What makes an energising breakfast?
As with most areas of health and nutrition, there has been some controversy around the topic of breakfast recently. Exactly what we should be eating, when and how much have all been hot topics of conversation. Some common mistakes at breakfast time include:
- Loading up on coffee
- Opting for sugary cereals
- Being too carb heavy
- Forgetting about healthy fats
- Poor protein intake
In contrast, some top breakfast tips include:
- Don't skip
- Don't be tempted by modern tradition
- Get prepared in advance
- Have a balanced option
- Pack in antioxidants
Here I also reveal some of my top recipe picks to ensure you're always opting for an energising breakfast to help get you through the morning.
1. Loading up on coffee
We see it in films and TV adverts galore and therefore, it's often more commonly accepted that starting our day with a coffee is a good way to go! In reality, here at A.Vogel, we understand that a strong dose of caffeine first thing in the morning might not put us in such good stead for the rest of the day.
Caffeine initiates our stress hormones, influences our hormones and risks interrupting our appetite, all of which can have detrimental effects on our mood and eating habits later as the morning goes on. My advice is to reduce your intake and swap in some nutritious alternatives instead if you admit you're pretty reliant on your hit of caffeine first thing.
Recipe idea: Banana & Avocado Smoothie
This smoothie is the perfect alternative to a mug of the strong stuff. It is much more substantial than a cuppa – it's actually got some wholefoods in there after all!
The banana and avocado portions are nutritious and provide a lovely combination of complex carbs, and healthy fats. Plus, the addition of some Bambu powder in this recipe provides some lovely coffee hints for those that are missing that distinctive taste first thing.
2. Opting for sugary cereals
Supermarkets and their clever marketing ploys are quick to lead us to believe that no breakfast is complete without some cereal on the menu. The problem with this is that breakfast cereals are highly processed options which often mean they can have some scary proportions of sugar in.
Not only will this fail to keep you satisfied for any length of time, but it could also be contributing to wobbly blood sugar levels which will only leave you feeling peckish and much more likely to crave something sweet, later on in the morning. Elevenses anyone?
Recipe idea: Baked Berry Oatmeal
Rather than opting for pre-packaged cereals, using oats as a base are a better option. Oats (just so long as they're not flavoured instant oats) are generally lower in refined sugar and have a higher proportion of complex carbohydrates and protein.
Then, you can up the nutrient intake further with the addition of some fresh fruit and/or organic nut butters as we highlight in this recipe.
3. Being too carb heavy
As well as breakfast cereals, toast is often high on the list of popular breakfast options. Unfortunately, both are pretty heavy on refined carbs. Without some other macronutrients such as healthy fats or protein to help slow the release of these carbs into your system, you could be left feeling peckish pretty soon afterwards.
Recipe idea: Poached Eggs & Spinach on Wholemeal Toast
Whilst toast isn't a total no-go, the quality of the bread is an important consideration, as is what you pair it up with. Opt for wholemeal, wholegrain or sourdough varieties of bread which are generally more nutritious, plus gentler on your digestive system. Next, get topping your toast with some protein rich eggs and nutrient rich spinach as outlined in this recipe, or organic, wholefood nut butters are also a healthy option if you fancy more of a sweet, rather than a savoury start to the day.
4. Forgetting about healthy fats
Whilst we're rushing about in the morning it can be easy to forget to prioritise healthy fats as part of our first meal of the day. However, research suggests that healthy fats vital are a vital component for helping us to feel fuller for longer, not to mention all the health benefits associated with them.
Popular breakfast ingredients that are rich in those all-important fatty acids can include anti-inflammatory omega-3 found in oily fish, walnuts or good quality eggs, or monounsaturated fatty acids found in nuts, seeds and ground nut butters.
Recipe idea: Creamy Almond Butter Acai Bowl
Acai bowls are not only impressive to look at (remember we eat with our eyes too!) but they can also be extremely nutrient-packed depending on what ingredients you go for.
This option has included almond butter and a selection of nutrient-packed frozen berries to help get you through the dreariest of mornings, feeling at your best.
5. Poor protein intake
Much like healthy fats, good sources of protein are often thrown by the wayside in favour of carb-heavy options first thing. We not only need protein for vital repair and regeneration processes throughout our bodies (particularly relevant if you're the active sort), but protein also helps to keep you feeling satisfied for longer; this can be especially useful if you're a serial snacker!
Recipe idea: Overnight Passion Fruit Chia Pudding
There are lots of protein-rich breakfast ingredients; from more savoury options including eggs or smoked salmon but, if you fancy something a little sweeter, getting a good dose of protein included in the recipe is the best way to support your body whilst doing this.
