Healthy Breakfast - Energizing and nutritious breakfast ideas.
Just because you eat something at breakfast time in the morning, it doesn't always mean that you are having a healthy breakfast and that you are starting the day in the best possible way.
Certainly for some of us, we cannot function unless we have rapidly drunk two or three cups of strong coffee or tea (UK inhabitants) in succession first thing in the morning, yet we know that caffeine is a stimulant and should be taken in moderation.
There has long been debate as to how good or bad tea and coffee are for the body and new research is constantly disproving previous theories and facts. Whether or not tea and coffee are so bad for us, they should not be consumed excessively. A reasonable amount would be two or three cups a day, however there are much better alternatives to these beverages if you are able to cut them out completely.
Tea and coffee
Try reducing your intake of tea and coffee, especially if you drink excessive amounts. First of all, substitute one or two cups a day for herbal or fruit teas, fruit juice or mineral water. Nowadays there are many varieties of fruit and herbal teas to choose from and they are widely available in the supermarkets - why not try a refreshing ginger tea or mint tea after meals.
There are even coffee substitutes, usually only available from health food shops that actually taste like coffee but are made from herbs, vegetables or grains. The most popular are chicory and dandelion root.
A particularly effective cleansing and detoxifying morning beverage is warm but not boiling water flavoured with the juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon.
Start the day well
There is a saying "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper", meaning that the biggest meal of the day should be breakfast, followed by a moderate lunch and a frugal evening meal.
Nowadays, many of us do not have time for a big breakfast in the morning, nor could we stomach such a thing. Even so, we should set off to work or about our day having refuelled from the night before and after consuming plenty of valuable vitamins, minerals and essential fats.
Carbohydrates - for energy
Ideally, you should eat some carbohydrates, as carbohydrates are the body's main energy providers - the lower the GI the better. Foods with a low glycaemic index release their energy slowly throughout the morning, if consumed at breakfast for example, keeping you full until lunchtime.
Carbohydrates include cereals, bread, porridge, potatoes, beans and some fruits. Go for complex, unrefined carbohydrates rather than simple or refined carbohydrates. (See our guide to carbohydrates for more information) This would include foods such as wholegrain cereals and wholemeal bread. These complex, unrefined carbohydrates contain many more vitamins and minerals than simple, refined carbohydrates plus plenty of fibre, which is essential for a healthy body.
Foods with a low - moderate GI that could be eaten at breakfast are:
- Grapefruit = 26
- Peaches = 29
- Apricots = 30
- Milk = 32
- Apples = 39
- Oranges = 40
- Organic baked beans = 40
- Grapes = 44
- Oats = 49
- Bananas = 62
- Raisins = 64
- Wholemeal bread = 72
Certain types of cereals, particularly those aimed at children, are loaded with sugars and these types of cereals should be avoided. They will raise blood sugar levels, sending them soaring and then crashing back down again fairly rapidly, leaving you hungry and with little energy. Not to mention that they have very little nutritional value, the sugar will rot your teeth and cause mood swings, as your energy levels are not stable.
The best cereals to have for breakfast are those that are low in sugars, fat and calories and which have an abundance of fibre. You will find that they are often unrefined, complex carbohydrates, which have not had all of the goodness processed and taken out. They are principally whole grain cereals that consist of one ingredient such as "Shredded Wheat". This will mean that the grains are whole and have not been refined. Care must be taken with breakfast cereals, however, as many claims on the packets are often misleading.
When choosing a breakfast cereal, if you are unsure, it is best to check the label. Choose cereals whose first ingredient is a whole grain such as "whole wheat" or "flaked oats". Return any packets back to the shelf that contain the words "refined" or "partially hydrogenated". It is also necessary to check the label for added sugars and high levels of salt.
The following are a list of some of the recommended healthy cereals:
- Shredded Wheat
- All Bran
- Golden Grahams
- Oat Bran
If you prefer toast in the morning, try to choose wholemeal bread instead of white. White bread is refined and has very little nutrients remaining. Use butter and margarine sparingly and try healthy spread options such as marmite, low-fat cheese or a thin scraping of peanut butter.
Instead of regular brown bread, why not try some other tasty alternatives including rye bread, granary bread, pitta bread or wholemeal bagels, scones, waffles, crumpets or muffins.
Doughnuts, Danish pastries, cakes, croissants, biscuits and any other fattening, cholesterol-laden and sugary products do not form part of a healthy breakfast, or any other meal for that matter!
