You’ve probably heard it said a hundred times before, ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, but how many of us actually give our breakfast choices much thought at all?
There are a number of experts out there who proclaim that consuming a large breakfast is vital for good health, for better concentration throughout the day and to ‘kick start’ your metabolism. There’s an equal number of experts who would argue the complete opposite; that missing breakfast will not only do you no harm, it may actually be beneficial for your overall health and weight management.
I’m not going to go into the varied and contrasting arguments about the issue of breaking fast in the morning. What I am going to do, however, is present to you some healthy alternatives that will keep you fuller for longer and will support a healthier lifestyle.
Here are a range of healthier, lower sugar breakfast swaps for anyone looking to make some changes; from the ‘cereal muncher’ to the ‘grab-n-goer’.
Fruit n Fibre vs Porridge
For those of us who enjoy a bowl of cereal in the morning try to avoid sugar-coated cereals and those which include dried fruit. Always check the ratio of total carbohydrates to carbohydrates as sugar (you’re looking for a large difference between the two numbers i.e. a small proportion is sugar). A massive hit of sugar in the morning will send your blood sugar through the roof and then inevitably it will come crashing down an hour or two later, leading to pre-lunch snacking.
When choosing your porridge pick a jumbo oat version if you can. This will be less processed and will not have added sugar or other additives (like those found in porridge sachets). You can make the porridge with water, milk or a combination of both. Sprinkle over some cinnamon or some fresh fruit for added flavour. You can still cook it in the microwave if time is an issue.
If you’re comparing cereals by nutritional information, compare them by their values per 100g. For any cereal always check the advised portion size (usually 40g) on the packet and stick to that. Weigh it out to see what the recommended portion size looks like in a bowl….you’ll be surprised how modest the serving actually is!
Fried egg vs Dippy egg
Eggs are a great choice for breakfast. They are packed with complete proteins, good fats, vital vitamins and minerals and they keep you fuller for longer (as long as you eat the yolk- DO NOT ignore the yolk!). Despite popular belief eggs do not contribute to high cholesterol levels in most healthy people. In fact they have been proven to actually lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol!
However, there are better ways to cook your egg than in a frying pan, especially if you’re frying in lots of butter, or even worse low-calorie frying sprays or margarine which can harbour harmful trans fats. Simply boiling your egg is a healthy (and less messy) way to enjoy. Instead of serving with white bread toast, choose some seeded crackers, rye bread or even lightly steamed asparagus to dip. Remember that one large egg is classed as one serving.
Low fat fruit yoghurt vs Greek yoghurt
Any yoghurt that claims to be low-fat will normally contain more sugar and/or sweeteners per serving than plain, full fat yoghurt. Do not be fooled by the label low fat. Manufacturers replace the flavour from the missing fat with added sugar.
Greek yoghurt is a high protein, low-fat, lower carbohydrate yoghurt that is perfect for breakfast. You can add your own fresh berries or try frozen ones for a more cost-effective option. Sprinkle over some chia seeds for added fibre and protein. This combination is an ideal way to pack in the protein early in the day.
Breakfast on the go
Cereal bar vs Nuts and fresh berries
Follow similar rules for cereal bars as for bowls of cereal. Check the sugar content not just the overall calories; it’s usually very high even for ‘diet’ bars. Even the ‘healthy’, ‘natural’ options are so packed with sugar you’ll be heading for a blood sugar crash moments later. A much better option is to choose a handful of raw nuts, with nothing added to them i.e. no sugar or yoghurt flavour coatings. Nuts are packed with good fats, protein and vital micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). They are also low in carbohydrates, so no sugar crashes before lunch. Nuts are still high in calories though so go easy. Just a handful will do you. Instead of choosing dried fruit to serve with the nuts, pick fresh berries like strawberries or raspberries. They are much lower in sugar and contain more fibre per gram.
Jam vs Nut butters
Jam or marmalade on white toast may be incredibly tasty but contains far too much sugar and will leave you feeling ‘nibbly’ in under an hour. Whenever you’re reaching for a loaf always go for wholemeal, seeded or rye. These options will contain more fibre and more protein. Peanut or almond butter are great toppings as they again contain less sugar, more good fats and much more protein than the jam alternative. Nut butters are incredibly calorific, so you only need a very small amount on your toast, a tablespoon is plenty.
Full English vs Packed omelette
Contrary to popular belief a good old-fashioned full English can be a healthy option for breakfast. Just don’t fry it! Grilled versions of your favourites are much better. Remember to only eat any processed, red meat in moderation and where possible pick leaner, organic versions.
If you want to create a much healthier version of the full English, why not go for a jam-packed omelette; use one large egg with spinach, a few slices of avocado, grilled mushrooms and a few grilled tomatoes. The perfect combination! Plus it’s vegetarian, for anyone looking to reduce their meat consumption with meat-free days.
Croissants vs Homemade breakfast muffins
We all crave treats now and then, especially at the weekend. Well if you’d still prefer to find a healthy treat option, why not bake some breakfast muffins? The beauty of baking your own is that you know exactly what has gone into them. No hidden nasties, no added sweeteners and fun to make (or not)!
Fruit juice vs Water and lemon
Fruit juice may appear to be a healthy drink of choice at breakfast time, but it is incredibly high in sugar without the fibre of whole fruit. This means that your blood sugar will absolutely soar and you’ll be consuming pretty much empty calories without much added nutritional goodness. Also, lots of fruit juices (especially those from concentrate or those called ‘juice drinks’) are packed with added sugar and other preservatives and additives. A glass of iced or hot water with some fresh lemon is much more hydrating- a better way to start the day.
Latte vs Americano
Who doesn’t love a good coffee in the morning? If you’re partial to a milky latte just be mindful that the majority of the drink is milk, which contains a lot of sugar (lactose). A better option would be an Americano with a splash of non-dairy alternative like soy or almond milk. And avoid adding extra sugar to your drink too.
So next time you roll out of bed, bleary-eyed and head for the kitchen, give a little thought to your first meal of the day. Some smart choices in the morning could set you on the right path for the rest of the week.
Comment below if you have any thoughts, questions or suggestions. Thanks!