Chia seeds are one of my favourite seeds. When mixed with liquids they form a delicious gelatinous consistency, which, when paired with some sweet fruit components, makes for a decidedly moreish combo!
My Top Energising tips:
1. Rehydrate yourself first
It's normal to be slightly dehydrated when you first wake up (you may have just gone 7-8 hours without drinking water, after all!) but, for those who sleep less than this, you might be even more dehydrated! According to a study by Penn State, adults who sleep just six hours per night may have a higher chance of being dehydrated.
The cause was linked to a hormone called vasopressin which helps to regulate the body's hydration status. It's released later on in the sleep cycle so it can be missed if waking earlier, which may cause a disruption in the body's hydration.1
Therefore, I recommend drinking a glass of water (approx. 250-300ml) upon waking up, at least 20 minutes before your breakfast. This helps to replace any water loss immediately to help get your hydration and energy levels ready for the day ahead.
2. Don't skip breakfast
With different trends coming into play such as intermittent fasting, it might mean that you're more tempted to skip breakfast, however the research still suggests that those that skip breakfast completely, are more likely to make poorer choices later in the day, and ultimately their body weight and different health outcomes could suffer.2
If anything I'd say to extend the overnight fast by an hour two before tucking into a nutritious breakfast – this way, you'll get the best of both worlds!
Recipe idea: Healthy Banana Oat Cookies
If you're mainly tempted to skip brekkie due to time constraints, you can get planning healthier options in advice, and/or create homemade options to go.
These healthy, yet convenient banana and oat cookies, for example, contain a good dose of slow release carbs, plus a pinch of cinnamon, will also help to ensure your blood sugar levels are kept stable until lunch time.
3. Don't be tempted by modern tradition
When it comes to modern-day breakfast traditions, I think it's safe to say that many of us have fallen into some bad habits. Firstly, we tend to prioritise high carb options much of the time (forgetting about also including sufficient protein and fats), but also, the emphasis seems to be on lots of sweeter options.
Historically, breakfast would have been leftovers from the dinner the evening before, or what's left in the fridge or pantry. Crucially this often meant the ingredients included more fresh foods, so it certainly isn't a bad tactic to try and pick up again!
Recipe idea: Savoury Egg Muffins
I particularly like this recipe for a number of reasons. Firstly, it gives you scope to use leftover ingredients, ideal for limiting food waste but it allows for more variety in your diet!
Next, these savoury egg muffins can be made in advance and are very convenient – they can be dressed up if you have some more time or packed up for breakfast on the go if you're in more of a rush.
4. Get prepared in advance
It's understandable that people can be a little short on time in the morning; especially if they are starting work early or have a family to also get ready and get out the door.
However, lack of time shouldn't be a barrier to eating good food – it just takes a little more planning! Whilst dinner is cooking away the night before, this can be a good time to get on top of preparing breakfast or lunches for the following day.
Recipe idea: Chocolate & Coconut Overnight Oats
This breakfast idea is not only simple, delicious and a good source of protein, it's also a great option to make up in advance. Make in a bigger dish which you can dip into for at least 2-3 days (so long as it's kept in the fridge) or pack into smaller dishes which you can grab each morning.
5. Have a balanced option
Balance is key at breakfast or you can risk feeling peckish or making poorer food choices later on in the day. As much as carbs may be the staple, just make sure you're balancing these with sufficient protein, fat and the less refined the sources of carbohydrate, the better.
If you are buying any packaged goods just have a quick check of the label to ensure the sugar content isn't too high.
Recipe idea: Coconut & Almond Granola
Whilst shop bought granola which is often deemed the 'healthy option' in reality it is often packed with sugar! Therefore, making your own at home means you can help ensure you know exactly what goes into it.
This coconut & almond option is the perfect example of how to do it right! Packed with protein-rich almonds and pumpkin seeds the nutrient count is equally impressive. Some maple syrup for some sweetness is a safer option versus conventional sugar and this is nicely balanced with some cinnamon to help manage those all-important blood sugar levels – perfect!
6. Pack in the antioxidants too
As much as we've talked about the importance of balancing macronutrients including your carbohydrates, protein and fats, getting a good dose of antioxidants to get your day off to a good start is also important.
Antioxidants tend to be more readily found in plant-based foods, and often the brighter the colour, the better the antioxidant status!
Recipe idea: Dairy-free Blueberry Smoothie
Going by colour giving a good indication of antioxidant status, means that blueberries are a top pick. Combining the berries with coconut butter and flaxseeds helps ensure you get a good dose of healthy fats to make this smoothie even more substantial, allowing it to fuel you through until lunch – enjoy!