2 cups whole grain mix* (Mixture of rye flakes, oats, barley)
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not the instant sort)
- 1/2 cup untoasted sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup untoasted pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup untoasted sesame seeds (black and/or white)
- 1/4 cup flaxseeds (aka linseeds)
- 3/4 cup untoasted almonds (or any combination of nuts of your choice)
- 3/4 cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 160C **.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients together except the dried fruit. The reason for this is because dried fruit will turn rock hard and bitter when dried and heated further in an oven.
3. Spread the mix out evenly on a baking tray (I used two trays) and whack ’em in the oven for 15mins till crisp and lightly toasted. Don’t expect the mix to turn golden brown because of the absence of sugar for caramelisation. If you wish, shake the pan half way through the cooking time to allow for a more thorough toasting.
4. Once done, let the muesli cool before adding the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container. Because of the seeds and nuts in the muesli, it should keep for a month. Why it would last that long would be beyond me.
*I purchased a whole-grain mix from Redman/Phoon Huat, which was actually meant to be a multi-grain topping for breads. But since it contained a wonderful combination of oats, rye flakes, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, I bought a 1kg bag to use for making muesli. If you’re unable to find a mix like that, you may use oats only. It’s up to you! Be creative with your combination of dried fruits, nuts and seeds.
**Traditionally, muesli isn’t toasted and the oats are eaten raw instead. But since I need crunch, I toasted it. Feel free to do so if you wish.