“What can I eat?”. This is one of the questions we get asked most by our clients. In this series of blogs we’ll attempt to answer that question. In this blog we talk about breakfast.
To find out why this is a common question, take a look at the first of the series: ‘What can I eat for lunch?’
Read on to find out more about breakfast.
Breakfast can be a little bit tricky!
There are some challenges with breakfast.
Breakfast challenge number 1: You’re usually in a hurry
During the week, for most of us, getting up and out of the door is a short series of rushed activities. Everyone in the household is doing their own thing, also rushing around trying to get ready. Before work or school is not a time where people gather, relax and enjoy time together. Not like dinner time. There’s not the same incentive to sit and eat. Breakfast is almost an inconvenience in the frenzied process of getting ready for the day ahead.
So, breakfast tends to be something that is quick and easy. Toast, Cereal, perhaps a pastry or a waffle, orange juice… that kind of thing. And there lies the problem. These foods aren’t going to fill you up. Quite the reverse in fact. They’re more likely to leave you feeling hungry an hour later and more prone to raiding the vending machine or the biscuit tin.
These typical breakfast choices are sugar as far as your body is concerned. And they don’t tick any of the boxes that constitute filling meals: protein, fibre, liquid, slow digesting carbs. They are low in protein, low in fibre, generally processed and dried out and are stuffed with quickly digesting carbohydrate.
Breakfast challenge number 2: Your mindset
Of all the meals and snacks during the day, breakfast is the one where you might be most stuck in a certain mindset about what constitutes breakfast food. Toast, cereal, pastries, fry up, or variations on that theme. Porridge is making its way into the common mindset, and perhaps yoghurt and fruit, but that’s about it.
We’ve talked about toast, cereal and pastries. What about the traditional fry up? Well, a full English is very calorific, loaded with fat. It will definitely fill you up, but it will deliver far more calories than you need in the time it takes you to get hungry again. And processed meat is now clearly associated with cancer, which rules out bacon and sausage in our book.
Porridge and fruit with yoghurt are welcome additions to the common breakfast mindset, especially if the right choices are made in these meals – more on that below.
Breakfast challenge number 3: You skip breakfast
You might skip breakfast because:
- You’re not hungry
- Breakfast doesn’t fit into your schedule, you’re in a hurry!
- You are practising intermittent fasting
Why aren’t you hungry? Well, usually it’s because you’ve had such a large dinner the day before! Maybe you starve yourself during the day because you are ‘saving yourself’ for dinner. Come dinner time, you are ravenous. You end up eating far more than you think. You might have nibbles with a beer, a starter, big main course with a lot of rice/pasta, a pudding, a couple of glasses of wine and a few squares of chocolate. And before you know it…. bosh! 2,500 calories in one long sitting. You’re just not hungry after that lot, even by the morning.
If you save yourself for dinner and then eat like a mouse then you really are starving yourself. That comes with a different set of problems.
If you’re intermittent faster then you are deliberately skipping breakfast. Again, that’s different. Here’s our view on intermittent fasting.
Ways to get you out of the breakfast rut
There are ways you can get around the challenges described above. You just need to think outside the box a little, maybe alter your mindset and be shown some alternative ideas. Here are some things you can do:
Eat breakfast at work
If you need to be at work at a certain time and you have to hurry out of the door then why not take breakfast to work and eat it there? That should be fine if you have a desk based job. If you have a more active job then try doing your desk admin first thing before you get going with the activities. At least by doing this you can maximise sleep and be productive whilst you have breakfast.
Treat breakfast like any other meal
Who says you have to have traditional ‘breakfasty’ things? In other countries you’ll find chicken and noodles, vegetables, salad, cold meats and cheeses (not the best choice!) and so on… I’ve even had steak before when travelling abroad.
We will often cook extra veggies at dinner, do an extra piece of, say, fish, and then have it chilled for breakfast. I’ll often take this to work if I have an early client. I’ll train the client and eat my breakfast in the gap before the next client.
