I hate the idea of the first thing I eat every day containing sugar. It seems like a terrible idea, particularly since I then go and clean my teeth. However, having scoured the shelves in every supermarket and health food store within a 20-mile radius, I have only found two or three sugar-free breakfast cereals that I would even entertain eating. There are some sugar-free mueslis around, but what about for those of us who don't like muesli?
Nature's Path has a range of breakfast products, but as far as I can tell, all but two contain sugar, albeit raw cane sugar. Organic Millet Rice Oatbran Flakes are one exception. They are wheat-free, so they're ideal for anyone intolerant to it, and they contain only healthy, natural ingredients. I wouldn't normally include the ingredients list from a food product label, but in this instance, I would like to demonstrate the fact that a) there are very few ingredients in this product; and b) there is nothing unhealthy hidden amongst them.
Whole oat flour
Concentrated fruit juice (grape and/or pear)
Brown rice flour
Barley malt extract
Sounds horrible, doesn't it? But it isn't. Ideally, perhaps, this product wouldn't contain salt either, but many people are so used to it being in everything, I wonder if anyone would buy products if they suddenly had the salt removed.
I like the fact that the manufacturer of Millet Rice has opted to sweeten the cereal with fruit juice rather than sugar. Of course, fruit juice first thing in the morning, followed by teeth-cleaning isn't ideal, either, (it is always better to eat after brushing!), but it beats a barrel-load of refined sugar when you've just got up - hands down.
I'm always reluctant to write a food review as it's often difficult to describe taste, but this cereal tastes a little like I imagine cornflakes might without the sugar, only better. I would say the oat bran and barley are the overriding flavours, and there's no hint of nuttiness, which I personally don't like. The aftertaste has a vague similarity to those little bread-shaped biscuits by Hovis! Both the texture and taste make it apparent that this product is largely made up of grains, but it doesn't have the dry mustiness of bran flakes and it doesn't stick to the roof of your mouth. In fact, it goes down a lot easier than bran. Despite the inclusion of fruit juice, there is very little in the way of sweetness and if you're used to a hit of Kellogg's Frosties on a daily basis, this may not be the product for you. However, these little flakes are pleasantly satisfying and wholesome and I really don't miss sugar in my breakfast at all.
It's almost as though the flakes are coated in something (the aforementioned fruit juice?) as they're quite smooth on the gullet. Texture-wise, they have a nice crunch, but they do soften when you add milk, so don't leave them sitting around for half an hour. A bowl of Millet Rice certainly makes you feel that you've had the healthy option for breakfast, but without leaving you hungry, and - unless you're a sugar junkie - you won't feel deprived of flavour.
This cereal is not your average, brightly-coloured, E number-laden, guaranteed-to-appeal-to-kids product. The packaging has a very natural look and depicts fields of golden barley, rather than a vibrantly coloured talking tiger, for instance, and there are no free toys to persuade children to buy it. In addition, the flakes themselves look a little like unfinished cornflakes and are quite pale. I think the best way to look at it is that it's not a substitute for some other sugar-coated cereal of similar shape; it's a different product altogether, and a good choice, in my view, for anyone wanting to start the day with something healthier.
At between £2.75 and £2.99 for a 375g box, this isn't the cheapest choice for breakfast, but of all the healthy alternatives I have tried, it is my favourite. I don't feel as though I'm eating a bowl of dry, powdery nonsense that would be better suited to a rodent, and I don't have any blood sugar-related energy peaks and troughs as a result.