What is an ideal breakfast? No single solution fits everyone. It all depends on your habits and needs. In this post I will share ten key breakfast principles that will help you boost your energy and stay concentrated for the rest of the day (or at least make it to lunch).
Breakfast preferences obviously depend on our habits and traditions. Therefore, a Japanese person may well start their day with a miso soup, while a Russian would normally stick to porridge or cottage cheese pancakes. Not everyone will feel like kicking off their morning with a typical English breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, beans and mushrooms. Then, there are those who prefer to just miss out on their morning meals… And that’s what I shall start with.
1. Don’t skip your breakfast
It is a bad habit to skip breakfast. Scientific studies have demonstrated that people who skip food in the morning are more likely to be overweight than those who tend to eat their breakfast on a daily basis. Also, according to research, parents who do not bother to develop a breakfast-eating habit in their children place them at a higher risk of obesity in the future.
2. Don’t rush your meals
This rule is valid for every single meal you have, no exceptions. Food must be chewed thoroughly. Do not use lack of time as an excuse to eat on the run. If it’s a problem for you, just set your alarm five minutes earlier!
3. Eat mindfully
Distracted eating is a bad habit. Avoid scrolling through e-mails, social media or news updates on your mobile device. You have a whole day ahead of you to do it. Focus on the food you are eating!
4. Don’t start your day with sugary foods
Avoid having sugar-containing foods for breakfast. Studies show that the sugar you eat at breakfast will likely leave you craving more sweet things throughout the day. All types of pastries, jams and jellies are known to be rich in sugar. However, the majority of “hidden” sugar is contained in foods we don’t even consider to be confectioneries. The average amount of sugar in a tub of fruit yoghurt (125 ml) comes up to 11 grams, which is nearly 3 teaspoons. This is almost as much as a portion of ice-cream! Other sugar-rich foods are energy drinks, granola bars, crispy corn and wheat flakes.
5. But! Don’t skip the good carbs
Carbohydrates are also essential for breakfast. They are the most efficient fuel for our brain and are especially needed after a night-long “starvation”. Not all carbohydrates release energy at the same rate. So-called fast-release carbs release glucose into the bloodstream rapidly, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. Spikes are followed by dips which make you feel weak, sleepy and hungry. Slow-release carbs provide a slower and more sustained release of energy. Normally, you should always opt for slow-release carbohydrates (professional sport activities being an exception). Good sources of slow-release carbohydrates are whole-grain cereals, nuts and vegetables. Quick-release carbohydrates (those you should avoid) are found in table sugar, honey, jam, white-flour pastries and confectioneries, juices and all foods that contain large quantities of sugar and white flour.
6. Make protein-rich foods part of your breakfast
Proteins are more satiating than carbohydrates and fats. Which means a high-protein breakfast will keep you satiated for a long time. Low-fat cottage cheese is an excellent idea for a morning meal. Other good protein sources are low-fat yoghurt and eggs. A tofu “omelette” and soy yoghurt are the perfect vegan-friendly options.
7. Add a fibre source
A reasonable amount of fibre in your breakfast will help release glucose into the blood at a slower rate. Besides, fibre enhances satiety. Most foods from the plant kingdom are naturally rich in fibre. Good sources of fibre are vegetables, berries, fresh and dried fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
8. Eat berries regularly
Dark berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries are an excellent source of chemicals called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are blue, dark-red or purple pigments in berries (and also fruits, vegetables and leaves). Scientists believe that anthocyanins can slow cognitive (mental) aging.
Not so long ago in the journal Annals of Neurology results were published of a remarkably interesting study. The study analysed data of more than 16 thousand elderly women. The researchers concluded that women who regularly (at least twice a week) ate berries, mainly blueberries and raspberries, cognitively aged two and a half years later than the women who ate berries irregularly.
How does this happen? The most common theory is based on the fact that berries’ flavonoids anthocyanins can pass the blood-brain barrier and localize in areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory processes (for example, in the hippocampus) and improve their function.
9. Drink a cup of coffee
This tip is for coffee-lovers only. Don’t force yourself into drinking it if you don’t particularly enjoy it. A growing body of data suggests that habitual moderate coffee consumption (which means a daily intake of 2 to 3 cups) appears to have a neutral to beneficial impact on the heart (reducing the risks of coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias and stroke). Moreover, large epidemiological studies suggest that regular coffee drinkers have reduced risks of all-cause mortality. The potential benefits of regular coffee consumption also include protection against neurodegenerative diseases, improved asthma control, and lower risk of select gastrointestinal diseases. So, enjoy your coffee and stay healthy!
10. Enjoy your meal
Not only should your breakfast be good for your health, but it also has to taste good. Do not force yourself into eating something you do not particularly enjoy.
Healthy breakfast ideas
So, what is a healthy breakfast then? Let’s sum up what was previously said: a good breakfast provides long-term satiety (without causing a heavy feeling in your stomach), it is sugar-free and it fuels your body with (slow-releasing) carbohydrates. Here are 10 ideas for a well-balanced breakfast:
- Porridge with berries, nuts and seeds. You can use oats or any other grain of choice like buckwheat, millet, amaranth, etc.
- Overnight oats soaked in (plant-based) yoghurt topped with berries, nuts and seeds.
- Low-fat cottage cheese with nuts and fruit, or, if you like, with veggies and seeds.
- Low-fat regular or soy yoghurt with berries and nuts.
- Fried (scrambled) eggs or scrambled tofu with vegetables accompanied with a slice of whole-grain bread.
- Whole-grain toast with nut or seed butter and avocado or berries.
- Whole-grain sandwich with avocado and cheese.
- Pancakes or waffles made with healthy ingredients, such as whole-grain cereals, fruit, eggs, served with berries and/or (plant-based) yogurt.
- Chia-pudding made with sugarless (plant) milk of choice with berries, nuts, seeds.
- Whole-grain tortillas with hummus and greens of your choice.