Most of us do not eat enough fruit and vegetables and therefore breakfast is an excellent opportunity to get a few portions in to count towards your daily-recommended amount.
You could start the day with a glass full of freshly squeezed orange, orange and lemon or grapefruit juice or if you are the proud owner of a juicer, there are 101 fruit, vegetable, herb and spice concoctions that you could come up with (see our section on juicing for a selection of recipes).
Eating the whole fruit, as opposed to just the juice, is beneficial for the body, due to the extra fibre contained in the skin, and so you could add grated or chopped fruit to your cereal or even prepare a fresh fruit salad. Don't forget that smoothies made in the blender can be prepared with whole fruits too.
Studies have proven that eating some form of protein for breakfast enhances concentration and memory. It also increases learning and performance ability and it has been shown that children who eat breakfast and protein in particular, perform better at school, whilst adults perform better at work.
Eggs are possibly the most versatile as well as being the most nutritious breakfast protein. They can be poached, scrambled, fried, soft-boiled, hard-boiled or made into an omelette.
A hard-boiled egg is low in calories and saturated fat yet is full of vitamins A, B, D, E and minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, selenium and magnesium (for more nutritional information on eggs, see our Guide to eggs).
Milk is another form of protein and is often considered a food in itself. It is essential that children drink plenty of milk whilst they are growing up for strong and healthy bones and teeth.
Although some may prefer the creamy taste of full-fat milk, for health and diet reasons, it is best to stick to skimmed or semi-skimmed versions.
Nowadays there is much controversy as to whether or not humans should actually consume cow's milk and many are turning to other alternatives such as soya or rice milk.
Cow's milk and its dairy by-products such as cheese, butter and yoghurt do contain high levels of saturated fat, which raise cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol in the body may lead to heart disease and other cardiovascular illness.
It is not uncommon for many people to have problems digesting cow's milk and it is possible to become lactose intolerant. Other negative symptoms such as excess mucous, constipation, allergies and stomach cramps amongst others may also occur.
Traditional English Breakfast
A traditional English breakfast need not be a plate of unhealthy ingredients swimming in fat. You should not be eating this type of breakfast every day of the week, but as an occasional treat, it's ok, as long as you bear a few things in mind.
First of all, "grill" instead of "fry". In this case, this is probably the major health concern here. Secondly, try to use healthy or low-fat versions of some of the typical calorific foods found in an English breakfast.
For example grill low fat vegetarian or 100% pork sausages, grill lean bacon with the fat trimmed or removed, serve scrambled or poached eggs instead of fried, toast wholemeal bread instead of frying white bread, use reduced salt baked beans and serve extra portions of grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. Couple all of this with a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice and you will actually have quite a healthy and nutritious breakfast in front of you!
The following is a list of healthy breakfast ideas and for healthy breakfast recipes, consult our Breakfast Recipe Page.
- Natural yoghurt sweetened with honey and served with chopped apples, cinnamon and nuts
- Fruit smoothies made with whole fruits, nuts or seeds, a carton of yoghurt and some soya milk
- Weetabix served with yoghurt, grated apple and cinnamon
- Wholemeal pitta bread with hard-boiled egg slices and lettuce
- Cinnamon toast or eggy bread
- Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast
- Low sugar and salt baked beans served on wholemeal toast
- Soft-boiled egg with brown bread soldiers
- Whole grain waffles topped with fruit and yoghurt or ricotta cheese and cinnamon
- Toasted wholemeal English muffins served with a poached egg and a slice of lean ham
- Porridge made with soya milk sprinkled with cinnamon
- Fresh fruit salad
- Melon wedges
- Mushroom and fresh herb omelette
- Brown rice pudding with shredded apples and cinnamon
- Lean ham and tomato toastie made with wholemeal bread
- Prunes with natural yoghurt
- Wholegrain cereal topped with dried apricots, raisins or prunes.
- Weetabix or other cereal with sliced strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, nuts etc
- Toasted rye bread with low fat soft cheese
- Wholemeal toasted baguette rubbed with garlic and tomato, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt
- Sardines on wholemeal toast
- Grapefruit halves
- Grilled kippers or mackerel on toast with grilled tomatoes
- Soya milk porridge sprinkled with chopped dates or raisins plus a sprinkling of nutmeg or cinnamon
- Fried mushrooms on wholemeal or rye toast
- Grilled plum tomatoes on toast
- Malt loaf or fruit loaf slices
- Pancakes with mixed fruit salad and yoghurt
- Potato waffles with scrambled eggs
- Flapjacks and yoghurt
- Grilled lean bacon and tomato sandwich
- Toast with honey
Healthy Breakfast Recipes
Some of these breakfast recipes may be prepared the day before, whilst others can be whizzed up in a few minutes in the morning. Even though you may have a hectic lifestyle, you should still always make time for breakfast and with some of our recipes, those of you who skip breakfast may not want to do so anymore.
