Despite some recent evidence to the contrary, most nutritionists and health professionals still subscribe to the idea that eating breakfast is a good start to the day. The challenge to this ancient wisdom came from a study by researchers from the University of Bath, published in the peer-reviewed, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study didn't find a direct relationship between eating breakfast and energy levels during the day. However, the researchers did state that in normal life situations, eating breakfast does seem to be linked to health in some positive way.
It is widely held that the scope and size of the study was too small to be used as evidence to settle the debate about whether to eat breakfast or indeed if it is the most important meal of the day. Consequently, this study should not be used as an excuse to miss breakfast. Not least because:
- After a period of overnight fasting, breakfast provides you with the energy and nutrients that lead to increased concentration.
- Studies show that breakfast can be important in maintaining a healthy body weight. If you haven't eaten breakfast, you are likely to be very hungry long before it's time for lunch. However, because it's not convenient to eat properly, there is a greater chance of satisfying your hunger by snacking on foods that are high in fat and sugar (biscuits, cakes, crisps, pastries and candy bars).
- A good breakfast will provide you with energy for the activities during the morning and help to prevent the mid-morning energy slump.
- Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast can help give you a nutritionally complete diet, higher in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and also lower cholesterol levels
Whilst anything that you eat first thing in the morning will constitute breakfast, a daily meal that is full of fried foods or foods high in trans fats and sugar (such as the traditional English breakfast of fried bread, hash-browns, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, fried eggs, sausages and bacon) in the long term is going to do your health a lot more harm than good.
Eating a healthy breakfast is an essential part of living an active and wellness lifestyle. However, to get the best from the first meal of the day, you should follow these guidelines:
- Include a serving of protein, a serving of fruit, and a serving of whole grain carbs. This will provide a healthy mix of nutrition and prevent you feeling hungry a few hours later.
- Stock your grocery cupboard with portable breakfast items like fruit, yogurt, whole grain breakfast bars, or granola bars (check labels for ones low in additives, salt, sugars and fats) for those mornings when you have to eat breakfast on the go.
- Try swapping your morning cup of coffee with green/herb tea, a glass of fruit juice, warm water with lemon or honey or a glass of milk (vegetable or dairy based).
- Decide in advance what you are going to have for breakfast. Either make a menu for the week on Sunday or decide the night before. This saves you time in the morning because you wont be dithering about trying to decide what to eat. You can also save time by putting out the box of cereal or preparing ingredients the night before.
- Get up 15 minutes earlier.If you feel that you never have time for breakfast, getting up 15 minutes earlier can provide the time you need. It’s possible to prepare and eat a healthy breakfast in 15 minutes or less.
- Aim to eat breakfast between one - two hours after you get up. Blood sugar levels are naturally low after the night’s fast, so eating within this timeframe can help prevent blood sugar levels crashing. Moreover, breakfast jump-starts the metabolism, therefore, eating soon after you wake up can raise your energy levels straight away and encourage you to be more active throughout the morning.
- Eat a meal that provides calories in the range of 20-35% of your guideline daily allowance (GDA). People's energy needs vary depending on activity levels and life stage but typically men require more energy than women and growing children require a lot of energy.For adults, the average man requires approximately 2500 calories and the average woman approximately 2000 calories per day.
5 suggestions for healthy breakfasts
If your objection to eating breakfast is that cereal gets boring fast, yogurt is uninspiring, and what toast has going for it in terms of speed of preparation, it lacks in terms of interest; here are 5 suggestions for inspiring things to have for breakfast:
Pumpkin Papaya Acai Bowl
This pumpkin and papaya acai bowl is full of antioxidants, potassium, healthy fats and vitamins.
½ can organic pumpkin
½ cup papaya
1 frozen unsweetened acai smoothie pack
1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon maca
1 tablespoon cinnamon and pumpkin spice
1 cup almond milk
½ tablespoon Granola
1 ripe banana sliced
1 tablespoon diced papaya
½ tablespoon chew nuts.
½ tablespoon goji-berries
½ tablespoon pomegranate seeds
Put the pumpkin, papaya, acai, banana, maca, spice and almond milk in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
Pour into a bowl and decorate with toppings.
Buckweat and Blueberry porridge
To give you lasting energy throughout the morning, this healthy breakfast is tasty and easy to prepare.
- 2/3 of a cup of buckwheat (200g) soaked in 1 cup of water (300ml)
- 1 ripe banana
- 1/2 a cup of blueberries (100g)
- 1/4 of a cup of almond milk (75ml), any other non-dairy milk is great though if you don’t have almond milk
- 1 tablespoon of almond butter
- 1 tablespoon of chia seeds.
Optional: 1 tablespoon of honey or maple syrup
Place the buckwheat in a bowl of water and leave overnight to soak. Once you’re ready to make your porridge, drain the water from the buckwheat and rinse it well (until the water coming out from your sieve is clear).
Place two thirds of your buckwheat in a blender with the almond milk, chia seeds, banana, blueberries, almond butter and honey/maple syrup (if you’re using it).
Blend the mix for a minute or so until it’s creamy but not totally smooth.
Then place it into a bowl and stir in the remaining third of the buckwheat.
Green Veg and Egg Fritters
Easy to make, quick and really healthy, this breakfast will keep you going throughout the morning.
140g courgettes (grated)
3 medium-sized eggs
85g broccoli florets (finely chopped)
A small pack of dill (roughly chopped)
3 tablespoons of gluten-free flour or rice flour
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, for frying
Remove any excess moisture from the courgettes – do this either by squeezing them between your clean hands, or using a clean tea towel (twist it to help force the moisture out).
Beat the eggs in a suitable bowl, then add the broccoli, courgettes and nearly of the dill before mixing together. Add the flour before mixing again and seasoning to taste.
For cooking, simply heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Use a large serving spoon to add three separate spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan so you have 3 fritters.
Leave for 3-4 mins on a medium heat or until golden brown on one side and solid enough for you to flip over; repeat on the other side. Simply repeat to make 3 more fritters.
Scatter with the remaining dill and enjoy!
Pancake topped with Fruit and Yoghurt
These pancakes are made with almond meal and ground flaxseed and so provide an extra boost of protein. They have very little sugar so you may wish to substitute the yogurt for maple syrup if you'd prefer them sweeter.
Makes 14 four-inch pancakes.
2¾ cups almond meal
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
¾ cup unsweetened almond milk or light coconut milk
2 tablespoons extra-light olive oil, walnut oil or coconut oil
1 pot Greek Yoghurt
1 cup chopped fruit of your choice
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add the milk and oil, and whisk until ingredients are combined.
In a medium bowl, mix the almond meal, flaxseed, salt, and baking soda.
Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture to make a pancake batter.
If the mixture is too thick, add more milk as necessary, one tablespoon at a time until you reach the required consistency.
Cook the pancakes on a lightly oiled skillet over a medium heat.
Use 4 tablespoons of batter for each pancake.
Cook each side until lightly brown. (Check by lifting the edge of the pancake after approximately 3 minutes.)
Serve with Greek Yoghurt and fruit or desired toppings.
Bagels to go
If you find yourself in a hurry and need to make breakfast to go, you don’t have to let your commitment to a healthy lifestyle rush out of the door with you. Rather than grabbing a packet of crisps or buying a coffee and a croissant, try this quick and healthy home-made breakfast. It contains just 384 calories and 20 grams of protein to stave off hunger all morning.
1 small whole-wheat bagel
1 ounce reduced-fat cheese or 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
Plus 1 cup fresh fruit (like sliced strawberries or banana)
Slice and lightly toast the bagel.
Fill with your chosen filling.