Could Porridge be sabotaging your weight-loss?

Porridge; the superfood breakfast that could be super-sabotaging your weight-loss!

On this chilly day, as I tuck in to my warming lunch of milky porridge (first news flash: you can eat porridge for lunch) I think to myself how, what looks like such a small (and very tasty) bowl of oats is also approximately 440 calories of fuel. Good fuel, I must say; some may even say ‘super fuel’. However, for someone trying to lose weight that has a relatively small frame, 440 calories consumed makes quite the dent for the rest of the day’s caloric requirement. Porridge is pretty nutrient dense.

Good nutrition is all about giving your body the nutrients it requires to thrive. Good weight loss is about plain and simple mathematics; calories you consume MUST be less than calories you exert.

Porridge consists of oats mixed with water / milk / oat milk / nut milk / Zebra milk, whatever you so choose. Apple juice…? That’s ‘Bircher’… a little side note.

Oats are the healthiest grains on earth; up there with Rye, Buckwheat and Quinoa. They are just typically cheaper and less fancy sounding (unless you use their Latin name of Avena Sativa).

They are gluten-free (no, that doesn’t reduce the calories) and they are a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and anti-oxidants.

Whole grains are basically dry seeds that grow on grass-like plants called ‘cereals’. No, not a box of Frosties, cereal is actually a plant. Oats (unlike Frosties) are “whole” meaning all the good parts (bran and germ) remain. Refined grains like Frosties have all the nutrient rich part removed and a tonne of sugar baked on!

One 30g bowl of Frosties with semi-skimmed milk = 174 calories.

One 30g bowl of oats with semi-skimmed milk = 215 calories.

So, to reiterate a point:  Low calorie options are not necessarily healthy.  High calorie foods are not necessarily unhealthy.

Let’s consider the following three bowls 40g of porridge:

  1. My favourite; 40g Rolled Oats (148 cals), 200ml “Arla BOB” milk (70 cals) ½ cup blueberries (42 calories) 1 tbsp Runny Honey (49 calories) Whole Earth no sugar Crunchy Peanut Butter (20g which is a big teaspoon…yes: a teaspoon is 129 cals! So grand total: 438 calories. *Read the last one again so it sinks in. Then think about the tablespoon “healthy snack” of “healthy” nut butter you sometimes have. 40g = 258 cals!)*
  2. Leon Porridge of the Gods (oats, banana, organic chocolate flakes and organic honey) 441 calories. However,
  3. Leon Ruby Red Porridge: Milk, Oats, Coconut and Almond butter, agave syrup, compote. Grand total: 286 calories (cashew milk) 332 (cows’ milk).

The majority of us massively overestimate portion size. We pour ourselves twice the amount of oats or cereal than we need. We don’t weigh, we estimate. So that “40g” serving is actually 80g. 438 calories is suddenly 876.

Serving size refers to a set amount of food which is based on the amount of energy in the food and allows comparison with other foods of the same weight. Portion size is what a person should eat. Your portion size may be less than a serving size.

Why do food companies use “serving size” as their descriptive term?

The cynic in me says this: “A Go Ahead Healthy Yoghurt bar is just 74 cals. Great! However, that’s per biscuit and there are two in a pack.” That part is written in the teeny tiny print that even the best spectacles cannot see.

In a 2007 study, scientists: Prentice, Jebb, Wansink and Van Ittersum found that large portions, in particular of highly palatable food, challenge innate human appetite control systems and may lead to weight gain. Basically, when it comes to tastier, chunkier food, we seem to start reasoning that it has far fewer calories than it truly has we can eat more.

Food for thought & The Take Away:

We should ideally eat food that is nutritionally good for us, however if we are trying to lose weight then we need to be aware of the calories because however “good” ‘healthy” and “super” a food is, if the calories are higher than what you are expending, you will not lose weight. Portion control is everything and sometimes it means thinning out calorie dense foods.

Enjoy your porridge; try a dairy alternative, and watch the nut butter!