If you are not very hungry in the morning, swap your coffee for this smoothie. The banana provides instant energy and the yoghurt offers some protein for the brain.
- 300 ml (½ pint) of pineapple juice
- 150 ml (¼ pint) of low-fat yoghurt
- 1 ripe mango
- 1 large banana
- Peel the banana and cut into slices. Place into a freezer-proof container and freeze for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight if more convenient.
- Peel the mango and chop into medium-sized pieces. Place into the blender.
- Add the frozen banana, yoghurt and pineapple juice.
- Process until blended and smooth. Serve.
Greek Fruit Salad
This salad combines oats, nuts, various fruit and Greek yoghurt giving you plenty of nutrients already in the first meal of the day.
- 10 oz (300 g) of Greek-style natural yoghurt
- 4 oz (115 g) of strawberries
- 2 bananas
- 1 peach
- small bunch of grapes
- 4 tbsp of rolled oats
- 3 tbsp of mixed ground nuts
- 1 tbsp of honey
- 1 tbsp of sunflower oil
- Preheat the grill to medium - high.
- Place the oats, ground mixed nuts, honey and oil into a bowl and mix together with a spoon.
- Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and place under a medium - hot grill for about 10 minutes to toast them, until they are browned. Remove from the grill and set aside.
- Wash the fruit. Slice the strawberries and halve the grapes.
- Remove the stone from the peach and cut into small pieces.
- Peel the bananas and slice.
- Place all of the fruit into a large mixing bowl and stir well to mix.
- Transfer the fruit into individual serving dishes or glasses.
- Spoon some yoghurt over the fruit and sprinkle with the oat topping. Serve.
Scrambled Eggs on Potato Pancakes
For a hearty, filling and nutritious warm breakfast, try this recipe for scrambled eggs and homemade potato pancakes.
- 150 ml (¼ pint) of semi-skimmed milk
- 3 oz (85 g) of self-raising flour
- 6 eggs
- 1 large potato
- 2 tbsp of reduced-fat double cream
- 2 tbsp of butter
- 1 tbsp of freshly chopped chives
- salt and pepper
- Peel the potato, cut into quarters and cook in a pan of salted boiling water until tender.
- Drain the water, add a little milk, salt and pepper and mash well.
- Put the flour into a mixing bowl with 1 egg and the mashed potato and mix the ingredients together with a spoon until thoroughly combined.
- Slowly pour in the remaining milk and whisk the ingredients together to form a pancake-like batter. Add a little more seasoning and set aside.
- Take a second egg and with an electric whisk, whisk the egg white until soft peaks form.
- Carefully fold 1/3 of the egg white into the batter and then add the remainder and fold that in as well.
- In the meantime, melt a little of the butter in a large frying fan. As soon as it begins to foam add 3 or 4 spoonfuls (depending on the size of your pan) of batter into the pan.
- Flatten the pancakes with the spoon and allow to cook for several minutes on each side, until each side turns a golden - brown colour.
- Remove from the pan when cooked and keep warm in a preheated oven.
- Continue to make the potato cakes as above until all the batter has been used.
- To make the scrambled eggs, break the 4 eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork. Season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper.
- Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan and when heated, add the eggs.
- Allow the eggs to set and then stir with a wooden spoon. Scrape the egg from the bottom of the pan, to prevent them from sticking and burning.
- Stir in the cream and continue to cook.
- Remove from the heat when the eggs are almost cooked but still a little moist and stir in the chopped chives. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Remove the potato cakes from the oven and serve the scrambled eggs on top.
Porridge is possibly the best breakfast you can have on a cold morning. You can liven it up by adding some fruit pieces and sweetening it with honey instead of sugar.
- 8 fl oz (250 ml) of soya milk
- 3½ fl oz (100 ml) of water
- 3 oz (85 g) of porridge oats
- 1 red apple
- 2 tbsp of raisins
- 1 tbsp of honey
- Place the porridge oats with the milk and water into a saucepan.
- Bring to the boil, stirring frequently and then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Wash and core the apple. Grate the apple with the skin intact and add to the porridge. Mix well.
- Stir in the raisins and the honey and then remove from the heat and serve.
Try these muffins with a glass of milk or milky coffee in the morning, or any time of day.
