Since the dawn of time, we have had it ingrained in our minds that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Our mums told us, and so we tell our children. But why? And how? And, er, why again? Belle About Town decided to get to the root of the statement and establish is merit, or myth. We consulted Dr Sally Norton, NHS weight loss consultant surgeon and founder of online helth hub www.vavistalife.com.
What we really want to know is – is a good breakfast essential?
I’m not really a breakfast person, but for years felt I should have a hearty breakfast as it was billed as the best way to start the day. Could the cereal manufacturers have had a part in that, I wonder?! In fact, there is no good evidence that a full-on breakfast is essential for health or weight control. What’s more the classic sugary cereal with fruit juice could be sabotaging our weight control efforts by giving us a sugar dip mid-morning, leaving us reaching for a sugary snack to top our energy levels up again.
What should we do about breakfast when we’re in a rush?
As someone who can happily survive without much food first thing (later on in the day is entirely different!) I am happy to just grab a banana and go. Another quick option would be to blitz a ripe banana and some oats (great for the heart) in a blender with some ice, milk (or almond milk for a lower cal, dairy free option) and fresh or frozen berries if available. The resultant smoothie is filling and full of nutrition, without the excess of sugar found in shop-bought smoothies.
What if exercise is part of your morning routine?
I try hard to do a bit of exercise in the morning when I can (as I just can’t find the willpower later in the day!) and if you’re the same you definitely need a bit more than a banana then. Protein and carbs are shown to be beneficial after exercising – either a veg and tuna omelette with extra egg white or a bowl of Greek yoghurt and blueberries and a piece of wholemeal toast. Protein is often neglected by women – but it is a better breakfast choice than sugary granola or muesli. If you are someone who needs a good breakfast, whether exercising or not, choose eggs or other protein sources, oats and other wholegrains and whole fresh fruit packed with fibre rather than fruit juice.
Is a morning coffee a good idea or bad for our health?
I can’t seem to get going without a coffee in the morning. Caffeine has previously been billed as bad – but actually, plenty of studies show a beneficial effect if you don’t overdo it. What’s more, a recent review from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) showed that caffeine may protect against certain cancers and does not seem to increase the risk of others. However, I am trying to let my usual black coffee cool a bit, or add milk, as drinking any fluids at temperatures of over 650C may be associated with an increased risk of some cancers. I try to restrict my caffeine habit to two or three as overdosing isn’t great for mood and concentration – and I avoid coffee after lunch to ensure it doesn’t disrupt my precious sleep. I also steer well clear of the huge, calorie laden lattes and similar in the hospital Costa – they can have the equivalent of a quarter of my day’s calorie needs plus loads of sugar!