How often have you heard the saying, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’? While there isn’t a huge amount of evidence to suggest that you absolutely must eat breakfast, it is a good source of nutrients and eating regular meals can help maintain your energy levels throughout the day as it helps your glycaemic control (keeping your blood sugar levels fairly constant).
The BDA recommends that breakfast should contain 20-25% of your daily nutrient requirements. When planning a healthy breakfast try to include all the different food groups:
- Starchy carbohydrates: cereals, bread, potatoes. They provide energy, fibre, iron and B vitamins.
- Fruit and veg: An excellent source of vitamins and fibre and contribute to your 5-a-day.
- Milk and dairy foods: provide protein, calcium and B vitamins. If you are avoiding cow’s milk for any reason, make sure you use fortified non-dairy milk options.
- Meat, eggs, fish, beans and pulses: sausages, eggs, kippers, salmon, baked beans. Provide protein and iron.
Remember to include a drink at breakfast such as water, 150ml fruit juice, tea, coffee or milk. Staying hydrated will help your concentration throughout the day.
Sometimes it can feel like a rush to get breakfast in the morning but a little forward planning I’m sure you’ll get into the routine of it very quickly. Below are some suggestions for breakfast ideas – obviously adapt any of these ideas to fit your schedule/tastes etc. I have also split them into ideas for weekday mornings, some to prep the night before and some for those days when you have more time for a relaxed breakfast, maybe at the weekends or during the holidays.
Make in the morning
Cereals: Aim for low-sugar varieties as this will ensure that your energy levels don’t spike then drop very quickly mid-morning.
- Bran flakes/Weetabix etc. with milk, topped with fruit (banana or berries for example)
- Muesli, yoghurt and fruit topped with nuts
Porridge: I’ve given this a separate section because there are so many toppings you could use and with some evidence showing that eating oats has a positive effect on your cholesterol levels.
- Throw 50g porridge oats, 1 diced apple and 300mls milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 mins until the oats have absorbed the liquid. Serve into a bowl and sprinkle with a tsp cinnamon.
- Add frozen berries, mashed banana, 50g oats and milk to a microwavable bowl. Cover and microwave for about 2 minutes until the oats are cooked.
- Top your normal porridge with sliced kiwi, pomegranate seeds and mixed seeds for a more tropical flavour
Smoothie: blitz a handful of your favourite fruit with a banana and about 100mls milk or yoghurt. This is a good option if you don’t tend to have much of an appetite first thing in the morning. Also try these additions to your smoothie:
- Use frozen fruit to make your smoothie lovely and chilled (plus frozen fruit is often cheaper and you only use what you need). If you fancy making a smoothie bowl just make your smoothie a slightly thicker consistency – similar to sorbet thickness – by adding less milk.
- Throw in some spinach to inject your smoothie with veggies. If you add some fruit as well it won’t be too bitter.
- If you want to increase the energy density (calorie content) of your smoothie try adding a dollop of nut butter before you blitz it.
- Try adding oats to your smoothie to increase the carbohydrate and fibre content. You may need to add a bit of water to make it the right consistency.
- You could also add a teaspoon of plain cocoa powder if you fancy a little chocolatey hit!
Toast: aim for wholegrain bread as it provides more minerals and fibre, which can help regulate your energy levels as well as helping your bowel health. Try the following toppings as an alternative to the usual strawberry jam.
- Mashed avocado, a sprinkling of chilli flakes and hard-boiled/ scrambled eggs.
- Baked beans on toast (counts as a portion of your 5-a-day and are a good source of plant-based protein)
- Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (try adding chopped chives to the eggs whilst cooking)
- Nut butter and sliced banana
- Grilled cheese and tomatoes
- Toasted bagel topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon.
Prep the night before
Overnight oats: the oats soak up the liquid to make a breakfast similar to Bircher muesli.
- Cover 50g oats and a handful of sultanas/raisins with milk or apple juice and pop it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, top with fruit, nuts, seeds or yoghurt – whatever you fancy!
Granola: shop-bought granola usually has a lot of sugar in it but if you make your own you can control how much sugar you add. Strictly speaking you probably need a bit more time to make this, but it keeps in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 6 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Mix 200g oats with the zest of 1 orange, a tsp cinnamon and a squeeze of honey (you only really want a very thin coating of honey so that the oats start forming clusters). Spread the oat mixture over the baking tray and bake for about 10-15 minutes until golden and crunchy, turning the oats every few minutes.
- In the last 5 minutes add some seeds or nuts to the tray to roast.
- Leave to cool and then keep in an airtight container in the cupboard.
Poached eggs: poach the eggs in a simmering pan of water for 3 or 4 minutes until the white is cooked but the yolk is still a bit runny
- Slice and toast an English muffin. Top with spinach leaves, a slice of lean ham and a slice of cheese. Place the poached egg on top and season with black pepper.
- Top your favourite bread toasted with half an avocado and your poached eggs.
Berry omelette: this may sound odd but don’t knock it til you try it!
- Whisk 2 eggs with a dash of milk then pour into a non-stick preheated frying pan. Whilst the omelette is forming add a selection of your favourite summer berries – blueberries are particularly good. Once the omelette is cooked, serve and eat immediately – beware of the bursting hot berries!
Baked eggs and avocado
- Halve an avocado, remove the stone and maybe some flesh to make a hole big enough for an egg. Don’t waste the avocado flesh though!
- Crack an egg into each half then pop in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until the eggs are cooked.
- Top with black pepper.
For even more breakfast ideas try these websites:
NHS Choices: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/loseweight/Pages/Healthybreakfasts.aspx
BBC goodfood: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/healthy-breakfast
This BDA Food Fact sheet is also really helpful!