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Cereal or fruit pie?




I often have fruit pie or crumble for breakfast instead of cereal. People laugh but i feel that cereal is just sugar and milk. Fruit pie with real fruit chunks is sugar with real fruit. With custard or a glass of milk surely it's a better way to start the day.


I want each person to pick a meal they normally have and then improve it somehow to add a little balance. Both meals must be something you look forward to. If you can’t think of anything yourself then use my example. kellogs cornflakes cereal compared to a slice of fruit pie and a glass of milk. If you prefer, choose your own  meals to compare.

The learning goal is about how to swap existing meals for more interesting yet healthy ones and compare their nutritional content. It's not about perfection. It's about small incremental changes that add more fun to your life but improve a health parameter at the same time. In this case it's about adding a small amount of fruit and fibre to your breakfast.The same principle can be used in all meals and drinks throughout the day.

What to measure?
To make it a fair comparison I compare the whole meal. So I measure the cornflakes and milk I would have had. I also weigh the slice of fruit pie and  glass of milk.

Finding nutrition info
The nutrition information we’re interested in is what’s on the nutrition label. Or if you can’t find it then check a site like The key information you need is the number of calories per 100g and breakdown of fat, carbohydrate and protein.

Work out the values for the meal measurements you got. Along with a short list of the pros and cons of each meal. e.g. fruit pie has fruit in it and more fibre. Cornflakes may have added vitamins and be more convenient.  Then share with the group. This is a one week task so we should have the results up by the friday.

What we’re looking for
I’m hoping to find that our changes have kept the calories the same or less but improved the flavour, texture or some other aspect and also added fibre or vitamins. That’s my logic with fruit pie since I pick pies that use real fruits. Because I’m also having a treat for breakfast I don’t feel such a need for a treat later on. That’s not always the case but it’s my way of eating fun stuff little and often and I find it helps my self control. Balancing my metabolism doesn’t feel like such a chore.

Task Discussion

  • Thys   July 21, 2011, 9:47 a.m.

    Meal improvement is limited to what is readily available from the refrigerator, mainly.

    An addition of a leaf of Crisphead Lettuce might be possible.

    Crisphead Lettuce will stay relatively good longer than other types of lettuce, that i know.

    With the EHEC bacteria around the next addition becomes more difficult to be safe; but an addition that i sometimes take is (named in dutch) sterrenkers or tuinkers. You can find it, when you google these words for images.

  • Colin Chambers   July 2, 2011, 6:43 a.m.


    My analysis

    So here goes. I compared a bowl of kelloggs cornflakes compared to Aunt bessies morello cherry pie. I didn't end up comparing milk because I have the same for each so it seemed pointless. I thought it best to reduce down to what's changed.

    If you want to see the full detail I've added this to the spreadsheet for this course in the cereal or fruit pie sheet. The portion sizes I have are cornflakes: 90g, pie 137g.

    Basic facts

    pie:kcals 375, carbs: 57g, fat: 14.5g, fibre: 1.2g, Sodium: 0.01

    cornflakes: kcals:341, carbs: 75g, fat 0.8g, fibre: 2.7g, Sodium: 0.5

    So, unfortunately in all aspects except sodium cornflakes appear better. Not the biggest surprise but important to understand. Also remember that I had more in weight of the pie than cornflakes. Weight for weight there are 100 kcals less in the pie!!! I know, surprised me too. In theory the energy profile of cornflakes is better than pie because more energy is coming from carbohydrates than fat and there is less sugar in cornflakes. Fine. But I would consider cornflakes to be a pretty healthy cereal. If I'd compared with frosties coco pops and other kinds of cereal with lots more sugar I don't expect such a tought challenge. 

    There's also a limitation in terms of the info given. Cornflakes actually had vitamin, a salt amounts listed. The pie didn't. But the pie had a breakdown of types of fat, cornflakes didn't. This is a common problem when comparing food. There is no consistent data that gives you a full profile. I'd like to show that the pie had better or equal vitamin content but I just don't have the data. I could probably find it but this was supposed to be a 10 minute task, 1 hour max so if it's not given we'll leave it there. 


    While cornflakes just won this task I wouldn't say it was a complete victory. If the portion sizes were the same I'd have 100 less calories with the pie. The pie also tastes better and feels like a treat. I certainly don't have a pie every day. But at weekends or on special days it's a way to start the day with fun. I don't feel like I'm holding back. 

    Cornflakes are fortified with vitamins but I still prefer the idea of getting my nutrients from sources my body is designed for and in natural balances. The pie didn't list the vitamins so we couldn't compare but I can feel the texture of real fruit. 

