You either love mornings and the opportunities they bring, or you damn the sound of the incessant alarm pulling you away from your sweet slumber.
Regardless, breakfast should always be part of your mornings because, yes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
"Breakfast essentially provides the body with necessary fuel (glucose) after an overnight fast," nutritionist and celebrity chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin told The Huffington Post Australia.
"If we skip breakfast we may be vulnerable to poor energy, lack of concentration and low blood sugar. This can lead to overeating later on in the day and trigger less than ideal food choices."
While there's no 'perfect' time to have breakfast, Alexandra Parker and Anna Debenham, accredited practising dietitians from The Biting Truth, recommend to eat within two hours of waking.
"A good breakfast fuels your body and brain to power you through the morning. While there is no exact time we 'should' eat breakfast, we recommend aiming to eat something within a couple of hours of waking up, ideally before 8am," Debenham told HuffPost Australia.
Benefits of eating breakfast:
- Improves energy levels
- Improves memory and concentration
- Increased metabolism
- Contains beneficial nutrients and boosts fibre and calcium intake
- Reduces chance of over-consuming high kilojoules later in day
- Stabilises blood sugar levels
-- Alexandra Parker and Anna Debenham.
If you're exercising before breakfast, Bingley-Pullin advises to eat breakfast sooner rather than later for optimum recovery.
"Aim to eat breakfast within 1-2 hours of waking and if exercising before breakfast, make sure to have breakfast or a snack within 30-45 minutes post-workout," Bingley-Pullin said.
"Contrary to popular advice, research indicates that eating breakfast can assist with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and provides you with a whole host of important nutrients," Parker explained.
"Skipping breakfast can send your body into a survival-like mode, whereby the body tries to conserve energy by slowing down your metabolic rate. You are more likely to feel ravenous later in the day and are also more likely to seek out highly processed, energy-dense foods for a quick energy hit."
But it's not just the timing of breakfast that is important. It's the breakfast itself which is crucial. Here are the main traps people fall into when it comes to breakfast.
Eating too much carbohydrates (and not enough protein)
"It is critical to get the balance right when it comes to breakfast," Debenham said. "A good quality source of protein helps to keep you feeling full and also provides you with essential nutrients."
"Vegemite or jam and butter on toast offers little protein. We should be aiming for at least 20 grams of protein at breakfast," Bingley-Pullin explained. "A protein-rich breakfast can help curb appetite and overeating later in the day."
"If you are having toast, try and have something with it that is high in protein like egg, cheese or low fat ricotta. If you prefer cereals such as porridge, try and add some low fat milk or yoghurt to increase the protein," Debenham said.
Eating breakfast on the run or at a cafe
"While it is totally fine to eat out occasionally, steer clear of foods like muffins, pancakes, banana breads and muesli that will often be loaded with fat and added sugars," Parker said.
"These types of foods for breakfast will cause your sugar levels to rise and fall quickly, leaving you feeling tried and hungry a few hours later."
Eating on the run can also inhibit proper digestion, which is not something we want when we're heading to work or school.
"Eating in a stressed state may hinder digestion and lead to bloating in some," Bingley-Pullin said.
Eating refined carbs and sugars
"Refined carbs and sugar, such as found in some breakfast cereal or muesli bars, do not offer complex carbohydrates and are likely to spike blood sugar levels soon after eating," Bingley-Pullin said.
"Don't fall into the marketing hype of breakfast cereals," Parker added. "Many breakfast cereals contain huge amounts of sugar with minimal nutrients. We recommend opting for plain oats and adding your own nuts, seeds and fresh whole fruits."
The key components of a healthy breakfast
While there's no one healthiest breakfast that rules all, a good brekkie does have a few keys features in common.
1. Complex carbs
"Complex carbohydrates are a source of fibre and B vitamins, and replenishes liver glycogen stores after fasting overnight," Bingley-Pullin said.
"Complex carbs provides a slow release of energy, best for supporting blood sugar levels. Options include whole grain bread, oats, root vegetables, quinoa, buckwheat and some fruits."
"Protein helps supports lean tissue growth and metabolism, improves satiety, helps regulate blood sugar and assists us in achieving our daily protein intake," Bingley-Pullin said.
Protein options include yoghurt, cheese, milk, legumes, eggs, meat, seafood, nuts, seeds and tofu.
3. Healthy fats
It's easy to include healthy fats at breakfast. In fact, you probably already do -- peanut butter, avocado and nuts in muesli all provide heart-healthy fats.
"Aim for a source of omega 3 essential fatty acids (fatty fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds), which must be eaten via the diet as the body cannot make them," Bingley-Pullin added.
"Omega 3s supports mood, has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body and helps us absorb fat-soluble nutrients and antioxidants."
4. Vegetables, greens and/or fruit
Before you turn up your nose at the thought of veggies for breakfast, think about your favourite cafe breakfast fare. Is it poached eggs with garlicky mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and wilted spinach?
"Vegetables and fruit offer a nutritional boost to the diet and helps us meet our recommended daily intake for vitamins and minerals," Bingley-Pullin said.
"Plant-based foods provide you with fibre to keep you feel, as well as lots of antioxidants and important vitamins," Parker added. "Examples include fruit salad (opt for raw fruit over dried fruit), grilled tomato, mushrooms and spinach."
Don't feel hungry in the mornings?
"If you don't feel hungry when you wake up, you do not need to force yourself to eat. Either try waiting until your tummy starts to rumble, or try to eat something small like a smoothie, piece of toast or tub of yoghurt," Parker said.
Here are the eight healthiest breakfasts, according to health experts.
- Oats with yoghurt, sliced banana and a sprinkling of nuts and seeds
- Poached eggs with a slice of whole grain toast spread with avocado, and a side of baby spinach or fresh rocket, and grilled mushrooms
- Omelette or scramble eggs with diced tomato, grated zucchini, feta cheese, herbs and whole grain toast
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter, or avocado and spinach, or reduced fat ricotta, or hummus, tomato and baby spinach leaves
- Oat or buckwheat porridge topped with fresh fruit, chia seeds and yoghurt
- Fresh fruit salad and yoghurt with nuts
- Fruit or vegetable smoothies with oats, yoghurt and nuts or chia seeds
- Natural (untoasted) muesli with milk and fruit
Vegan, lactose intolerant or allergic to eggs? Don't worry -- try these protein packed breakfast ideas.
"For vegans it's about replacing dairy foods and eggs with other protein-rich foods," Debenham told HuffPost Australia. "Peanut butter on whole grain toast, avocado on toast with seeds, or grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms and kale on toast with sesame seeds."
"Instead of eggs, scramble tofu with a dash of coconut milk and herbs," Bingley-Pullin said.
"When making porridge use a plant-based milk such as almond, soy, rice, oat or coconut milk and top with tahini. Homemade baked beans with avocado on whole grain bread is another nice option."
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