Breakfast is often considered to be the most important meal of the day. It provides us with the energy we need and stops hunger and sugar fluctuations that can lead to mid-morning snacking. We all know how tempting it is to reach for a sugary croissant that will help tide us over until lunchtime.
Research has suggested that people who eat breakfast are more likely to stay at a healthy weight than those who don’t. It also points out that, compared with eating a small breakfast and a big dinner, doing the exact opposite and eating a large breakfast and a small dinner actually helps with weight loss and reduces the risk of the following (i):
• Heart disease
• High cholesterol
It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that these findings regarding weight loss have been recently challenged (ii).
What foods should I eat for a healthy breakfast?
If you’re finding it hard to come up with healthy breakfast ideas, Healthspan’s Head of Nutrition Rob Hobson is here to help.
‘A nutritious breakfast is one that contains foods from all the key food groups: carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables.’
‘Starchy carbohydrates provide us with the energy we need to get the day started. Try to eat fibre-rich varieties as these are broken down slowly by the body. They have a low GI (glyceamic index), which is a good thing, and they release energy gradually which helps to maintain steady blood sugar levels and stops us getting hunger pangs. Many of us don’t get enough fibre in our diets so breakfast is a perfect opportunity to fit some in.
Do watch out for refined carbohydrates, including foods such as white bread and sugary breakfast cereals, as these are not as nutritious.
You can check the sugar content of your cereals by looking at the front of pack labelling and choosing foods with a green or amber traffic light colour.
Quinoa is also highly nutritious and can easily be added to porridge oats or you can try puffed quinoa combined with nuts and seeds as a topping for yoghurt.'
Try: 'Wholegrain bread, oats, granola and sugar-free muesli’
‘Protein fills you up nicely and also helps to balance out blood sugar levels especially when eaten with healthier carbohydrates, the combination of which helps keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Eggs make a fantastic breakfast option as they are bountiful in high quality protein but also brimming with other key nutrients including vitamins A, B and D as well as a useful source of selenium and iron.
Yoghurt is another great alternative. It provides a good source of protein as well as calcium and can even be topped with nutritious foods such as nuts, seeds and fruits as well as being added to smoothies. If you can't tolerate dairy foods then soya or coconut yogurt are also delicious.'
Try: 'Eggs, yoghurt and smoked salmon’
Fruit and vegetables
‘Fruits and vegetables contain loads of vitamins and fibre . This provides an abundance of antioxidants that help to protect the body from free radical damage that can affect your body's cells and impact of disease risk.
Try aiming for a minimum of two servings for breakfast. You can easily achieve this by adding a serving of juice, fruit compote with yoghurt or including vegetables such as avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes or spinach, which all lend themselves well to breakfast dishes such as omelettes.'
Try: 'Smoothies, juice, spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes’
‘You’ll be pleased to hear that a nourishing breakfast should also contain a little fat. Try and choose healthier versions such as nuts, seeds and nut butters (almond, cashew and peanut). These are all a good source of B vitamins and minerals, such as iron and magnesium.
The avocado hype exists for a reason. These fruits are a rich source of monounsaturated fats which are considered to be heart healthy for their cholesterol lowering effects. They are also highly nutritious.
Breakfast is also a great opportunity to get your fix of omega 3 fatty acids. Try serving smoked salmon with scrambled egg or avocado or add a little chia or flaxseed oil to your smoothies and juices.'
Try: 'Avocado, nut butters, nuts and seeds’
As if that wasn’t enough motivation to start your day healthily, here are five of Rob’s most nutritious breakfast ideas:
1. Avocado on toast with chilli
2. Yoghurt with crushed nuts, seeds and homemade fruit compote
3. Poached eggs on toast with spinach
4. Low sugar wholegrain cereal with skimmed milk and chopped banana
5. Oat and quinoa porridge with berries, nuts and seeds