    It's also a way of getting a small part of my 5 a day fruit and veg.

    So, overall I got what I hoped for out of this task. I proved that weight for weight pie has less calories than cornflakes. Pie is still a treat but it's also a fun way of starting the day with fruit. Worth a thought if you have trouble hitting your 5 a day. 

    I hope this helps you guys understand more about how to complete this task. I see you've all tried hard. Thankyou. It can easily become a tough task can't it. I probably didn't make it clear. All you need to do is change a component of a meal in your head. You don't actually have to make or serve the meal. This can be a paper exercise. Then find the basic nutritional values per 100g energy (kcals), protein, carbs, fat, fibre. If you get anymore info great. If you don't, don't worry it's not always easy. 

    Hope that helps. Thanks for your efforts so far. 


  • Colin Chambers   July 2, 2011, 6:08 a.m.

    Well done everyone for trying. If anything this task highlights the challenge of putting things into practice. It's taken me a lot of thought and effort to learn how to apply the things I've read. You guys are finding the same challenge. 

    If you're struggling I would suggest simplifying things. for example if you can't do it in real life you can still do it virtually. This can still be a paper exercise where don't actually make or serve the meal you just plan it, add up the nutritional values and see what you get.  Don't expect it to be easy at first. Sometimes it is but often something gets in the way. That's normal. You'll figure it out but it'llstake time. 

    Give it time

    So at first you just highlight the real challenge behind turning the theory into practice. What I've found is that this process makes you alert to the options and puts it in the back of your mind. Over time I then find lots of answers come at me from various places. Friends ideas, TV shows, personal inspiration, something I notice in the suplermarket or browsing the web.

    Pressure and time

    Basically most problems can be solved given pressure and time. We've now created a little pressure. Now give it time. the most useful thing is the virtual tools you now have. You've started thinking about making tiny changes. You've had a little look at comparing nutritional values and highlighted the barriers you face. Just using a piece of paper, a diary and online journal or just your head. Whatever you need you can plan and throw ideas together. Do this regularly and you'll quickly start overcoming the hurdles you all mentioned. I did and found that lots of other people have too. 

  • jennymgray   July 1, 2011, 11:57 a.m.

    I find this task difficult because I usually eat with other people and don't want to affect what they're having.

    I too own up to not being able to do it this week - its been a hectic week for me at work.  I was planning to substitute my normal sandwich/fruit/cake combination at lunch for pasta salad as that would be more interesting.  But I've no idea what the calorie difference would be, and whether I'd be able to get the cake in without adding calories.

    I do think the cost would be much higher financially to avoid extra cost in prep time.  Which means that I'm not really likely to do it, as extra cost on the food budget right now isn't a good idea.

  • Colin Chambers   July 2, 2011, 6:49 a.m.
    In Reply To:   jennymgray   July 1, 2011, 11:57 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing Jenny. You're highlighting how hard this is. It's why I haven't told many people about this even though I've been doing it for a few years now. It's hard at first. You come up against a lot of barriers and you have to find ways around them. 

    So, firstly, don't actually buy, make or serve anything. Just do this as a paper exercise. I want to give you guys so basic skills in analysing real nutrition and applying to meals. Practicalities like you mention are very real and we can look at these over time. For now. Just work things out on paper and post the results here. 

    thanks for trying so hard. Hope this helps.

  • Maria Droujkova   July 1, 2011, 10:09 a.m.

    Ok, here are two small changes I made.

    I drink a cup of hot tea with a bit of honey and milk or cream first thing in the morning. A Chinese medicine man recommended this to me, using very poetic language about Chi and what not, but at the mundane level, it warms me up after the night. So, we are out of milk and cream today. I substituted about a tablespoon of butter, as Mongolian people do. I also thought they add some salt, which I did too. Salt went really well with the fatty texture, so I understand why adding it is a good idea. It worked well and it was fun.

    Bryan also recommended adding green things to meals. So in addition to my usual hamburger, tomatoes and onions, I went to the yard and gathered a small bouquet of parsley, too. As Bryan said, it makes a lot of difference for the meal. I shared my parsley with our parrot.

  • Colin Chambers   July 1, 2011, 11:54 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Maria Droujkova   July 1, 2011, 10:09 a.m.

    Great work Maria. You've done much better than me. I was going to post my results up hear by 5pm on friday but it's wimbledon week and I was at wimbledon yesterday in centre court watching the womens semis. I'm watching nadal v murray right now.

    So I obviously picked the stupidest week to set a task. Any who the point of this course is to get on with your life and balance your matabolism as you go. So at this point I'm owning up to being late handing my own assignment. Great start eh. 

