How to have a healthy breakfast

Breakfast of cereal, fruit and fruit juice

Breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet - so get our senior dietitian Victoria Taylor's tips on how to start your day the healthy way.

As many as one in five adults in the UK don’t eat breakfast every day. Reasons for skipping this important meal include not feeling hungry first thing in the morning, not having enough time to eat or calorie-counting.

But we all need to breakfast - literally to break our fast – at some point after a night’s sleep. And we all need fuel to keep us going until lunchtime, allowing us to concentrate on our day rather than on a rumbling stomach.

Vital nutrients are essential to keep our bodies healthy and regular meals provide these. The fewer daily meals you have, the less likely you are to have the right balance of nutrients.

Thankfully, breakfast is a meal that can be easily adapted to suit any lifestyle. It can even be postponed until you either feel up to it or have a moment to yourself. The important thing is to eat it, rather than grabbing unhealthy and fattening snacks later on when hunger kicks in from missing this meal.

Breakfast on the go

Dashing out the door? Take a small sandwich or a wrap with you, along with a carton of fruit juice. This still counts as breakfast. If time is limited, make your breakfasts in bulk and help yourself to a portion each morning.

One batch of Bircher muesli, made according to our recipe, makes enough for one person for four days or two people two days. Placed in an airtight plastic box or pot, this too becomes a take-away. Even a simple glass of water and a piece of fruit is a good start to the day. The most reluctant breakfasters find that they can manage this, and in time, they may even begin to like it.

Why skipping breakfast doesn't help you slim

"If you’re dodging breakfast as a way of saving calories, think again"

If you’re dodging breakfast as a way of saving calories, think again. Growing evidence shows that regular breakfast eaters tend to be slimmer than those who skip it.

Eating meals to help you lose weight may sound odd, but if you eat planned, regular meals, you’re less likely to go down the route of snacking on cakes, pastries, crisps and biscuits.

Meanwhile, if you eat nothing during the morning, by lunchtime you’ll be very hungry so chances are you’ll help yourself to unhealthy food, a big portion or a treat as a reward - or worse still, a combination of all three.

Porridge and cereals

Porridge has come back into fashion lately. Little wonder as it provides a tasty and nutritious start to the day, especially with low fat milk and topped with fruit. But in summer you may fancy a seasonal, cooler alternative such as muesli, which can be eaten with yoghurt or low fat milk.

Muesli puts fibre and calcium into your diet and if you mix your own, not only do you choose the combination of oats, seeds and dried fruit that’s right for you, you also control your amount of salt and sugar. Add some fresh fruit such as banana or strawberries and you’re well on your way to one of your five-a-day.

Ready-made cereals can also be good for you if you choose a wholegrain variety that’s low in salt and sugar - check the packet for details. It’s also worthwhile looking out for cereals that are fortified with vitamins and minerals like B vitamins and iron as these are useful additions to the diet.

Cooked breakfasts

While today’s lifestyles may mean a cooked breakfast is no longer an everyday occurrence, this traditional meal can still be on your menu.

"Poach your eggs, grill your bacon and sausages, and replace fried bread with toast"

Although the full monty fry-up comes in at about 850 kcal per portion, a cooked breakfast doesn’t need to be high-calorie.

A boiled egg with two slices of toast with low fat spread, for example, contains a more modest 286 kcal, while a poached egg on toast with mushrooms and a grilled tomato is around 200 kcal. It’s the bacon and sausages that are the culprits when it comes to fat and salt.

Scrambled eggs without butter and baked beans with reduced salt and sugar are also healthy cooked breakfast options.

If you do go for the full English every once in a while as a treat, remember to make a few tweaks to your cooking methods to reduce the amount of saturated fat and salt on your plate.

Don’t fry. Instead poach your eggs, grill your bacon and sausages, and replace fried bread with toast. A good-sized helping of grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans will also mean less room for bacon and sausages.

Finally remember, a healthy breakfast, wherever and whenever you eat it, should be a meal that’s worth waking up for.

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