You may have heard the saying “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”. But is there any truth to this?
While not all studies show benefits of eating breakfast there’s a good body of evidence suggesting it’s worth paying attention to this important meal.
A 2015 meta-analysis of eight studies found that breakfast skippers were 15-20% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to those who eat this meal regularly. And eating breakfast improves insulin sensitivity (how effectively insulin works in your body) and reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome.
Breakfast eating also appears to be beneficial for our weight. A 2011 review of nineteen studies found that those who ate breakfast the least often were 1.75 times more likely to be overweight or obese compared to the most frequent breakfast eaters. A similar relationship has been seen in children and adolescents. And a recent study found that not only did breakfast eaters have a lower body mass index (BMI) than breakfast skippers, but those who ate their largest meal at breakfast had a lower BMI than those who made dinner their biggest meal.
Breakfast eaters have been found to have better overall nutrient intakes, to perform better at school and work and are also more likely to be active during the morning.
Lastly, skipping breakfast has been shown to lead to eating more later in the day.
So what makes a good breakfast meal?
Start with wholegrains – choose a high fibre cereal based on oats and barley, dense wholegrain breads or experiment with other grains like quinoa, barley, buckwheat or brown rice.
Add some protein to keep you satisfied for longer – good choices include low fat milk or soymilk, yoghurt, canned fish, baked beans, eggs, ricotta or cottage cheese and nuts or nut spreads.
Toss in some fruit or vegetables for a healthy dose of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants.
This combination could give you a wide variety of options, depending on your taste preferences and time availability to cook and eat your morning meal. But here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
Be choosy about your cereal
Forget the sugar-laden puffed and flaked cereals which take up most of the space on supermarket shelves and go for oats or natural muesli.
Choose traditional or steel cut rolled oats (not the quick cooking variety) and cook with stewed red apples and cinnamon for sweetness, rather than adding sugar or honey. Or in the warmer weather, make them into overnight oats.
When buying muesli, look for those without added sugar and vegetable oils, or have a go at making your own using oats, nuts, seeds and a small amount of dried fruit.
Tasty toast toppers
Go for dense wholegrain bread (rather than smooth white or wholemeal) – the more grains and seeds the better! Forget the butter and margarine and try these toppings instead:
- Avocado and sliced tomato
- Natural peanut butter and banana
- Ricotta, tomato and baby spinach
- Almond butter and sliced strawberries
Cook up a storm
As discussed earlier, having a bigger breakfast can benefit your weight and health, so if you have a bit more time consider cooking up a meal of poached or scrambled eggs with vegetables like spinach, tomato and mushrooms, served with wholegrain toast or a side of quinoa or brown rice. Other good options include home-made baked beans, tofu or chickpea and vegetable scramble, sardines on toast or a vegetable frittata. Just leave the bacon and sausages aside!