We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but our knowledge often doesn’t translate into action after we have snoozed our alarms several times and inevitably find ourselves rushing out the door with a banana (or nothing) in hand. Your breakfast routine can determine how you feel, what you crave and how much you might eat throughout the rest of the day, so I have compiled the top 5 things to do at breakky time to optimise your day.
Have something to eat
Take the time to eat something before you head out the door. This might mean that you need to set your alarm 10 minutes early, but how much is that extra 10 minutes of sleep really going to benefit you? The answer is not nearly as much as including a nutritious and satisfying breakfast. People who skip breakfast are more likely to experience fatigue and lack of concentration, eat more throughout the remainder of the day and snack on high sugar/high fat foods. Missing breakfast also means that your metabolic rate may slow down, and your body can become more inclined to store food rather than to utilise it as fuel. To optimise your metabolism, breakfast should ideally be included within 1 hour of waking. So, try setting your alarm a little earlier, set up your bowl/plate/cutlery the night before or have your smoothie ingredients ready to go in a container.
Include a source of wholegrains
Our brains produce a neurotransmitter called neuropeptide Y (NPY) which is elevated in the morning. Elevated levels of NPY cause our body to crave carbohydrates at breakfast time to regulate blood sugar levels after our over-night fast. If breakfast is missed, NPY remains elevated throughout the rest of the day and we continue to crave carbohydrates. By the time it hits mid-afternoon, a hormone called Galanin also becomes elevated, and this causes us to crave fats on top of carbohydrates – hence the mid-afternoon chocolate/cake/biscuits cravings. The best way to avoid this is to eat a breakfast which includes a source of carbohydrates. By including wholegrains at breakfast, not only can we successfully calm our NPY driven carbohydrate cravings but we also experience the benefits of fibre as a natural appetite suppressant.
Include a source of protein
Protein is another natural appetite suppressant. Including a source of protein like yoghurt, milk, eggs or nuts and seeds will leave you feeling satisfied and reduce the need to snack before lunch. High protein foods also naturally have a low GI, which promotes stable blood sugar levels and longer lasting energy levels across the morning, allowing you to concentrate on your work or daily tasks.
Include more than one food group
Breakfast is a great time to maximise your dietary variety and nutrient intake. We can achieve this by aiming to include food from 3 or more food groups. Breakfast is one of the easiest times of day to include a source of dairy, such as cereal with milk, smoothies or ricotta on toast. Men below age 70 and women below age 50 need 2.5 serves of dairy per day to promote optimal bone strength. Including a source of wholegrain breads and cereals will help to promote fullness and optimal energy levels. Adding some fruit or vegetables can maximise your vitamin and mineral intake, and mixing it up with some eggs here or there will bring in a serving of lean meats and alternatives.
Choose alternatives to foods/drinks high in free sugars
Drinks such as fruit juice are commonly included at breakfast time. Certainly fruits are a great source of nutrition, however there is a big difference between having one fresh orange compared to a glass of orange juice which contains the sugar of about 5 oranges. Tea and coffee can also be a source of added sugars at breakfast time, as can high sugar on-the-go breakfast options such as breakfast biscuits. Try infusing your water with sliced fruit and fresh herbs such as mint rather than having a glass of juice, slowly reduce the sugar in your tea by 1/2 a teaspoon at a time, and choose wholesome naturally low sugar breakfast foods such as high fibre cereals, wholegrain breads and natural yoghurt – you can add fresh fruit for sweetness.
1/2 to 3/4 cup of high fibre breakfast cereal i.e. goodness superfoods cereals/oats/untoasted muesli/bran or 2 weetbix/vitabrits with low fat milk or calcium fortified milk alternative such as soy/almond/rice milk or low fat yoghurt (pictured above)
2 x slices wholegrain toast with 2-4 tbsp ricotta or cottage cheese, topped with sliced tomato and black pepper or sliced strawberries and cinnamon
2 x rye vitas with ricotta or cottage cheese, topped with fruit/vegetables and herbs of your choice (pictured above)
Smoothie made with 200ml low fat milk or calcium fortified milk alternative + 1 piece of fruit/handful of berries +/- handful of spinach or greens of your choice +/- cinnamon/vanilla extract
2 poached/boiled/dry fried eggs with 1 slice of wholegrain toast (avoid using margarine/butter) and 1 cup of chopped vegetables (i.e. mushroom/baby spinach/tomato), grilled or pan fried with a spray of oil
2 slices of wholegrain toast topped with 1/4 of an avocado, sliced tomato and pepper +/- 1 x poached/boiled egg or 2 tbsp ricotta/cottage cheese