All too often, I see people starting off with the best intentions of having a "healthy breakfast", only to pile their bowls with too much of one thing and not enough of another. Spiking your blood-sugar levels with a bowl of sugary granola and fruit and jolting your adrenals with a shot of caffeine first thing in the morning is shocking the system artificially into action and could have negative long-term impact... We've all heard the saying that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day". But have you considered WHY it's the most important meal of the day? By taking a look at the why, we can then decide the WHAT to eat for breakfast and how to make it a good one.
WHY IS BREAKFAST IMPORTANT?
1. Breaking fast. It's called "breakfast" as you are literally "breaking fast". You've been asleep for the past 7 - 9 hours from the night before (ideally) and your digestive tract and organs have all been resting. You are breaking your overnight fast and starting to nourish your body by feeding it nutrients to start its day.
2. Blood-Sugar Balance. Just like starting up a car engine which needs fuel in order to run well, that's what you need at the start of the day. If you're skipping breakfast altogether and having lunch as the first meal of the day - consider that it would've been almost 17 hours since your last meal at dinner from the night before. This is more likely to throw your blood-sugar levels off balance, as your body thinks it's starving - leading to potential metabolism imbalances. You're more likely to reach for the high-sugar or high-fat snack by mid-morning or during that mid-afternoon slump.
If you have blood-sugar regulation issues, hypoglycaemia, diabetes, insulin resistance or even if you regularly crave a sugary/ salty treat by mid-morning or late-afternoon, starting your day with breakfast is especially important for this reason. While some people may benefit from intermittent fasting/ skipping meals, results vary and this is especially risky if you already have some form of blood-sugar regulation issue.
3. Weight Control. Eating breakfast has been shown to reduce the overall food intake for the rest of the day, including reduced dietary fat intake and minimised impulsive snacking. This makes eating breakfast an important part of any weight reduction plan. Also, eating breakfast is associated with a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese, along with a lowered BMI. Of course, WHAT and HOW MUCH you eat also counts in any weight control program.
4. Improved Academic Performance. Some studies suggest that children who habitually eat good quality breakfasts end up with positive academic performances, particularly with arithmetic grades. (and no, Pop Tarts don't count!)
WHAT'S FOR BREAKFAST?
Q: With all of this in mind, what then should you have for breakfast?
A: A well-rounded meal that is high in protein and good fats and also contains complex carbohydrates and fibre. These have been shown to provide satiety - keeping you fuller for longer, especially helpful for blood-sugar balancing and weight control. Lean protein and the essential fatty acids are also an excellent source of energy to start your day with.
GOOD BREAKFAST FOODS:
- Proteins: Eggs. Nuts/ Nut butters. Hemp seeds. Greek yogurt (full fat, not low-fat/ flavoured yogurts as these tend to be high in sugar).
- Complex Carbs: Oats. Buckwheat. Quinoa flakes. Amaranth flakes. All whole grains.
- Good Fats (Omega 3/6/9): Flax seeds. Chia seeds. Hemp seeds. Raw nuts/ Nut butters + oils. Avocado. Oily fish - Salmon/ Mackerel/ Anchovy/ Sardine/ Herring.
- Fibre: All fruit. All vegetables.
Some quick, fast, weekday make-and-go breakfast ideas:
- Green Smoothies:
- 1 cup veggie (eg. spinach/ kale/ watercress)
- 1 cup fruit (eg. banana/ blueberries/ apple)
- 1 cup fresh herb (eg. basil/ mint/ parsley)
- 1 - 2 Tbsp protein powder (eg. hemp protein/ pea protein/ whey protein/ protein blend/ spirulina/ protein+complex carb blend)
- 1 - 2 Tbsp good fats (eg. avocado/ flax seeds/ chia seeds/ hemp seeds/ any raw nuts or nut butter)
- Bonus points: any other superfood or antioxidant powders (eg. turmeric/ ginger/ açai powder/ cacao nibs/ raw cacao powder/ maca/ moringa/ chlorella/ wheatgrass powder/ lucuma/ goji berries/ inca berries, etc.)
- 1 - 2 cups liquid, depending how thick you want it: water/ non-dairy milk/ coconut water.
- Blitz up in a high-speed blender. Enjoy!
*To increase the complex carb intake in your smoothies, you can also throw in some overnight-soaked oats or buckwheat (a little goes a long way in a smoothie, so go easy!) or pair your green smoothie with some overnight-soaked grains...
- Overnight-Soaked Grains:
- 1/3 cup grain (eg. oats/ buckwheat/ quinoa/ amaranth)
- Handful of raw nuts (eg. walnuts/ hazelnuts/ almonds/ cashew/ pecans/ brazil nuts)
- Handful of raw seeds (eg. sunflower seeds/ pumpkin seeds/ sesame seeds/ chia seeds/ flax seeds)
- Handful of dried fruit (eg. chopped dates/ raisins/ shredded coconut/ chopped dry apricots)
- Spices for flavour (eg. cinnamon/ vanilla powder/ nutmeg/ cloves/ cardamom)
- Mix it all together the night before eating with some non-dairy milk/ water/ coconut water. This mixture will expand overnight, so include at least 1/2 - 2/3 cup of liquid. Enjoy the next morning!
Even if you forget to soak these overnight, you can still do this on the day of. Oats will soften within an hour, buckwheat within 20min - so chuck it together in a mason jar before leaving for work, then enjoy at the office.
- Eggs: So versatile, fast and easy.
- Hard-boiled - can be transported easily for a breakfast/ snack on-the-go.
- Omelette-muffins - bake your omelette ingredients in a muffin tray at 200 Celsius for 15 ‐ 20 minutes, then they can be transported easily for a breakfast/ snack-on-the-go.
- Multi-Grain/ Brown Rice Crackers or Whole-Grain Toast with Toppings:
- Smashed avocado + cumin + smoked salmon + alfalfa sprouts.
- Tahini + smashed hard-boiled egg + parsley + smoked paprika.
- Cashew butter + smoked tofu + rocket/ arugula + Marmite
- Almond butter + banana + hemp seeds + raw honey.
Download & Print all breakfast recipe ideas as a PDF.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS!
- When starting any new routine, give yourself an additional 10 - 15 minutes in the morning to get yourself prepped and organized. Or pre-chop veggies/ fruit the night before and store in an airtight container in the fridge, so there’s less fussing in the mornings. You’ll be flying through this like a pro in no time.
- Have fun mixing and matching your breakfast options!
P.S. One day I'm going to turn this post into an infographic - if anyone has any tips/ suggestions/ recommendations on how-to's, please throw them my way. Thanks! x
- Adolphus K, Lawton CL, Dye L. (2013). The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Accessed 5th March, 2016
- de Castro JM. (2004). The time of day of food intake influences overall intake in humans. Accessed 5th March, 2016.
- Fallaize R, Wilson L, Gray J, et al. (2013). Variation in the effects of three different breakfast meals on subjective satiety and subsequent intake of energy at lunch and evening meal. Accessed 5th March, 2016.
- Mindell, E (2011). Earl Mindell's New Vitamin Bible. New York: Grand Central Publishing. p143-192.
- Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco T, Pope-Cordle J et al. (1992). The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial. Accessed 5th March, 2016.
- Szajewska H, Ruszczynski M. (2010). Systematic review demonstrating that breakfast consumption influences body weight outcomes in children and adolescents in Europe. Accessed 5th March, 2016.
- Zilberter T, Zilberter EY. (2014). Breakfast: To Skip or Not to Skip? Accessed 5th March, 2016.