Prepare your breakfast the night before
Yes that means you’ll be having it chilled, but then the traditional cereal choice is a cold breakfast, for example, so it’s not unusual. Overnight oats has become a popular breakfast. If you’re having the above mentioned fish and roasted veg, get it ready the day before. That way you just need to take it out of the fridge on your way to the front door.
Find healthy alternatives
There are plenty of alternative healthy options that tick the ‘filling meal’ boxes. There are quick options for the weekdays and options that take a little more effort for when you have time on your hands, such as at the weekends.
Spread your calories out
It’s better, at least from an eating behaviour point of view, to spread your calories out than to have a massive evening meal. Start your day with a sizeable injection of nutrients to set you up for the day. You know what they say: ‘Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper’. Not only does this encourage better eating behaviours, but it gives you more opportunities to nourish your body. And, bonus, it may actually be more helpful in helping you lose weight.
OK, they’re useful ideas, but what should breakfast look like?
You really want any meal to be filling and keep you going until the next snack or meal. The research says the following components will keep you full for longer
- A decent amount of protein-protein takes longer to digest and sticks around in your stomach for longer
- Fibre – fibre swells in the stomach and helps keep you full. It also slows digestion
- Liquid-liquid fills you up and swells the fibre and other food to help you feel full
- Slow digesting carbs – complex unrefined starchy carbs are best
We said it already: traditional quick and easy breakfast choices tick none of these boxes. They are low in protein, highly processed and stripped of their fibre, completely dried out and packed with fast-digesting carbs. How long do you think they will keep you full?
Below we give you a few ideas for breakfast where the meal ticks all the ‘filling’ boxes.
What can I eat for breakfast?
We got here in the end. Let’s start with protein.
Anything goes really. You could have
- Eggs or egg whites
- Greek yoghurt, 0% is best because then you get to choose what fat you put back in. If you add some seeds you get a lovely crunch and swap a lot of saturated fat for healthier fats.
- Almost any meat or fish, including kippers.
- Vegetarian protein sources. These might include dairy alternatives such as soy products, other vegetarian protein sources, or variations on pulses – beans, lentils, tofu. Yes lentils, why not?
Fibre-rich, slow-digesting, unrefined carbs are good. You could get your carbs from
- Oats or other slowly digesting whole grains
- Beans and pulses
If you’re making the right choices for protein and carbohydrate then your fibre intake will just magically be pretty good. Have a look at the list of carb sources we just presented – plenty of fibre in those.
Breakfast meal ideas
OK, so putting all the information together, here’s a list of breakfast ideas. Some are quick and easy, others you might have at the weekend when you have a more leisurely sociable breakfast.
Fish, rice, eggs. There’s plenty of protein in this and if you choose wholegrain rice and have some veggies on the side – tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus – then it ticks all the boxes for a filling breakfast. Have it warm at the weekend or pre-prepared and chilled during the week for a quick getaway.
Baked eggs with veggies. One of our favourites. But we’re not content with just the veg in the frittata, we have more on the side. Filling boxes…. ticked. Enjoy this hot when you have more time, or pre-prepared and chilled if you’re in a hurry.
Below we give you a frittata recipe. It’s a delicious breakfast alternative and it could be a way to encourage the whole family to eat more veggies.
Oats, water, berries, 0% greek yoghurt. Easy and quick to prepare, good for a rushed start and easy to transport to work if you want to eat it there.
Greek yoghurt and fruit
0% Greek, fruit. Choose Greek for the superior protein content. You’ll find standard yoghurt doesn’t keep you going as long. Add a few raisins for sweetness. Add some seeds to balance the meal and provide a crunch. Quick and easy, good for the weekdays or the weekend.
Kippers and veggies
This ticks all the filling boxes. There are plenty of veggies you could have – tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus are common, but why not try other veggies? Try it with grilled aubergines or roasted peppers, for example.
Porridge or bircher
I tend to think of porridge as hot and bircher as cold. On its own porridge is a little low on protein. Make it with skimmed milk to increase the protein content a little, but just be aware of the extra calories in milk. Alternatively, add some protein powder for added protein without too many calories. Eat it hot, perhaps more at the weekend, or pre-made and chilled during the week. For a really tasty bircher, try our raspberry bircher idea: Pour boiling water over oats in Tupperware, put the lid on, leave. When cooled, add thawed frozen raspberries and a calorie-free sweetener to taste. Stir. Chill. Enjoy in the morning. For added protein try a raspberry flavoured protein powder.
