This is when you break your fast by eating, usually after a good night’s sleep. Breakfast will help fuel up the energy stores you have used during the night, and it will also give you mental and physical energy for the day ahead.
Why is breakfast important?
Besides providing you with energy, a healthy breakfast gives you many other nutritional benefits. A healthy breakfast provides your body with essential nutrients such as fibre, iron, and vitamins. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast enjoy more balanced meals than those who skip it. They are also less likely to be overweight and have decreased risk of certain diseases.
When you miss breakfast, you are more likely to snack on unhealthy foods later in the morning and you will struggle with a nutritional catch up later in the day.
Breakfast also helps improve your mental performance, concentration, and mood.
What does a healthy breakfast look like?
A healthy, well-balanced breakfast should be based on the main food groups and provide you with about 20-25 per cent of your daily nutritional requirements.
1. Breads, cereals, rice, and other starchy foods – give you energy, B vitamins, iron, and fibre. Choose wholegrain varieties when possible to boost up your fibre and nutrients, and avoid cereals that are coated in sugar.
2. Meat, fish, eggs, legumes – for protein, iron, and vitamins. Choose lean meat cuts and avoid high fat foods such as processed meats and fried eggs. Choose healthy cooking methods such as grilling or poaching, instead of frying.
3. Milk and dairy foods – for protein, calcium and B vitamins. Choose low-fat/skimmed milk and dairy foods. If you are not having cereal, drink a glass of milk on its own or as a milkshake, or have a cup of yogurt or spread low fat cheese or labnah on bread. If you are allergic to dairy, go for non-dairy alternatives such as spinach, kale, almonds (mind your portions), bake beans and canned sardines.
4. Fruit and vegetables – these are good sources of essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Breakfast is a perfect time to include at least one portion of the recommended five portions a day of fruits and vegetables. Add vegetables like peppers, broccoli, mushrooms or tomatoes to your egg or egg white omelette, or add strawberries or blueberries to your cereal or toast.
Include a drink in your breakfast, water, milk, 100% pure juice, and vegetable juice are the best options. Avoid foods and drinks that are high in both fat and sugar as they are low in vitamins, minerals ,and other nutrients.
Your lunchbox doesn’t have to be boring. Use your imagination and make it healthy, tasty, and more creative than standard lunch-on-the-go. Just make sure you have something from each of the four food groups in your lunchbox, add a drink, and off you go. Make sure to keep an eye on your portions by using the Healthy Plate Method.
Start with Wholegrains -Breads, Cereals, Pastas
To make your sandwich more interesting, try using a variety of breads such as multigrain, wholemeal, whole-wheat, flax, rye, pita, pumpkin.
You could also pack some leftovers from the night before – such as homemade, fresh thin-bread pizza. For a quick pasta dish, add some vegetables, tomato sauce, tuna or chicken and your favourite olive oil or fresh tomato sauce dressing.
Tasty, Balanced Sandwich Fillings and Extras
Try to include a good mix of lean meat cuts, fish, chicken, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your lunchbox:
- Tuna with cucumber, tomato, and green pepper
- Cooked chicken or turkey, mustard, tomatoes, and lettuce
- Peanut butter and grated carrots
- Hummus with olive oil
- Egg with light mayonnaise and cucumber
- Labnah with tomatoes, cucumber, and olives
- Salmon with pickles and lettuce
Remember, if choosing non-processed cheese or labnah spreads, make sure they are the low-fat or skimmed versions.
Fruit and Vegetables
It is important to eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables everyday.
Consider choosing raw vegetables and have at least one dark green or orange vegetable choice, such as cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, broccoli, bell pepper, spinach, and romaine lettuce or a mixed salad.
Fresh fruits such as apple, pear, kiwi, orange, or berries are good choices of low-glycemic index options.
To keep your bones and teeth healthy, try to include low-fat or skimmed dairy products at lunchtime.
Low-fat or skimmed plain yogurt (Check the sugar content as the fruit variety is often high in sugar)
- Water – still or sparkling
- Plain milk – low-fat or skimmed
- Soya milk – low-fat or skimmed
- 100% fruit juice or vegetable juice (check the sugar content)
Snacks can be a good thing. For example, it is often a good idea to snack before or after exercise, or if there was a long period between meals. The key is to choose snacks that provide energy and are packed with vitamins and minerals, not the ones that are high in calories, fat, and salt. Opt for snacks that contain 100 calories or less to stay within your daily calorie goal.
Choose snacks from these food groups:
Breads and Other Starchy Foods
These foods provide energy to our body throughout the day. They are low in fat; contain vitamins, minerals, and fibre if you choose wholegrain types. Here are some suggestions for an easy snack:
- Slice of wholegrain toast with hummus and cucumber
- Small bowl of wholegrain cereals with low-fat/skimmed milk
- Handful of rice crackers or a rice cake
- Handful of dry cereals
- Mini sandwich with low-fat cheese and tomatoes
Fruits and Vegetables
Eating fruits and vegetables can satisfy a hunger pang, without adding fat and only a small number of calories. Fruits and vegetables also provide vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other essential nutrients. Here are some interesting ideas to eat fruits and vegetables:
- Layer fresh berries with yogurt
- Tomatoes, carrot sticks with low-fat or skimmed Areesh cheese or labnah
- Sliced fresh pineapple or grapefruit
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a tasty source of protein, which will help you feel fuller for a longer period of time. Nuts and seeds are high in fibre, and rich in vitamins and minerals. They are also high in the healthy kind of fat and calories – so it is not a good idea to eat too many of them. Choose almonds and walnuts, as they are good source of omega 3.
- Add walnuts on yoghurt
- Handful of almonds and pumpkin seeds
- Sprinkle flaxseed on salad
Snacking on these foods will help you reach the recommended 3-4 servings of dairy foods each day. Cheese, yoghurt, milk, labnah ,and other dairy products are good sources of calcium, protein, and many other vitamins and minerals. Just make sure you choose the low-fat or skimmed versions of these products.
- Low-fat or skimmed cup of plain yoghurt (watch out for fruit varieties as they’re often very high in sugar)
- Coffee made with low-fat milk
- Areesh cheese with crackers
- Strawberry smoothie made with low-fat milk
Eating Healthy When Eating out
Eating healthy doesn't mean that you avoid eating at restaurants all together. Just remember to make wise food choices and plan ahead when you eat out.
- If you know ahead of time that you're going to a restaurant, cut back on calories or go light with your other meals that day or that week
- For sandwich toppings, go for low-calorie options like lettuce, tomato, and onion
- Many restaurants serve huge portions, sometimes enough for two or three people. Share a main course, eat a smaller portion, and ask to take the leftovers home for another meal
- Choose a restaurant that has a wide range of food choices
- Menu terms that could indicate that the food item is rich in fat and calories include: batter-fried, pan-fried, buttered, creamed, crispy, breaded, rich, or au gratin
- Choose foods that are baked, grilled, broiled, steamed, or poached
- Replace your French fries with a salad and ask for the dressing on the side
- Choose a healthy dessert, such as fruit salad, or simply share one dessert
- Don’t be intimidated to ask for information about the ingredients, or to ask to replace some food items with others to make a more nutritious meal
- Start with a non-cream soup or salad that might help you feel satisfied and then opt for a light main course
- Remember to eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry. Fast eaters are often overeaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and are still satisfied
- Say no to upsizing your portions
Remember it’s all about balance. Keep the four food groups in mind when thinking about your meals and learn to make wiser choices.