Jump start your day with a healthy breakfast!
How many of you actually sit down and have breakfast before leaving the house?
Most of us are time pressured first thing in the morning but it actually does not take much time to swallow a bowl of wholegrain cereal with milk.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but up to a third of us regularly skip breakfast. Breakfast plainly means ‘breaking the fast’. It helps top up the energy stores you have used up overnight whilst your body repairs and renews itself. Breakfast also gives you mental and physical energy for your morning activities whether at work, school, home or out and about.
A recent study on a national breakfast promotion campaign in Australia (O’Dea & Wagstaff) reported that breakfast skipping was greater and nutritional quality was poorer in students from low socio-economic status schools. Overweight/obese participants were more likely than normal weight students to miss breakfast. The national breakfast promotion campaign helped to improve the nutritional quality of school children.
Why is breakfast important?
Breakfast provides you with a source of energy and confers many other nutritional benefits. It supplies you with essential nutrients that the body needs such as fibre, vitamins and iron. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast have more balanced diet than those who skip this meal. A systematic review of 16 European studies (Szajewska & Ruszczynski) concluded that eating breakfast is associated with a reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese and a reduction in the body mass index (BMI) in children and adolescents.
Breakfast eaters lose weight more successfully and have reduced risk of certain diseases. When you miss breakfast, there is a tendency to snack on unhealthy foods later on in the morning.
It has also been shown that breakfast can improve general well-being, mental alertness and performance and contributes to better moods (Lattimore et al.). What better way to start the day with a smile on your face – we will have less people cursing and swearing whilst driving to work!
What should you have for breakfast?
Carbohydrates (Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods) are a source of energy, B vitamins, iron and fibre. Breakfast cereals, oat porridge, wholemeal bread, buns, steamed sweet potatoes and sweet corn are good carbohydrate sources for breakfast. Whenever possible, choose wholegrain varieties to increase dietary fibre intake. Some breakfast cereals contain a lot of sugar and should be avoided.
Fruit and vegetables are good sources of vitamins and fibre. It is easy to include a portion of the recommended 5 portions a day of fruit and vegetables at breakfast. You can have a glass of pure fruit juice, or chop some fresh fruit like banana/papaya or some dried fruit to add on to your breakfast cereal, oat porridge or plain yoghurt. Alternatively, you could just eat the fruit on its own or as a fruit salad. For a change, try a fresh fruit smoothie – fruit blended with low fat yogurt or milk. This is also an easy way to increase your calcium intake.
Milk and dairy foods are a source of protein, calcium and B vitamins. Calcium makes your bones strong and healthy. You can easily include a serving of milk in your breakfast cereal or make your oat porridge with milk. This will provide up to a third of your daily calcium requirement. Use low fat or skimmed milk. If you do not fancy drinking a glass of milk on its own, then turn it into a milkshake/smoothie. Alternative dairy sources include low fat yogurt or using low fat cheese slices/spreads on your bread.
Proteins (meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein) are a source of energy but play a bigger role in helping the body to repair and renew itself. It is also a source of iron and vitamins. These foods are not essential at breakfast but can increase satiety and add variety. Avoid high fat foods such as fried sausages, fried burgers, fried bacon and fried eggs. Choose healthier cooking methods such as grilling or poaching. Smoked salmon, poached, boiled or scrambled eggs, baked beans are healthy alternatives.
When eating out, choose foods which are lower in fat. Go for fish porridge or noodles in soup instead of nasi lemak, roti canai, nyonya kuihs and curry puffs. Keep your nasi lemak and roti canai as an occasional treat not an everyday meal. If the thought of eating first thing in the morning puts you off, keep some healthy wholegrain cereal/crackers at work. It is better to eat something rather than skip breakfast altogether. So always have a banana, cereal bar or wholegrain crackers in your bag.
Pumpkin and peanut oat porridge
- ¼ cup of pinhead/rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons of pumpkin, peeled and cubed
- 1 tablespoon of raw peanuts (shelled)
- 1-2 cups of water (depending on how thick you like your porridge)
- ¼ cup of minced meat (chicken or pork)
- ½ teaspoon soya sauce
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- A dash of pepper
- 1 teaspoon spring onions, chopped
- 1 teaspoon old ginger, thinly shredded
- Marinate the minced meat with soya sauce, sesame oil, pepper and leave aside.
- In a saucepan, add in the oats, pumpkin, peanuts and water.
- Bring it to boil. Turn down the heat and leave it to simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the minced meat and break up the meat into small chunks as it cooks.
- Season the porridge to taste. Garnish with spring onions and shredded ginger.
- Serve immediately as it coagulates when it cools down.