Nutritional balance of breakfast meals

Table of Contents

Breakfast meals' BNI

From a nutritional perspective, a meal is more complex and normally more balanced than its ingredients. Thus, the nutritional balance of the latter impacts little on the overall meal, as such balance can be compensated for by adjusting the relative proportion to any other ingredients. For example, illustration 1 shows the nutritional balance (BNI™) of ingredients typically used for a light breakfast (as well as ready-breakfast-meals intended to reduce the work of preparing such light breakfast yourself). Except for the ready-breakfast-meals, which are marketed as a finalized product to be consumed on-the-go, the actual BNI of food tells very little of the final BNI of the meal once the ingredients (dry cereals and dairy products) are combined. That is, although there is a correlation between the balance of ingredients and final food when dealing with simple meals such as breakfast, it would normally be unwise to make decisions regarding which ingredients to pick before knowing what the nutritional balance of the final meal would be.

Illustration 1: The nutritional balance of breakfast foods (averages)
unbalance BNI
cereals dairy ready-meals
slight 8.70c, Oat breakfast cereals 16.91-p, Standard oatmilk
~ 23.82s, Muesli breakfast cereals 26.77s, Low-fat soymilk
moderate 31.11c, Wheat breakfast cereals 38.13s, Standard ricemilk
~ 48.17f, Standard soymilk
~ 52.32s, Fat-free soymilk
~ 54.72s, Low-fat natural yogurt 59.58s, Liquid breakfast
high 64.29s, Low-fat flavored soymilk
~ 67.50s, Standard natural yogurt
~ 78.35c, Corn breakfast cereals 77.49sf, Creamy natural yogurt
~ 80.03c, Rice breakfast cereals 88.42sf, Standard cow milk
~ 90.26s, Fat-free flavored yogurt
~ 91.56s, Low-fat flavored yogurt
~ 92.68s, Semi-skimmed cow milk
~ 92.90s, Standard flavored soy yogurt
~ 94.19s, Creamy flavored yogurt
~ 95.20s, Standard flavored yogurt
extreme 101.11s, Semi-skimmed flavored cow milk
~ 104.13s, Standard flavored cow milk
~ 121.81fb, Bran breakfast cereals 122.85s, Skimmed cow milk
~ 125.80s, Fat-free natural yogurt

Illustration 2 shows the BNI of simulated breakfast meals arranged according to food products. Using standardised quantities for servings of milk and yogurt, and the recommended serving for cereals, it is easy to compare the final nutritional balance of a meal and how it differs from the nutritional balance of its ingredients. Overall, the resulting meals tend to be more balanced than their ingredients, this being more noticeable the more extreme the nutritional balance of the ingredients were to start with. This actually suggest that combining highly unbalanced foods into meals normally tend to balance out their nutritional biases.

Obviously, the resulting meals can also be organised hierarchically according their nutritional balance. Illustration 2 suggests that non-dairy milks produce more balanced meals, overall, followed by natural yogurts and non-flavored dairy milks. Among yogurt and milk types, low-fat options (but not fat-free ones) are the most balanced of all. Meanwhile, flavored milks and flavored yogurts might become more balanced as part of a meal but are still poorer options than unflavored ones. In most cases, oats seems to be the best ingredient to combine with dairy for that light breakfast meal, followed by muesli and wheat cereals.

Illustration 2
(Adapted from Perezgonzalez, 20121; green = BNI<30, yellow = BNI<40, orange = BNI<50, pink = BNI<60, blue = BNI>60)

Illustration 3 shows the same data than illustration 2 but with a color-coded comparison between the breakfast meals prepared at home and the on-the-go ready-breakfast-meals sold as finalized products. The illustration makes it evident that home-made breakfast may result in more balanced meals most of the time, given the relatively high unbalance of the on-the-go products. Yet, the latter may still be a more balanced choice than some home-made meals, especially if the ingredients include flavored dairy, and corn, rice and bran cereals.

Illustration 3

Of course, all these results are based on simulations (see Perezgonzalez, 20121), so that the nutritional balance of home-made meals will necessarily vary depending on the proportionality of the ingredients used. But overall, following the recommended serving sizes tend to produce the pattern of nutritional balance shown here.

1. PEREZGONZALEZ Jose D (2012). Simulation: nutritional balance of breakfast meals. Journal of Knowledge Advancement & Integration (ISSN 1177-4576), 2012, pages 152-154.
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Jose D PEREZGONZALEZ (2012). Massey University, Turitea Campus, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand. (JDPerezgonzalezJDPerezgonzalez).


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