Whatever you do for breakfast, just make sure you don’t skip it

GRABBING breakfast on the go, or missing it in the mad morning rush, is common.

After all, why waste time sitting down to a healthy meal, when you can just munch on a breakfast bar on the way to work? The answer is simple — eating breakfast on the go, or skipping it, means missing out on vital nutrients.

Also, allowing yourself an extra five minutes every morning to eat a bowl of cereal, rather than grabbing a fruit scone and latte on the way to work, could save more than €900 a year (which could pay for a very nice holiday!).

A good start is porridge, which contains protein, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, vitamins E and B, and plenty of soluble fibre with cholesterol-lowering properties.

Oats are famed for keeping you feeling full for longer, so you’ll be less tempted to snack. And if cooking porridge is time-consuming, do ‘overnight porridge’: the oats are soaked in milk in the fridge overnight, ready to be eaten in the morning. Add fruit and seeds for taste.

Dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton says humble bowls of cereal are a good choice, and they often provide a significant amount of fibre.

“On average, cereal breakfasts give you more nutritional bang for your buck and are a very affordable, healthy way to start the day, particularly if you’re watching the cents,” she says.

Some are fortified with extra nutrients, too.

“If you eat a fortified breakfast cereal, you can get loads of nutrients, including iron, B vitamins and vitamin D,” says dietitian Alison Clark, adding that for people who spend most of their day indoors and are not getting enough daylight, which can cause vitamin D deficiency, a fortified cereal is a great solution.

Of course, many cereals, particularly for children, contain lots of added sugar: even a small bowl of some popular brands can contain three teaspoons, which is the same as two-and-a-half chocolate biscuits.

This can contribute to unhealthy weight gain, raising the risk of lifestyle-related illnesses, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

“You’ll get some cereals that are really high in sugar, and others that are better for you. You’ve just got to be label-savvy and choose the healthier ones,” advises Clark.

Breakfasts don’t have to be repetitive and boring, and if you don’t fancy cereal, there are plenty of other, healthy options.

“There are loads of other, healthy breakfasts you can go for — there’s porridge, toast and nut butter, boiled or scrambled egg and toast, and even leftovers from the night before,” says Clark.

Even cooked breakfasts can be made healthily, by scrambling or poaching eggs, instead of frying them, and by grilling mushrooms and tomatoes. These are a great source of the antioxidant compound, lycopene, which helps protect against prostate cancer. You can also add baked beans for soluble fibre, and wholemeal toast.

“Just avoid processed red meat, like bacon,” says Clark, who says that limiting your intake of processed read meat is advisable due to its links with certain cancers.

Whatever you choose, eating something is always better than skipping breakfast.

“We need to encourage people to eat breakfast, because it’s a really good source of nutrients, and eating something first thing in the morning is better than going without,” says Clark.

“It breaks the fast and gets your metabolism going.”

People often ditch breakfast in a bid to lose weight. However, research repeatedly shows that people who eat breakfast tend to maintain a healthy weight.

“People might think they’re going to save calories by not eating breakfast, but by mid-morning they’re starving, and often the only thing that’s available is the work biscuit barrel, so you end up eating more calories than you would have done with, say, a 160-calorie bowl of cereal,” says Clark.

“If you can get yourself into the habit of eating something in the morning, it will pay dividends for your health. Make the time — it’s five minutes very well spent.”


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