Alternative wholegrain porridge and other breakfasts
You don’t have to make porridge with oats. Quinoa is a great choice too. It’s slow to digest, is a complete protein on its own and comes with plenty of fibre and liquid when cooked. Here are some ideas for alternative wholegrain breakfasts.
This is unexpected, you’re thinking. I have to say I’m impressed with Huel. It’s a complete meal with a great amino acid profile and it ticks all the ‘filling meal’ boxes. It couldn’t be simpler and quicker, so it’s great for a ‘rushing out of the door’ sort of breakfast. If you tend to have a whey protein shake for breakfast then I’d suggest Huel is a better option. Whey lacks the fibre and slow-digesting carbs. In fact, whey is rather fast digesting for a protein and so won’t hang around in your stomach as long as other protein sources.
Beans on toast
If you choose a slowly digesting bread such as sourdough or sprouted grain bread then this is better. But, really, the baked beans provide lots of fibre, protein and liquid. The whole meal is slowly digesting and provides a complete amino acid profile. But rather than salt and sugar-loaded commercial baked beans, try our baked beans from scratch. Toast is definitely not a ‘prepare in advance’ food, but the beans could be. You could make this a weekend breakfast or a weekday breakfast, depending on how you prepared it. Oh, and it’s vegan!
Sardines on toast with veggies
This is a bit like the kippers idea. You’ll get some extra carbs and fibre from a good choice of bread and lots of liquid and fibre from the veggies. This is probably not one to eat at work if you share an office with others! But it is quick and simple and could be a weekend or weekday choice.
You’ll find quite a few breakfast tofu scrambles. They provide a great vegan option with plenty of protein and all the filling boxes ticked.
These are just some ideas. There are loads more out there, just have a search. The only thing you have to check is whether it ticks the ‘filling meal’ boxes. Protein, fibre, liquid, slow carbs. Make note of the fat content too, just to make sure it’s not delivering too many calories.
Courgette, Onion and Pepper Frittata
This is so tasty, it’s one of our favourites. Enjoy it hot when you have more time, or pre-prepared and chilled when you want a quick getaway. Either way it’s going to deliver lots of flavour and healthy nutrients as well as keeping you going for hours.
Here are the ingredients
- 3 courgettes
- 2 sweet onions
- 4 peppers
- 6 free range eggs
- 1 Cal Fry Light spray
And here’s what to do
- Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees.
- Spray three baking trays with 1 Cal Fry Light spray.
- Slice courgettes, onions and peppers.
- Place the vegetables on the baking trays and spray with Fry Light.
- Roast the courgettes for approximately 40 minutes or until brown,
- Roast the onions and peppers for approximately 30 minutes.
- Beat the eggs well.
- Place the roasted vegetables in a large dish and pour the eggs over the top.
- Cook for approximately 20 minutes depending on your oven.
Serve with baked mushrooms and roasted tomatoes or portions of your favourite vegetables.
This particular frittata made two meals. We also had it chilled with a huge pile of veggies!
On its own the frittata delivers 35g fat, 53g carbs, 64g protein, 22g fibre and 825 calories. If you share between two then it comes in at a relatively high 37% of calories from fat. But add some more veggies and you get a super filling, super nutritious breakfast that comes well within the government’s guidelines for a healthy macronutrient ratio. Alternatively, share between 3, add some more veggies and a slice of toast for a similar macronutrient profile. Either way, it’s filling, delicious and nutritious.
Breakfast doesn’t have to be traditional ‘breakfasty’ choices. In fact it probably shouldn’t be. Think outside the traditional breakfast box and consider alternatives. Prepare in advance for a quick getaway during the week. Make sure you’re getting protein, fibre, liquid and slow carbs to keep you going for longer.
So, go on, shun the traditional sugary or fatty breakfasts and get some filling nutrients for a healthy start to the day.