Misunderstandings are rife when it comes to muesli, says Kate Deppeler, a spokesperson for the Dietitian's Association of Australia.
While muesli is often packed full of healthy goodness, muesli types vary widely in fat and energy content, with some outstripping a burger for fat content, so it pays to practise due diligence before assuming that bowl full is doing you good. Portion size can be an issue, as muesli is often more energy dense (i.e. more calories per spoonful) than other cereals.
NATURALDeppeler suggests making your own muesli with a base of natural muesli, rather than buying a pre-prepared concoction. “Making home made muesli allows you to have total control over the nutritional content of the finished product,” she says – think sneaking in a serving of fruit, adding extra protein and even nudging in some omega-3 in chia.
The dietitian warns, however, that muesli’s potential health score isn’t a license to eat unlimited quantities. “Muesli may be quite healthy but it may also be high in sugar, fat and kilojoules,” Deppeler says. ”The perception that muesli is healthy may lead people to eat it in larger quantities than is recommended.” One serving of natural muesli is one half cup, unlike some cereals, which come in ¾ or full cup serves.
To make the ultimate serving of homemade muesli, Deppeler recommends adding “a variety of grains, such as rolled oats and bran, and a small amount of chopped nuts, seeds and dried fruit”.
TOASTEDToasted muesli is definitely tasty, but Deppeler warns that its palatability may come at a price. While she says that the health benefits of toasted muesli are similar to those of a natural recipe, Deppeler warns that there can be hidden calories. “Fat is added to make it crispy and crunchy during the toasting process. For this reason, toasted muesli is often higher in fat and kilojoules than natural muesli.”
To keep calories in check, keep toasted muesli serves to one quarter of a cup, which has about the same amount of kilojoules as a half cup serving of natural muesli.
If you’re buying pre-prepared muesli, Deppeler recommends reading the nutritional information panel to insure against accidental over-consumption.
WITH NUTS AND SEEDSDeppeler says that adding nuts and seeds to muesli is a great way to make your breakfast not only healthy, but tasty, too.
“Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of healthy fats and provide and provide an additional source of fibre,” she says. But portion size is again key. “They are high in kilojoules and fat, so a little goes a long way.”
BIRCHERAn ultra gourmet take on muesli, Bircher has become the weekend cafe brekkie du jour. And while it does have heroic aspects, fans may overestimate its health cred and underestimate its calories.
“Mueslis have this health halo, that is, they are often perceived as being quite healthy. [But] due to the addition of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, fruit juice, yoghurt, sweetener and oil or butter, the kilojoules quickly add up,” Deppeler cautions.
Often soaked in yoghurt or milk, which equals bone-friendly calcium, Bircher’s embellishments can also make it high in kilojoules. As such, Deppeler advises sticking to a serving size of half a cup – particularly if you’re watching your weight.
FRUITFruit is a great addition to muesli, says Deppeler. But as with other additions, Deppeler says fruit can increase the calorie count, making it even more important to be mindful of serving size.
“When choosing dried fruit, such as sultanas, try to keep the serving to one and a half tablespoons and try to choose fruit that doesn’t have added sugar,” she suggests, saying that one cup of dried fruit may contain between double and quadruple the kilojoules in a cup of fresh fruit.
Likewise, tinned fruit in syrup can blow out the kilojoules, so slice up a piece or two rather than pouring in a tin, and opt for unsweetened juice rather than syrup.
To keep your fruity muesli as healthy as possible, Deppeler recommends buying fresh or toasted muesli and adding your own fruit.