5 ways to brighten up your breakfast
Bored with breakfast? Senior Dietitian Victoria Taylor presents five quick and easy ideas to make you fall in love with your morning meal.
It’s the meal we are most likely to skip, but a healthy breakfast has huge benefits. Having a meal first thing makes it easier to avoid unhealthy snacking, but a good breakfast can also expand the range of nutrients in your diet and help you reach your 5-a-day. What’s more, if you find that the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day, then a balanced breakfast might make it easier to make good food choices later too. However, we often eat it in a rush, so we can fall into bad habits or just eat the same thing every day. But breakfast needn’t be boring: read on for tips on how to give a healthy, tasty boost to your mornings.
1. Experiment with porridge toppings
Porridge is a great choice. As well as traditional oats, it can be made with grains such as quinoa, rye, buckwheat, brown rice, or barley. Think of porridge or grains as a neutral base, then add variety with toppings. Experiment with nuts and seeds, fresh, dried or frozen fruit, and spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice.
2. Try savoury porridge
For something unusual, why not experiment with savoury porridge? Using dried herbs or spices is healthier than adding salt, and you can try vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach or peas as a topping – whatever takes your fancy. Think of it as an oaty risotto!
3. Sneak in some veg
For a mix of sweet and savoury, and to up your intake of fruit and veg, replace some of your porridge oats with raw grated courgette. Add it to the uncooked oats and cook as usual. The veg will bulk out your portion but is lower in energy, so it’s a good option if you are trying to lose weight. The coloured flecks look a bit unusual, but you shouldn’t taste it so you can enjoy with your usual toppings. Grated carrot or butternut squash work well too and will add a subtle sweetness – you could even mix grated carrot, cinnamon and raisins with your oats for a ‘carrot cake’ porridge.
You can add more veg to your breakfast with other options such as our mushroom and cauliflower frittata or sweet potato rosti with poached egg and mushrooms.
4. Transform your toast
There are whole cafés devoted to toast, which shows the variety this breakfast staple offers. While white toast with butter and sugary jam isn’t an ideal everyday choice, the right bread and toppings can make it a nutritious start to the day.
Add protein so that your meal is balanced
If you like variety, then rolls, English muffins, bagels, pitta breads and even tortilla wraps can all be good choices. Be aware that salt content varies, so check food labels to choose one with the lowest salt content, and pick a wholegrain version to benefit from the fibre.
Skip butter in favour of an unsaturated fat spread, or just go straight to your main topping – ideally one that will add fruit (sliced banana or berries) or vegetables (avocado, grilled mushrooms, grilled or raw tomatoes, or wilted spinach).
Add protein too so that your meal is balanced. This could be a poached egg, tinned sardines, or low-fat soft cheese. Nut butters and baked beans are protein-filled options too, but check labels and choose ones with the least and salt and no added palm oil for nut butters.
5. Have a healthy cooked breakfast
Traditional cooked breakfasts are high in saturated fat, salt and calories. But there are simple ways to make it healthier. These include:
- Grilling rather than frying
- Choosing lean back bacon rather than streaky bacon
- Skipping the sausages
- Poaching the eggs instead of frying in butter or bacon fat
- Serving with wholegrain toast rather than fried bread.
If the appeal of a fry-up is the simplicity of cooking everything in one pan, that’s still possible. Cooking your breakfast in the oven in a tray lined with greaseproof paper means you don’t need to add any oil. Add eggs towards the end of the cooking time to ensure a runny yolk.
- Check out our simple meals infographic for an all-in-one baked breakfast.
Eating breakfast on the go?
If you need an instant breakfast, it's easy to rely on shop-bought breakfast bars, biscuits and muffins. Always read the nutritional information to choose those with least saturated fat, sugar and salt.
It can be better to make your own in advance. Try our recipes for banana oatmeal muffins or banana bread. You can prepare these in advance and even freeze them.
For grab-and-go ease in the morning, try our bircher muesli, which you can make up in a large batch and put in airtight portion-sized boxes in the fridge to use over the week. Mix low-fat plain yoghurt with a no-added-sugar muesli and fruit such as fresh strawberries, frozen mango chunks or stewed plums for a creamier alternative.
A peanut butter and banana sandwich made with wholegrain bread is another easy, filling option.