How to Build a Healthy Breakfast

Breakfast makers are looking beyond snap, crackle and pop to a functional future of simplicity, endurance and heart health.

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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Sweeter Future

Speaking of natural low-calorie sweeteners, the approval last year of stevia as an ingredient for foods and beverages opened the door to helping solve one of the biggest problems in cereals. “Although at Nature's Path, we’ve made a deliberate effort to bring our EnviroKids cereals down from 12g of sugar to 8g [per serving], we’d love to go to 6g,” says Maria Emmer-Aanes, director of marketing and communications. “But while consumers talk less sweet, they buy on taste — and unfortunately their taste buds are trained to want the sweetness.” 

Reb A
The stevia extract rebaudioside-A is poised to play a role in keeping cereals sweet while reducing their calories. PHOTO: PURE CIRCLE

Any breakfast food manufacturer can provide a list of failures based on the reduced sugar paradigm. But sweeteners such as stevia, which is 300 times sweeter than table sugar, allow a natural replacement for a majority of calories from sugar without compromise on taste, thanks to attention to purity paid by today’s stevia makers.
“Every major cereal company is looking for technology to reduce sugar levels and ‘empty’ calories from their product, especially products targeted to children,” confirms Sidd Purkayastha, director of technical development for PureCircle USA (, Chicago.

The main challenges of replacing sugar with high-intensity sweeteners, according to Purkayastha, are providing a similar sweetness profile as sugar in cold and hot cereals, with no unfavorable aftertaste; maintaining texture in dry form and in milk; and maintaining the same “bowl life” — the length of time cereal stays crispy and crunchy in milk.

“Companies are apprehensive about using artificial high-intensity sweeteners to reduce sugar in kids’ cereal,” says Purkayastha. “But [rebaudioside-A], being a natural high-intensity sweetener, provides the new ingredient technology to reduce 25-40 percent of the sugar in cereal formulations.”

Natural Nutraceuticals

Although the move toward greater simplicity might lead to fewer ingredients in formulations, it won’t change breakfast’s status as the most important meal of the day. “Ready-to-eat cereals are a perfect vehicle to address nutrient inadequacies in America,” states Michael McBurney head of scientific affairs for DSM Nutritionals Inc., Parsippany, N.J.

In addition to deficiencies in the average American diet of such nutrients as vitamin E, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, B6, zinc and folate, some populations are seeing a surprising resurgence of vitamin D deficiency.

To the vitamin and mineral needs are added specific health benefits sought by consumers. McBurney  cites specific benefits and their ingredient solutions, such as visual performance (lutein and zeaxanthin, for which DSM provides its marigold-derived FloraGlo); bone health and muscle strength (vitamin D3, vitamin K, calcium, and the soy-protein isoflavone genestein (available in DSM’s GeniVida); cardiovascular health and endothelial function via polfyunsaturated fatty acids (ROPUFA), B vitamins including folic acid, antioxidants such as vitamin A and carotenoids, green tea extract (such as DSM’s EGCG product, TeaVigo) and resveratrol (ResVida).
After years off adding things to make our morning meal healthier, manufacturers are focusing on sources for ingredients that help build healthier breakfast. But more than this, they see a future of even more elemental changes concerning how they’ll formulate the basic recipes.

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