+ Well Nourished | Are Breakfast Drinks Healthy?

Are breakfast drinks healthy? A detailed examination

This series of posts was inspired by a neighbour and reader of Well Nourished.  She suggested I pull out the magnifying glass and analyse the nuts and bolts of popular processed foods.  I’m going to take it a step further and follow each of these posts with my version or a nutritious alternative to these nutritionally void products.

I will no doubt ruffle a few feathers and shatter a few misconceptions during this ongoing series.  But I make no apologies; I will just tell it how it is and you can decide from there.

Breakfast drinks
So we begin with the ever popular breakfast drink market.  Sales of breakfast drinks have doubled since 2008.  Sanitarium’s Up & Go, who have dominated the market since their product hit the shelves 15 years ago, have sold 34 million litres of the stuff in the past year alone.

Advertised as being a nutritious, high protein, fibre filled start to the day, I’m not the first person to question these claims.  In fact, the consumer group watchdog, Choice, has recently investigated twenty-three liquid breakfast products and found claims of being ‘high fibre’, ‘for digestive health’ and ‘goodness of three grains’ as plain ‘shonky’.  They further found the amount of sugar in a small serve of many, as the equivalent of a chocolate bar.

This is such an easy product to discredit.  The list of ingredients do vary slightly among products (depending upon brand and flavour), but in a nutshell, a popular chocolate flavoured product is today’s victim…

Breaking it down
In order of the most prevalent ingredient:

  • Skim milk powder – is nutritionally void as all of the vitamins and minerals present in regular milk, are removed during processing.  In addition, a dangerous oxidised cholesterol is formed during its processing.  I trust a cow more than a laboratory, so full-fat cows milk is always my preference.  Did you also know that skim milk powder has been used for decades as a method to fatten pigs…need I say more?  I’ll also add, that studies have found that children who consume skim milk products have a higher body mass index than those that drink full-fat milk.
  • Cane sugar, wheat maltodextrin, hi-maize starch, corn syrup solids and fructose are various damaging forms of sugar.  The massive amount of sugar found in this product renders it a totally disastrous way to start the day. For more on sugar, watch this report, here.
  • Vegetable oil – I have written about here.  They are not healthy and along with sugar (the other chief ingredient in this product), are a direct cause of obesity and most of the degenerative diseases afflicting our society.
  • Soy protein – is a very industrialised, heavily processed product.  Soy is a powerful endocrine disrupter and in this form, it’s simply toxic.
  • Inulin – is a form of fibre generally used by food manufacturers to boost the fibre content of their product.  Whilst generally harmless, some people find even occasional consumption of inulin to cause gas and bloating.
  • Cocoa – a processed form of cacao or chocolate powder.
  • Cereals – the fact that they are listed next to the ‘micronutrient minerals’ give you an idea of how little ‘cereals’ are actually in this product.  Neither of which are whole grains either, rather their processed cousins.
  • Minerals – a token gesture, fortified
  • Food acid – is a preservative
  • Flavour – not specified
  • Vegetable gums are a sugar based food thickener.  460 is generally regarded as safe though it is banned in baby food in the UK.  466 is a suspected carcinogen and may cause intestinal discomfort.  407 is a suspected carcinogen, linked to ulcerative colitis, damaging to the immune system and there is some concern it may cause birth defects.  Although more research is required, many authorities recommend it not be given to infants and children.  Scary, considering many parents unknowingly feed these to their children.
  • Vitamins – are good for marketing and labelling the product.

In my opinion, all we have in this little carton is a whole heap of nothing.  Certainly there is nothing that the body would recognise as real food.  The body is a real, living organism and does not recognise anything but real food.  Do yourself a favour and have a well-made ice-cream instead!

For more details on the Choice review, click here.  Now you have the facts, the choice is yours!

Want my healthy version of a chocolate breakfast drink?  Try this recipe.

Did you find this post helpful?  Any requests?  If you know someone who you think may benefit from this post – share it by clicking on the link below so at least they can make an informed choice.


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  • Sally

    At last the truth is out there, the word carcinogen should be enough to put anyone off! Congratulations on a great, factual article Georgia. Can’t wait for your breakfast shake recipe tomoz x

    • Thanks Sally, I wish I had found something, anything, worthwhile in this product. Tomorrows shake is good enough for a treat, but healthy enough for breakfast. G x

  • Catherine Flannery

    Great article most of which I try to avoid , but , weetbix ? I thought I was doing ok till I saw wetbix , is it due to g.m.o.? Intrigued , cheers cath

    • Hi Cath, the images were chosen fairly randomly. Though I’m largely not a fan of Weet-bix (you could do worse but also better). To be fair I will do an evaluation as I have here and post it next time I do this type of post as you’ve asked (and I know a lot of people will also be interested). My breakfast post may give you some breakfast ideas to go on. G x

  • Kylie

    I have always chosen vita brits over weetbix so would be good if you could touch on these too. Ta 🙂

  • Zoe

    I don’t eat it anymore but weetbix was always my choice too, so I’d love to read an article about it to so I know I’ve made the right choice in giving it up! I have kefir smoothies every day now but I’m really over them so I’m looking forward to a different recipe and flavour!


    • Variety is so important, nutritionally and psychologically. Too much of anything takes the joy from it. I over did my toasted muesli and now my kids have become averse to it (they used to love it)! Bugger! G x

  • Pingback: Chocolate Breakfast Smoothie (that will really get you up and on the go) | Well Nourished – Simple recipes, whole foods, inspired health()

  • Pingback: A closer look at processed food – Muesli bars, a health food? | Well Nourished – Simple recipes, whole foods, inspired health()

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