Join the breakfast club for the healthiest start to the day
Research shows that a daily breakfast is a common factor among those losing weight and keeping it off
Eat the whole fruit as nature intended rather than consuming large volumes of fruit juice.
The National Weight Control Registry is a longitudinal, prospective study of thousands of American adults aged 18 or older. It has a dual purpose. Firstly, to identify a group of people who have been able to lose at least 30lb and maintain that weight loss for at least a year. Secondly, the researchers set about describing the methods participants use to achieve and maintain the loss. There are more than 10,000 people on the registry.
One of the core strategies of these successful losers is simply to eat a breakfast every day. Unlike lunch or dinner, it is a common denominator for successful weight loss and maintenance. Perhaps it helps to quash mid-morning hunger, maybe it creates better blood-glucose control, raises the basal metabolic rate or inspires more conscious decision-making at other snacks and meals. Whatever the reason, eating breakfast seems to help us to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
Dragging ourselves out of bed in the morning is never easy when we are up late the night before. Schoolgoing children in particular tend to abandon bed-time and morning routines during the summer months. Many forfeit breakfast. A rest from the helter-skelter school calendar is always welcome, but now is a good time to think about gently building the practice of eating breakfast again.
Children might complain that they are not hungry or that they feel nauseous at the thought of breakfast, but you can start by giving them something light. This helps their digestive systems adapt and their morning appetite to increase over time. Getting a few early nights in the week will help children bridge the gap, too.
Breaking the fast with something as simple as a wholegrain or high-fibre carbohydrate such as cereal or bread, topped with a protein-rich dairy or egg food and a vitamin- and mineral-rich hit from fruit, nuts or seeds is well worth the effort. Keep it simple if you’re starting to build a new habit. It doesn’t have to be fancy or varied, as long as it is balanced nutritionally.
FIVE WAYS WITH FRUIT
Eat whole fruit and limit your intake of juice to one small glass of juice a day. This is allowed as one of your five a day. You can blend it with other fruits and vegetables at breakfast to keep your diet varied.
Summer fruit salad: Combine half a diced mango, quarter of a diced melon and a handful of seedless grapes in a bowl with a squeeze of a satsuma. Top with low-fat Greek or fruit yogurt.
Almond, banana and passion fruit: Spread almond butter on two slices of wholemeal toast. Top with banana slices and squeeze a ripe passion fruit over it.
Spiced fruit compote: Place a chopped apple and pear in a pan with 50ml water. Cover and cook gently until the fruit has softened. Add one dessertspoon of mixed seeds and one teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Cook for a further minute. Serve with porridge or low-fat natural yogurt.
Exotic fruit and nut: Combine a cup of chopped dried exotic fruit such as mango, papaya and pineapple with half a cupof chopped mixed nuts, for example almond, macadamia and hazelnuts, and half a cup of mixed seeds such as pumpkin, chia and linseeds. Add a tablespoon of desiccated coconut. Tip into an airtight jar and shake to combine. Use as a topping on breakfast cereal or serve with low-fat Greek yogurt.
Vanilla roasted fruit: Combine 20g honey or agave, one teaspoon vanilla extract and the juice of a lime. Roughly chop three apricots, one peach and two plums and add. Roast in an ovenproof dish for 15 mins. Serve with hot porridge.
FIVE WAYS WITH DAIRY
Yogurt: Mix your favourite berries with low-fat Greek or natural yogurt in a warm wholewheat pancake drizzled with a little maple syrup.
Milky drinks: If you are not in the mood for cereal, add spices (eg ground cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg) to a cup of hot milk and skip the caffeine.
Fruit smoothies: Add two tablespoons of low-fat frozen yogurt, 100ml of orange juice and a cup of chopped fruit to a blender. Blitz and serve.
Hot cereal: For a comforting start on a wet day, pop a bowl of your favourite cereal and milk in the microwave for two to three minutes. If you prefer your cereal crunchy, heat the milk on its own and pour over the cereal when you’re ready to eat.
Cottage cheese: Spread cottage cheese topped with peach slices on a slice of wholemeal toast.
FIVE WAYS WITH EGGS
Poached or boiled eggs: with lashings of black pepper or chilli flakes, served with wholemeal toast.
French toast: Leave two slices of wholemeal bread out overnight. In the morning, whisk one egg with a big pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of brown sugar. Dip the bread into the egg mix and fry in a nonstick pan for two to three minutes on each side. Serve with grated Granny Smith apples.
Citrus scrambled eggs: Whisk an egg with four tablespoons of low-fat milk and season. Heat a teaspoon of rapeseed oil in a nonstick pan. Pour in the mixture and allow to sit for about 30 seconds. Stir gently until the eggs are soft but still runny in places. Remove from the heat and add chopped smoked salmon and the zest of half a lemon. Pile on a plate and eat immediately.
Huevos Mexicanos: Heat a teaspoon of rapeseed oil. Add a chopped spring onion, half a chopped tomato, quarter of a red chilli and a pinch of cumin. Cook for three minutes and then tip into a small ramekin dish. Crack an egg on top and pop in a 180C oven for 10 minutes until the egg white has set.
Omelette: Crack two eggs in a bowl and beat gently with a fork. Heat a teaspoon of rapeseed oil in a nonstick frying pan and pour in the eggs. Using a spatula, gently draw the edges of the omelette towards the centre, tipping the pan to distribute the egg mix. Add your filling of choice. When the base is set and golden in colour, fold in half and tip on to a plate. Serve immediately.
Five omelette fillers
- Mixed herbs: Add chopped tarragon, chives or parsley
- Smoked salmon and dill
- Mushroom and herbs
- Baby spinach leaves and goat’s cheese
- Tomatoes, olives and capers
FIVE WEEKEND BREKFASTS
Apricot and walnut porridge : Oats help to reduce cholesterol and release energy slowly. Soak 30g porridge oats overnight in 50ml of low-fat milk with two chopped dried apricots. The next day, make up the porridge with water. Top with a tablespoon of chopped walnuts.
Smoked salmon bagel: Cut a multiseed bagel in half and pop in the toaster. Spread with cottage cheese and top with slices of smoked salmon, sprinkled with a dash of lemon juice.
Grilled mushrooms on toast: Remove the stalks from Portobello mushrooms and place in a baking dish. Add a teaspoon of garlic-infused oil to the centre of the mushroom and season with lot of black pepper. Place under a hot grill for 10 minutes. Serve immediately on brown soda bread, with a ramekin of baked beans.
Nutty Greek yogurt parfait: Combine 3 tbsp Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of chopped mixed nuts, a teaspoon of sunflower seeds and a teaspoon of pumpkin seeds. Put a layer of the mixture into a glass, top with a layer of strawberries, another layer of yogurt mix, a layer of raspberries and a layer of yogurt, and top with toasted flaked almonds and a drizzle with honey or agave.
Breakfast muffin: Combine 150g of wholemeal flour, 100g of plain flour, two teaspoons of baking powder, 100g of dark muscavado sugar and a tablespoon each of sunflower seeds, sultanas and flaked almonds. In a separate bowl combine 100ml olive oil, four mashed bananas, two beaten eggs and two tablespoons of low-fat milk. Fold this into the dry ingredients. Divide into a muffin tin and sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.
Paula Mee is a dietitian and a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. She works at Medfit Proactive Healthcare. Tweet @paula_mee