What to look for in a nutritious breakfast

We are constantly reminded that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – it provides the body and brain with fuel after an overnight fast (hence the name; we are literally breaking the fast). Having a good breakfast will also prevent us over-eating – and eating the wrong things – later in the day. However, exactly what a healthy breakfast ‘looks like’ has changed over time as we learn more about how our bodies best perform and how different nutrients affect us. In my grandfather’s day, a protein- and fat-rich breakfast of eggs and meat was best – he was renowned for his 6 egg omelettes and bacon! During the ‘80s and ’90s we were obsessed with low-fat diets and so light cereals, low fat yoghurt and different types of breads (think bagels, raisin toast, crumpets) became popular. So what exactly should we be looking for in a healthy breakfast in 2015?

Ideally, your breakfast should be a combination of protein-based food/s, starchy carbohydrates, good fats, plus fresh fruit and vegies.

Protein

Starting the day with some protein at breakfast will make you less likely to reach for a sugary mid-morning snack due to protein’s blood-sugar-balancing effects. One or two free-range (or even better, organic) boiled or poached eggs are a great choice. Not only are eggs a great source of quality protein, they are rich in selenium, vitamins A, B12, D and E, as well as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin – both important for healthy eye function. Unsweetened natural yoghurt plus raw, unsalted nuts and seeds are other good options, along with nut butters (almond, brazil, cashew, hazelnut) – all of which taste awesome on sourdough toast!

Carbohydrates
Quality complex carbohydrates give us the energy needed to start the day after our night’s fast. Avoid high-glycaemic index (GI) refined carbohydrates such as sugary cereals and white toast. Opt instead for minimally processed foods that raise blood-sugar levels gradually and give you more energy for longer. Good choices are wholegrain and sourdough bread, porridge (made with whole oats – not the instant stuff), cereals made from oats, quinoa, amaranth or buckwheat.

A creative – as well as healthy option is to make your own muesli so you know what’s in it. Combine anything from puffed rice, puffed buckwheat, coconut flakes or shredded cocont, oats, quinoa flakes, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts (hazelnuts and almonds are great in muesli, plus dried organic fruit (try cranberries or blueberries rather than the usual raisins or sultanas – but not too much as dried fruit is packed with sugar so will give you a big surge in blood sugar levels).

Fruit

Adding fruit to your breakfast is a great way to get some essential nutrients and add natural sweetness. Fruit salad with yoghurt and muesli is a personal favourite of mine as it combines fruit with quality carbohydrate and protein from the yoghurt and nuts/seeds. When you are time poor a satisfying and yummy tasting fruit smoothie made with ripe banana, fresh or frozen berries, milk of your choice plus some protein powder or seeds can fill that hole and stop you reaching for a treat later. When choosing fruit, seasonal fruit is best in terms of taste and nutritional content.

Vegies

To help boost your fibre, vitamin, mineral and antioxidant intake try adding vegies to your breakfast – a handful of rocket with your eggs or avocado on toast will not only add a punch of colour – it will also get your digestion going due to rocket’s bitter quality. Steamed asparagus, sautéed mushrooms and wilted baby spinach are other scrumptious options.

Fats

Some good fat is essential for a nourishing and supercharged breakfast. In my mind you can’t beat avocado – it makes any meal delicious! A few slices of avocado alongside your eggs or smoked salmon is my idea of heaven. Avocado contains good cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat, is rich in fibre and other essential nutrients including vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidant rich carotenoids. Alternatives include a small handful of raw nuts and/or seeds, nut butter or tahini spread on toast, 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of flaxseed or hemp seed oil added to your smoothie.

By following these simple tips you will also ensure you get adequate fibre – essential for promoting healthy digestion and helping you feel fuller for longer.