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HFG guide to porridge

HFG senior nutritionist Rose Carr surveys oat product options for the perfect winter breakfast.

What’s available?

Hot winter cereals are about porridge oats, but that doesn’t mean a lack of choice. We can buy traditional wholegrain oats or quick cook oats, one kilo bags or single-serve sachets, oats flavoured with spices or added fruit, or just plain oats.

Nutritionally there is little difference between any of the plain oats: instant or quick-cook oats are processed slightly differently, but nothing is removed. Being rolled and sliced into smaller pieces means these oats have a different texture and will cook quicker.

Fibre

Oats are a source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre passes through the intestine largely intact and helps promote regular bowel movements. Soluble fibre, such as beta-glucan found in oats, may help lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. A number of studies have shown that eating around two-thirds of a cup of oats each day can lower cholesterol in people previously diagnosed with risk factors for cardiovascular disease in as little as four weeks. It seems the beta-glucan acts like a sponge in the small intestine, binding cholesterol so it can’t be re-absorbed and instead passes through the intestine as waste.

Uncle Tobys Weight Wise Original is particularly high in fibre as it has added inulin. Found naturally in onions, bananas and other foods, inulin is a carbohydrate that we are seeing more of in manufactured foods. Inulin acts as a dietary fibre and as a prebiotic, which means it feeds the good bacteria in our gut. Hubbards Traditional Fruitful Porridge is also higher in fibre with added fruit and oatmeal.

Sugar

Did you know? Oats are the seeds from the cereal grain plant Avena sativa. The hard outer hull is removed from the oat grains to leave what is known as ‘oat groats’, which are used to make rolled oats.

Flavoured oats may have fruit, sugar, skimmed milk powder and flavours added: it is worth reading the ingredients list.

While fruit and skimmed milk powder will naturally add to the amount of sugar in the cereal, it is the added white, brown or raw sugar that can make the total amount of sugar in oat products very high. For example, Pams Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Instant Oats contain 22 per cent brown sugar. At 9.7g in a 40g sachet, that is the same as adding three teaspoons of brown sugar (or if you used white sugar, which is finer, a little over two teaspoons). We realise some people add sugar to their cereals but it’s important to be aware of how much sugar is in a product in the same way as we are when adding sugar ourselves.

For products without added fruit we recommend choosing oat products with 15g or less sugar per 100g, and if they contain fruit look for 25g sugar or less per 100g.

Saturated fat and sodium

We are pleased to say we didn’t find any oat products that were high in either. As a guide when choosing, look for products with 400mg or less sodium per 100g and 3g or less saturated fat per 100g.

A low-energy breakfast

A half-cup serve of oats with a three-quarter cup of trim milk provides around 850-900kJ. Add some fruit for sweetness and extra fibre and you still have a low-energy filling breakfast.

For those who need more energy, have a bigger serve of oats or add toast and maybe some juice.

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