I’m not a huge fan of breakfast and I’m not sure why, seeing as I am a major fan of lunch, dinner and pretty much constant snacking. I never know what I want to eat, so then I leave it too long, become hugely hungry and usually end up reaching for my fall-back, which is crispbread, hummus and a few cherry tomatoes. It’s not that that is a terrible breakfast, but it’s not making the most of the opportunity to set yourself up for the day and pack in a good amount of nutrients.
The breakfast I grew up on was cereal, milk and a piece of toast. I don’t want to start labelling most people’s breakfasts as “bad”, especially because nowadays you can buy really great bread that hasn’t been overly processed, and also cereals aren’t just about Cocopops anymore. As always, I want to advocate balance. So lets look at what makes up a good breakfast.
One of problems with just sticking to the usual UK breakfast is that it is often lacking in protein. It’s really important to have protein in every main meal, and especially so for breakfast, after 12 hours of fasting. Protein helps ensure that your blood sugar levels rise slowly, whereas a breakfast of a sugary cereal, followed by jam on toast, is just going to spike those blood sugar levels nice and high, send out a corresponding rush of insulin, which then ultimately leads to a crash pretty soon after. Personally I’m usually starving an hour after eating a bowl of cereal or having a piece of toast.
So what can you do to the usual breakfast to make it a little more balanced? Firstly, do make sure you go for cereals or muselis where sugar doesn’t come up as one of the key ingredients – you don’t have to go to a health food shop to buy decent cereals or muselis these days – have a look in the supermarket for a museli with no added sugar and preferably one that contains nuts and seeds for added protein. Add some berries and sliced banana to your cereal or museli to make sure you are getting a bit of fresh food in your breakfast. If you have toast then get decent wholemeal bread, or try rye bread or sourdough. And rather than always going for the jam, why not try nut butters. There is nothing nicer than almond butter or organic peanut butter with sliced banana on sourdough.
You could also go for something totally different. In other parts of the world they tend to go for savoury options in the morning that contain protein. I remember at school, there were quite a number of students from Asia, and mostly they declined what was on offer for breakfast (I was at a boarding school) and made their own soup, with some form of protein and rice. At the time I thought what a gross way to start the day, but looking back I see the logic and actually it seems pretty appealing now.
Do feel free to download the handout at the bottom for a few ideas on how to start the day. Give them a try, and hopefully you’ll find one or two that hit the spot.