Three easy ways to boost your breakfast

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Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day or is this merely a marketing gimmick dreamed up by breakfast food companies? 

The latest research on the topic, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that having breakfast between 6am and 7am reduced the participants’ risk of dying from major illnesses such as heart disease or cancer by six per cent compared to those having breakfast at 8am, and 12 per cent less than those who first ate at 10am.

The problem comes when you just can’t face eating first thing or don’t have time to, which, according to a recent survey, applies to a whopping one in four of us. From a nutritional perspective the timing of your first meal of the day is not as important as what it comprises. Here’s how to ensure your breakfast is balanced and nutritious, whenever you get around to eating it.

1. Macros matter

With breakfast often a grab-and-go affair, macro balance is probably not at the forefront of your mind when choosing what to eat in the morning.  But here’s something to chew on: a well-balanced breakfast has been shown to improve concentration levels, kick-start metabolism, keep blood sugar levels steady and improve energy levels. 

A good breakfast should comprise roughly 50 per cent complex carbs, 30 per cent healthy fats and 20 per cent lean protein. This is how a few common breakfasts breakdown:

  • A bowl of cornflakes with sugar and semi-skimmed milk (73 per cent carbs/11 per cent fat/16 per cent protein)
  • Toast and jam (66 per cent carbs/25 per cent fat/nine per cent protein)
  • Egg and bacon sandwich (21 per cent carbs/44 per cent fat/35 per cent protein)

Here are some more balanced alternatives with plenty of fibre, protein and good fats, which take longer to digest and therefore provide crucial slow-release energy:

  • A tub of natural yogurt, fresh berries and granola (56 per cent carbs/28 per cent fat/16 per cent protein)
  • Peanut butter on brown toast with chopped banana (55 per cent carbs/30 per cent fat/15 per cent protein)
  • Scrambled egg veggie wholegrain wrap (48 per cent carbs/31 per cent fat/ 21 per cent protein)

By making some simple tweaks to what you eat in the morning you are ticking more nutritional boxes and boosting your fruit and veg intake for that all important five-a-day.

2. Feed your gut

The more we learn about the gut the more we find it has a crucial role in maintaining our overall physical and mental health, so it makes sense to give it some TLC at breakfast time. The key things for gut health are to eat a wide variety of plant foods, get plenty of fibre (the recommended daily amount is 30g but the average UK intake is a mere 19g) and eat foods that contain good bacteria to support our microbiome. Some great gut-friendly breakfasts include:

  • A good old-fashioned bowl of porridge. Top with some live yogurt and a range of chopped fruits and you are good to go.
  • A fruit and veg smoothie. Add a handful of spinach to a berry smoothie along with a spoonful of peanut butter, flax or chia seeds for more fibre.
  • A kimchi omelette. You can buy kimchi (a Korean staple, a bit like spicy sauerkraut) in most supermarkets now, so buy a tub and park it in the fridge where it will keep for up to three months. Add a couple of spoons to whisked eggs and chopped spring onions to make a delicious spicy omelette.

It’s also important to keep hydrated to ensure all that lovely fibre can do its work in the gut, so be sure to include a glass of water alongside your morning tea or coffee.

3. Goodness on the go

If you can’t face eating first thing or simply don’t have time, rather than leaving what you eat later in the day to chance, it’s better to plan for when the appetite kicks in. If you are based at home this isn’t too much of a problem, but if you are out and about or at the office, a few portable options are the key to breakfast success.

Nutritionally speaking, healthy leftovers are money in the bank. Get into the habit of making a little extra at dinnertime, pop it in a Tupperware and take it with you in the morning. Pasta dishes, risottos, stews and soups work particularly well.

One of the best breakfasts on the hoof is overnight oats. To make a classic version, combine oats, grated apple, mixed seeds, mixed chopped nuts, cinnamon, natural live yogurt and a few raisins. Divide into portion-sized, air-tight containers and pop in the fridge overnight. You can just eat it as is, or top with a little more yogurt and some fresh berries.

By prepping ahead you can literally grab-and-go, just don’t forget a spoon!

Nutritional breakdowns from MyFitnessPal 

The Midlife Method: How To Lose Weight and Feel Great After 40 by Sam Rice is published by Hachette

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