    I hope to get this sorted later tonight but that does depend on murray and nadal. Thought I'd let you guys know.

    My wife came up with next weeks task. I'll let you know what that is next week. 

    Have a nice weekend. 

    Any of you guys tennis fans?


  • Colin Chambers   July 2, 2011, 7:39 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Maria Droujkova   July 1, 2011, 10:09 a.m.

    Well done for trying maria. It can get challenging very quickly. I've made some general comments on this task. Let me know if you're still stuck after reading them. You have fresh herbs in your yard. I didn't realise you were so well equipped. I'm really impressed. I've had fun just adding random herbs to food to see what it does. Now I find stuff with out herbs is boring.

    Fresh mint in a salad is surprisingly good. Either that or my taste buds are weird :-). 

    I add green veg too. I've also started little things like sweating some onions down while I cook a meal. I include some in the meal I cook and save the rest in the fridge for the week. I throw them in sandwiches, salads, meals. Anything that feels right. It saves so much time and means I've always gotr somethign around. 

    I now see meals as a main ingredient like meat or veg like mushrooms or a courgette with accessories like potatoes, pasta, cous cous, lettuce veg and all the rest of it. It feels simpler this way. something as standard os potatoes become interesting when roasted with slices of ham and onions.cherry tomatoes get more flavour if you roast them. Just put put in an oven dish sprinkle some olive oil, add some torn basil leaves, or use dried, a little salt and pepper as seasoning and put in the oven on 200c or thereabouts for 20 mins. As a side to any meals I love things like this. Full of flavour but really simple. 

  • Maria Droujkova   July 2, 2011, 7:53 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Colin Chambers   July 2, 2011, 7:39 a.m.

    I still need to do the analysis, as I realized receiving the messages today. Mine is qualitative. I think the main benefit of butter over cream or milk is the fact it's not homogenized. So butter fat is in a more beneficial form. A bit of salt in the morning can give a boost of energy, I suppose. We usually eat very little salt, so even a little bit is felt by the body.

    As an aside, it's illegal in our state to sell raw milk, so there is a group of people who buy it in the next state, take turns driving there (several hundred miles!) and then distribute the milk in the parking lot - which is legal, but looks like dealing in drugs. I used to buy with this coop, but the delivery time does not work for me anymore. Funny, eh?

    As for parsley, the amount I eat at one time is miniscule - maybe 10 stalks with leaves or so. Its main value is in flavonoids. Basically, it makes the meal much more fun, and changes how you salivate and so on, which makes other food digested better. It has a long list of micronutrients, but I don't know their roles. I do know it makes me feel good, and I always chew on a leaf when I am out and about the yard.

  • Colin Chambers   July 2, 2011, 8:46 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Maria Droujkova   July 2, 2011, 7:53 a.m.

    hmm. Yep. I like your changes. Mainly because herbs really don't add anything in terms of calories but plenty in terms of flavour. I imagine the'll add vitamins and things but I don't know the values.

    when it comes to pasteurised over non pasteurized it gets very technical and equivocal. I'm actually more in favour of pasteurised stuff over completely raw due to the safety aspects and convenience. But that's a whole other debate.

    As far as I can tell you completed the task well. You added fun to your day through taste. The key points is these changes didn't take away from the meal, in fact they added to it. Hopefully once you figured out your answer it was easy to implement. 

    That's the kind of stuff I've been looking for. 

    Well done. I hope you had fun. How was your meal? was it better for the changes?

  • Maria Droujkova   July 2, 2011, 8:57 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Colin Chambers   July 2, 2011, 8:46 a.m.

    Well yes, the meals were better overall for the change. Pasteurization does not bother me as much as homogenization. The homogenized texture feels wrong, and the structural differences have health consequences. I would be happy to buy pasteurized, non-homogenized milk, but it's only available in one store where I rarely shop.

  • Maria Droujkova   June 29, 2011, 6:27 p.m.

    I am struggling with the assignment, and I don't even know why. All ideas I have for making meals better involve products we don't have around at the moment - or I don't have ideas at all. For example, today's breakfast for me was a box of blueberries with a piece of brie. I don't know if anything else goes with it - they are so perfect together. Maybe some nuts? But brie is already fatty and I did not feel like nuts. For lunch, we had a salad of mozarella, tomatoes and red peppers with olive oil and garlic. My husband had some rice at the side and I did not feel like it. I don't know what I would add - again, the salad is rather complete as is, simple and fast and nourishing. I am contemplating dinner - probably some hamburgers, with tomatoes and peppers and onions on the side (since we got a box of each) and gluten-free bread. What do you add?!! Help!