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Morning rush: Understanding how sugar can creep into your breakfast

It is easy to eat foods with lots of sugar without even realising it. Here’s how to understand how it can easily creep into your breakfast.


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For many South Africans, a bowl of cereal and milk is the quickest way to get your day started. What some of us may not realise, is that an innocent bowl of cereal could actually be harmful to your diet. Here’s how to understand how you can avoid sugar in the mornings.

ALSO READ: Morning rush? These kids’ breakfast cereals are LOADED with sugar


The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 5 to 10 teaspoons of sugar a day but, there is sugar in certain foods that we may not be able to pick up, and you could easily go over the recommended amount.

Reading labels on food packaging may be quite difficult for some but registered dietician Kgadi Moabelo says it is a skill that can be mastered over time.

Moabelo mentions that if sugar is highlighted as the first ingredient on the packaging, it usually means that there is a large amount of it in the product. The ingredient listed last, means there is less of that ingredient. 


Some products are usually marketed as high-energy and low-sugar but there are products that have high amounts of sugar that you may not be aware of. Here are some examples that you should look out for. 


Although cereal is the quickest and easiest way to start your day, it contains a whole lot of sugary goodness that you may want to avoid. One bowl of cereal can contain up to six teaspoons.

Pancakes and Waffles

Pancakes and waffles are usually an option for people over the weekends or at restaurants as they take slightly longer to prepare. The downside to this is that they are usually smothered in syrup, chocolate sauce and other sugary sprinkles. 

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Bread is a staple in many South African homes. What you may not know is that one slice of bread contains half a teaspoon of sugar. Having an innocent breakfast sandwich in the morning could mean that you would have consumed one whole teaspoon and we haven’t considered any other potential sandwich ingredients yet.


Healthline reports that plenty non-fat flavoured yoghurts have plenty of sugar in them. In fact, these yoghurts are worse than a simple serving of ice cream.

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ALSO READ: ‘New and improved’ Coke Zero Sugar leaves bad taste in many mouths


There are a few simple ways you can cut down your sugar intake in the morning

  • Avoid foods that are marketed as low-fat “diet” foods as these usually have a high amount of sugar in them. 
  • “Sugar-free” foods can contain sweeteners like saccharin and sucralose.
  • Avoid fruit juice as these can contain a lot of sugar. Instead go for a glass of water and a fruit on the side. 
  • Instead of adding sugar to your tea or morning coffee add a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • You can often swop white bread for a slice of whole wheat bread.