Think Behind The Box – Instant Breakfasts

Today about 75% of us eat instant foods like cereals, granola bars & instant oatmeal for breakfast (and the remaining 25% don’t eat breakfast). That’s pretty sad. Why? Because we let our taste-buds & clocks dictate our shopping list! And let me tell you this now… them taste-buds don’t have our well-being in mind. We’ve got to train them to like what’s good for us. More on this later.

Not wasting your or my time… lets jump to the specifics.  So we’ll do a detailed analysis on a few very common instant breakfast options we have today. Then may be some ideas for real food? Cool.

1. Kellogg’s® Smart Start® Strong Heart Antioxidants Cereal

I mean… it says Smart Start and something about heart and antioxidants… oh and it’s got the stuff in a heart shaped bowl! it’s got to be good for you right?


Oat Bran, Sugar, Oat Clusters (Sugar, Toasted Oats [Rolled Oats, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil,Molasses, Honey], Wheat Flakes, Crisp Rice [Rice, Sugar, Malt, Salt], Corn Syrup, Polydextrose, Honey, Cinnamon, BHT For Freshness,Artificial Vanilla Flavor), Rice, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Malt Flavoring, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Baking Soda, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Reduced Iron, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Bht (Preservative), Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D.

2. Quaker’s Instant Oatmeal

Ok, so I grew up in India and my mom cooked oats with milk for breakfast before I left for school. So what’s the difference between my mom’s version and Uncle Quaker’s super-healthy version?

My mom’s ingredients:

Whole grain oats, sugar to taste + milk + peach (if I wanted peach flavor)

Uncle Quaker’s Ingredients:

Whole grain rolled oats, sugar, flavored fruit pieces-dehydrated apples [treated with sodium sulfite to promote color retention], artificial peach flavor, citric acid, annatto color), creaming agent (maltodextrin, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, corn syrup, whey, sodium caseinate, sugar, dipotassium phosphate,mono and diglycerides, artificial color, salt, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), salt, calcium carbonate, guar gum, oat flour, artificial flavor, niacinamide*, vitamin a palmitate, reduced iron, pyridoxine hydrochloride*, riboflavin*, thiamin mononitrate*, folic acid*. +  milk

May be it’s an American thing but my mom never added all this to her oatmeal. Hell, she didn’t even know these were things you add to food. Why? Because these are not things you add to food! Pretty useful stuff though…you can use them to clean your carpet or even as rat poison.

3. Kellog’s Eggo Blueberry Waffles


Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate [vitamin b1], riboflavin [vitamin b2], folic acid), water, vegetable oil (soybean oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil with tbhq and citric acid for freshness), eggs, sugar, dextrose, contains two percent or less of leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), modified corn starch, salt, calcium carbonate, dried blueberries, apple fiber, natural and artificial flavors, maltodextrin, cellulose gum, citric acid, whey, soy lecithin, vitamin a palmitate, niacinamide, blue #2 lake, reduced iron, red #40 lake, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin b6), thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin b1), riboflavin (vitamin b2), vitamin b12.

If I were eating this and I just read the ingredients I’d be like ‘Oh My Freakin Lord!’.

4. Peanut Butter Chocolate Quaker Fiber & Omega-3 Granola Bars


Granola (whole grain rolled oats, sugar, brown sugar, rice flour, whole grain rolled wheat, coconut oil, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils and/or sunflower oil, whole wheat flour, honey, molasses, sodium bicarbonate, soy lecithin, caramel color, salt, barley malt, vanilla extract, nonfat dry milk, whey, sodium caseinate), oligofructose, crisp rice (rice, sugar, salt, barley malt), semisweet chocolate chunks (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, salt, vanilla), peanut butter (peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil [cottonseed and/or rapeseed oil], salt), flaxseed, peanut flavored chips (sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil*, partially defatted peanut flour, lactose, whey, dextrose, corn syrup solids, soy lecithin, salt, artificial flavor), sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil*, fructose, glycerin, sunflower oil, natural and artificial flavor, cocoa (processed with alkali), water, buttermilk, cocoa, salt, milkfat, soy lecithin, hydrogenated palm oil*, sorbitan monostearate, polysorbate 60.

This is their description…

“Adding fiber to your diet has never been so yummy or easy, and with the added benefits of Omega-3, you can feel great about indulging with our rich and tasty Peanut Butter Chocolate Quaker Fiber & Omega-3 granola bars.”

And this is mine…

“Adding crap to your diet has never been so yummy or easy, and with the added benefits of chemically processed shit, you can feel great about indulging with our cheap and nasty Multi-Junk Bar a.k.a Peanut Butter Chocolate Quaker Fiber & Omega-3 granola bars.”

Ok are you freakin kidding me?? Why do the words ‘artificial’ and ‘flavor’ appear over and over again in my healthy breakfast? Why do I read sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, molasses, honey, malt flavoring, sugar? Why are there 30+ ‘listed’ ingredients when my mom’s recipe had two? Why are 70% of these ingredients things that most of us last heard in chemistry class? Redonkulous!! Oh and when I see parents feeding this stuff to their children… may God save our race!

I stuck to the American brands because it is easier to get the ingredient list online… but I guarantee you wherever you live most of the stuff on the supermarket aisles have similar junk in them.

I understand your problem though. You’re busy! You cant cook every morning… and yea this shit is cheap also. Ummmm… alright I have an amazing idea that will save you both time and money! Listen up.

Stop fueling you car with unleaded petrol. Use kerosene or crude oil instead. Why?

1. It’s super cheap! Money saved!

2. You can buy in bulk and store it in your garage. Fill your car’s fuel tank from home!! Time saved!

You won’t do that now will you? You wont fill your car with crude oil… you shouldn’t fuel you body with processed crap.