- 7 oz (200 g) of plain flour
- 4 fl oz (115 ml) of soya milk
- 2 oz (55 g) of soft brown sugar
- 2 oz (55 g) of ground almonds
- 2 large bananas
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp of clear honey
- 2 tbsp of sunflower oil
- 3 tsp of baking powder
- 2 tsp of cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and lightly grease a muffin tin or arrange with 10 paper cases.
- Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the baking powder and cinnamon.
- Add the sugar and ground almonds and stir to mix together.
- In a separate bowl mash the bananas with a fork.
- Add the milk, eggs, honey and oil and beat together to form a paste / batter.
- Add the banana mixture to the flour and fold carefully. Ensure that the ingredients are thoroughly blended together.
- Spoon the mixture into the oiled tins or paper cases and place into the preheated oven.
- Bake for around 20 - 25 minutes or until the muffins have turned a golden brown colour.
These easy to make fruity flapjacks can be eaten for breakfast instead of cereal or taken with you in a packed lunch for an energetic snack.
- 12 oz (340 g) of porridge oats
- 3½ oz (100 g) of unsalted butter
- 3½ oz (100 g) of light brown sugar
- 3 oz (85 g) of prunes
- 3 oz (85 g) of dried apricots
- 3 oz (85 g) of raisins
- 2 eggs
- 5 tbsp of clear honey
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and lightly grease an 11 x 9 inch baking tin with a little butter.
- Prepare the apricots and prunes by cutting them into small pieces with a sharp knife. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter together with the sugar and honey over a medium heat, stirring frequently. Ensure that all of the sugar dissolves.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the porridge oats, dried apricots, prunes and raisins. Mix well.
- Add the eggs and beat well until all ingredients are combined.
- Turn the mixture onto the greased baking tray and flatten with a knife or the back of a spoon.
- Place the baking tray into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool leaving the flapjacks in the tin.
- Once the flapjacks are cool, cut into slices with a knife and store in an airtight container.
This is a type of cereal that you can make at home. It consists of oats, seeds and nuts and is baked in the oven until crispy.
- 6 oz (170 g) of porridge oats
- 4 oz (115 g) of mixed dried fruit (prunes, apricots, dates)
- 2 oz (55 g) of chopped hazelnuts
- 1 oz (30 g) of shredded coconut
- 1 oz (30 g) of wheat germ
- 1 oz (30 g) of sunflower seeds
- 1 oz (30 g) of sesame seeds
- 1 oz (30 g) of pumpkin seeds
- 1 oz (30 g) of linseeds
- 4 tbsp of olive oil
- 3 tbsp of clear honey
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
- In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, hazelnuts, coconut, wheat germ and seeds.
- Melt the honey and oil together in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring frequently. Pour over the oats and mix all ingredients together thoroughly.
- Transfer to a greased baking sheet and level with a spoon.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring every now and again to keep the mixture loose.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container and serve as a cereal with skimmed milk.
Mushrooms on Toast
Sliced fried mushrooms are mixed with lemon juice, parsley and black pepper and served on toasted granary bread.
- 15 oz (450 g) of chestnut mushrooms
- 4 slices of granary bread
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tbsp of margarine
- 1 tbsp of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp of freshly chopped parsley
- salt and black pepper
- Cut the stalks off the mushrooms and wipe them clean with damp kitchen paper.
- Cut into thick slices.
- Melt the margarine with the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
- Add the mushrooms and fry for several minutes, stirring frequently to coat with the fat.
- Turn the heat up and season with the salt and pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and stir in the chopped parsley.
- In the meantime, toast the bread and spread with margarine.
- Cut in half and arrange on plates. Add the mushrooms and serve immediately.
Eggy Bread with Berry Compote
Eggy bread, otherwise known as cinnamon toast, is served with a big helping of this delicious fruit compote.
- 12 oz (350 g) of mixed fruits (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
- 6 slices of thick white bread
- 2 oz (55 g) of caster sugar
- 1 oz (30 g) of butter
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp of milk
- zest of 1 orange
- Place the fruit, sugar and orange zest into a large saucepan. Stir well, cover and cook over a low - medium heat for around 10 minutes until the fruit softens.
- Remove from the heat and set to one side.
- In a large shallow bowl, beat together the egg with the milk.
- Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
- In the meantime, cut the bread slices in half and then dip into the egg mixture.
- Place into the frying pan and fry gently for several minutes on each side or until golden brown.
- Transfer to serving plates and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve with a large spoonful of compote.