As with anything to do with diet and exercise, there’s always a difference of opinions amongst the experts, but I’m convinced that having a regular breakfast with good-for-you ingredients can give you energy and set yourself up for a sensible days eating.
The key thing, of course, is WHAT you eat! We are constantly bombarded with promotional messages and breakfast food is no different. Having a greasy fry up is fine every once in a while but the full English with toast, coffee and juice is probably your day’s worth of calories in one go…so have that several times a week and you’re already fighting a losing battle – however tasty it is!
So, here’s my list of the top ingredients for a perfect breakfast. All are readily available at the local store and you should make sure you have some or all of them in the cupboards at all times.
1. Greek yogurt: It tastes creamy and is packed full of calcium and protein. Choose a plain, non-fat variety and add some fruit to give it sweetness and flavour.
Avoid: Fruit yogurts that are crammed full of additives and sugar.
2. Bananas: A great food to have at any time of the day but particularly at breakfast. They contain healthy carbohydrates, potassium (great for helping to keep blood pressure at bay) and natural sugar for any sugar cravings. Particularly good sliced over your cereal or with your Greek yogurt.
Avoid: Having too many (i.e. more than one or two per day)! Like any food, everything should be taken in moderation.
3. Eggs: A fantastic source of protein and nutrients, eggs are nature’s energy food. Don’t worry about the cholesterol in them because research has shown that it has less of an impact than previously thought.
Avoid: Frying them in lots of oil, stuffing an omelette with cheese and bacon and having too many. A two egg omelette with no added milk and some fruit on the side is just perfect.
4. Blueberries: Relatively low in calories compared to other fruits, Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and studies suggest they can help improve everything from memory to motor skills. Perfect for eating with cereal and as a tasty snack. Strawberries, raspberries and kiwi fruits are as good, so keep a variety going.
Avoid: Having them everyday…they’re not the cheapest of breakfast foods.
5. Coffee: Despite coffee’s occasional bad press, drinking it has been linked to a lower risk of several diseases due to its combination of caffeine and antioxidants. You can definitely afford one or two with breakfast! Always have black, or with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.
Avoid: Having ten throughout the day and adding gallons of full fat milk or cream, along with other gimmicky shots…and definitely no sugar!
6. Tea: If you’re not a coffee fan first thing, then have a cup of tea! It has less caffeine than coffee, so hydrates you better and it’s also a rich source of immunity-boosting antioxidants. Green and fruit tea are great drinks for anytime of the day.
Avoid: Like coffee, avoid adding lots of milk and sugar.
7. Orange juice: Packed full of essential vitamins, it’s a great and tasty way to start the day. Make sure it is fresh and the bits are still in it. Cranberry juice is good as well.
Avoid: Having a large glass! It’s high in calories and sugar.
8.Cereal: One of the most misunderstood breakfast foods of all because of the huge variety. Most of them on the supermarket shelves are processed and packed with sugar and other undesirable ingredients and many are marketed especially with children in mind. It’s worth looking at the labels before you buy and stick to unprocessed, whole grain cereals. Don’t be fooled by the “healthy” messages. A good example is shredded wheat (ingredients: 100% wholegrain wheat) versus wholegrain bran flakes (ingredients: 76% wheat bran, sugar, barley malt extract, salt and a load of vitamins). Always have with some skimmed or semi-skimmed milk with fruit, nut or yogurt topping…it’s the best meal of the day.
Avoid: Any gimmicky brands, particularly ones with coatings of sugar or chocolate.
9. Wholewheat bread: One of the traditional breakfasts of white toast, butter and jam is not that good for you! If you are having bread, toast or a muffin, always pick a whole wheat brown variety. They are packed with fibre and other nutrients that have all been taken out of their white counterparts. Pop a poached egg on top for an energy boosting start to the day.
Avoid: Covering your whole wheat toast with chocolate topping or peanut butter!
10: Fish: Probably a luxury in most people’s eyes and something reserved for the weekends but any type of fish is great to start off the day. Grilled or poached (in a small amount of skimmed milk) is the best way to cook.
Avoid: Creamy sauces poured over the top or lashings of melted butter.
In a hurry? Grab a banana, a handful of nuts and a bottle of water and you won’t go far wrong.
Remember though not to ban those “we know it’s not good for you” breakfasts! A good breakfast fry-up is one of life’s great pleasures…just make sure it’s done rarely and as a real treat!