Take a walk down the cereal aisle of any supermarket and you are sure to be bombarded with promises of health and wellbeing. For most people, breakfast is a quick meal eaten to fuel our morning. Sometimes cereal packages are not what they seem, and with hidden sugars and incomprehensible food labelling, simply choosing a healthy breakfast can be a minefield.
Breakfast is a hardworking meal
Ideally we want the sum of the nutrients in our breakfast bowl to sustain our energy levels, maintain our appetite and fuel our concentration until lunchtime. A healthy combination of at least one of our five a day, some slow-release energy from a fibre-rich, low-GI carbohydrate source such as oats and a portion of protein should do the trick. If we can squeeze in some essential fats via nuts and seeds, then we are doing well.
If we eat breakfast, we are putting energy, nutrients and fuel into our bodies. If we skip breakfast, we are more likely to snack on less nutritional choices later in the day. Here are some of my favourite choices for breakfast.
Porridge is a great choice for most people, but there is porridge, and there is porridge.
If you are looking for something to sustain and maintain your energy levels and help to keep you feeling fuller for long, then look for jumbo oats – the bigger the oat, the lower the glycemic index, meaning more sustainable energy.
If you favour flavoured oats, a better alternative (for your health and your wallet) would be to buy a bag of jumbo oats and add your own flavour options – some cinnamon, berries and nuts would be perfect. Some of the instant porridge sachets are up to 25 per cent sugar.
The bigger the oat, the lower the glycemic index, meaning more sustainable energy
Go to work on an egg
Boiled, poached or scrambled, eggs provide a protein packed start to your day that will keep you feeling full for ages. Protein is realised very slowly from our bellies, so we feel satisfied for longer. Why not serve with some spinach and a grilled tomato for a super nutrition boost?
Natural yoghurt with a low-sugar granola gets my vote for a healthy breakfast. Despite its healthy image, granola used to be a pure sugar hit, but in the last couple of years, food producers have developed new recipes that use less sugar.
If you are not a morning person, then overnight oats is a perfect option. Make it up the night before and leave it in the fridge, ready to eat when you wake up. I like to combine jumbo oats with chopped nuts, half grated apple and with a little cinnamon in an airtight container like a Kilner jar.
Soak overnight in milk of your choice (semi-skimmed, full fat, coconut, almond or oat) and eat straight from the fridge in the morning.
If you usually have a slice of toast on the way out the door in the morning, simply swapping to wholegrain bread and adding a spread of sugar-free almond or peanut butter will at least provide a little more protein and some good fats to keep you going a little longer.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
4 tblsps porridge oats
2 tbsps mixed seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, linseed
1 apple, coarsely grated
Milk (or almond, hazelnut or coconut milk for a dairy-free option), to cover
1tsp ground cinnamon
Berries and natural yoghurt to serve (optional)
Mix the grated apple, oats, seeds and cinnamon together in a glass Kilner jar, cover with milk and pop into the fridge overnight.
Serve with berries and natural yoghurt, or eat as it is.
This blog post first appeared as an article in The Irish News on Saturday 12 May 2018.