Get your priorities right… health is and has to be one of your highest priorities… spend the extra 10 mins and fuel your body with the highest quality foods!

Now for some alternatives…

1. Baked Eggs

Vidya made these for breakfast and I should say these were pretty awesome!


Whole fresh eggs, mozzarella cheese, salt, black pepper, dried basil leaves, red chili paste, olive oil, cilantro

Prep time: 5mins; Baking time: 25mins

I’ll let you figure out the portions per your bodyweight & activity level. Mix ’em up in a cup… load ’em in the oven… hop into the shower and come back to a super breakfast. Add a cup of fresh fruits and you’re good to go. Protein from the eggs, fat from the egg yolks & olive oil, carbs from fruit and health from ‘real’ ingredients!

* Will post the detailed recipe soon.

2. Fruit & Nut Shake

Even a 3 yr old can make this… I have something like this every morning almost.


Milk, fruit (banana or apple or berries), nuts (almonds or macadamia nuts or walnuts), honey (to taste)

Prep time: 5 mins; Blend time: 1 min

If you’re training or if you’re vegetarian and not getting enough protein… add a scoop of whey isolate to the shake. Super tasty & supremely healthy!

3. Veggie Scramble


Whole fresh eggs, vegetables, olive oil, salt, pepper

Prep time: 5mins; Cook time: 10mins

Fruit on the side for the sweet tooth. No limit to the combinations you can come up with when eggs, vegetables, nuts & fruits are involved.

Note: No red flags on any of the ingredients here. Your mom will recognize and vouch for every single ingredient.

So everytime we buy something let’s not get fooled by the marketing gimmicks on the front of the box… let’s remember to look ‘behind’ the box! And if you HAVE TO go for instant breakfasts once in a while find products that have less than a total of 8-10 ingredients and make sure you know what those ingredients are.


13 responses to “Think Behind The Box – Instant Breakfasts

  1. Priyadharshini June 13, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Nice blog, very insightful to the not so enlightened. And beautiful pictures to capture the essence of what you’re saying Raj. What better way to sell the idea, if not with stunning visual cues, right? 🙂
    Scrambled veggies though sounds like a bit of work, especially, to replace a “quick/on the go” breakfast. There are definitely rolled oats/whole grain products out there with minimal brown sugar/rice syrup for sweetening and no additives that we could add to your list here.

    Anyways, keep up the great work..proud of you! 🙂
    Priya Narayanan

    • RG June 13, 2010 at 7:49 am

      Thank you for stopping by Priya! Scrambled veggies and eggs do need a little more time… but they definitely are a lot healthier than anything out of a box! 🙂 Regarding better whole grain options… check out Trader Joe’s toasted oats. They have one ingredients… Whole Rolled Oats 🙂

      And yes… insightful for the not so enlightened. Am starting off light with general topics so more people relate to the blog. Will slowly get into nutrition science, kinesiology, energy systems, exercise science etc etc. Keep checking for more and please keep the comments coming 🙂

  2. Mahesh Krishnamoorthy June 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Nice post Raj. Much needed for the growing community of junk eaters. This will make them realize the mistakes being committed without knowing the after effects. Just makes me worried how much we have adopted this junk lifestyle in such a short span of time. This links in very well to your previous post about excuses. Everybody does have an extra 10 min of their supposedly valuable time, to prepare breakfast.
    I like the analogy with fueling the car. Yes, our body is like an automobile and needs the adequate and also appropriate fuel in order to keep running fine without any problems. Staying healthy is definitely a wonderful feeling, which I have come to realize in the last couple of years. Its a goal which has no end to it. Its a never ending journey and ends only we die because health is the only thing that “stays with us” until we die, because if we lose it, we vanish. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to see more.

  3. Anita June 13, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Great analogy ….Never thought of it like that….Am going to try Vidya’s breakfast …that sure looks easy and delicious…

    Hope to see more of it….

    Anita R

  4. Pingback: How bout a quickie… « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  5. SG June 19, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Interesting! Just curious- are you a P.T by profession or is it just a passion?

    • RG June 19, 2010 at 10:44 am

      Shrim – PT by passion (crazy passion)… soon to be profession 🙂

      How’s Esha doing? How’re you and my beloved school se doing?

  6. Uthra June 23, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Awesome post Raj!

    Can I get that baked egg recipe ? I am not sure if you have it as a separate post.

    On the Fruit Nut Shake – for some fruits you can also add Mint leaves & Lemon to it. It makes it yummier. Just for some not for all.

    • RG June 24, 2010 at 9:20 am

      Uthra… sure thing. Will post that recipe up in a few days. Good tip on the shakes. There are a million ways to make such shakes. get creative. Try spinach in one of your shakes. Sounds funny… but try adding it along with other fruits. You wont even know its there.

      Thanks for the comment.

  7. Madhuram March 5, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I too loved that analogy about cars. I have started having this green smoothie for breakfast and its a BIG hit with my five year old too. Soak some almonds overnight, remove the skin in the morning. Put this in the blender with 2 cups of baby spinach/romaine lettuce or a combination of both, banana, flax seed oil and water. It’s unbelievably tasty, creamy and filling. My son keeps asking for seconds and thirds. Our chiropractor suggested this one with rice milk and almond milk, but I went ahead and started using soaked almonds and water instead.

    What is your take on rice milk and almond milk?

    • RG March 7, 2011 at 12:09 am

      Awesome stuff. I’ll be sure to try this sometime soon.

      Almond milk from raw almonds and water is cool. No worries there. Rice milk… not a big fan. Try getting some grass fed whole milk. Definitely a good addition to a already healthy diet.

  8. Motrin July 9, 2011 at 10:59 am

    It wholly approve of with the erstwhile essence

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