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Why you shouldn’t skip breakfast

“Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.” The ancient proverb suggests that most of your food should be consumed at the beginning of the day with less being eaten at the end of the day. It makes sense, since you need the energy from food throughout the day, yet when you are sleeping you need fewer kilojoules.

The problem is that most people today eat exactly the reverse of this: a small breakfast, a modest lunch and then a huge dinner before crawling into bed. To get you motivated to make a change, here are some of the benefits of a big breakfast and some delicious recipes to make it fun.

The breakfast bonus

Eating a big breakfast certainly gives you energy to run on during the day. The name of the meal is big clue as to its benefits: breakfast is literally the breaking of your night-time fast. By the time you wake, you will not have eaten for 8–12 hours. Your blood sugar will be rock bottom and your brain needs sugar to function. The problem is you may well turn to the wrong foods to give you a quick sugar hit or even skip breakfast altogether because of time pressures.

If you are a breakfast skipper, you are doing yourself no favours at all. If absolute lack of time is the issue, then really make the effort to get up half an hour early in order to have a real breakfast. Studies show that people who eat a good breakfast tend to weigh less because they are not snacking on fatty and sugary foods during the morning. Breakfast also gives your brain something to work on and kids and adults function better when they have had breakfast. The question is, of course, what to have for breakfast?

The menu

Breakfast should be substantial. Coffee with a slice of toast is not a sustaining way to start the day. Ideally, you need to have protein, complex carbohydrate and perhaps a bit of fruit. Protein is the most satiating of the food ingredients: it blunts your hunger and keeps you feeling full until lunchtime. Good protein sources include eggs, beans, low-fat meats and dairy.

Rather than sugary foods, you need complex carbohydrates at this time of day as they are broken down more slowly and provide sustained energy over a longer time frame. A good basic breakfast might be a boiled egg, wholegrain muesli with soy milk or low-fat dairy, a piece of fruit and (yes, you can have it) your cup of coffee or tea. Some more exciting options to spice up your breakfast menu are provided in the recipe section a little later.

Notice anything missing here? That staple of many breakfasts, fruit juice has not yet rated a mention. This is because, while some juices offer excellent nutrition, there is also the sugar issue to consider.

The juice on juice

Fruit juice can be a part of a healthy diet, but you need to remember that it’s quite concentrated in terms of sugars. So it’s a good idea to dilute your juice. Go for the pure juice, not the 35 per cent sugar and water concoctions. Although juice contains fructose (and not sucrose), when you juice you lose fibre from the fruit and perhaps other nutrients as well.

When you eat a piece of fruit you are eating lots of other good nutrients. You do have some sugar, but also vitamins, minerals and fibre, and the sugar is bound up with all those things. When you have a juice, it’s heavily sugar in content and your body will have a similar glycaemic response as to plain sugar, and you are having a lot of kilojoules.

Fibre is vital to maintain good bowel health and it has a very low glycaemic index, so have the pure juices or, preferably, juice the fruit yourself and dilute it a little with water.

Breakfast facts

  • Breakfast eaters are more likely to be of normal weight compared with non-breakfast eaters. This is important in preventing childhood obesity.
  • Breakfast improves alertness, concentration, mental performance and memory.
  • Research has shown as many as one in four children go to school hungry. Those who skip breakfast are more likely to snack on less nutritious meals during the day, resulting in higher intake of fat, which contributes to weight gain.
  • Breakfast can help to improve a person’s mood. That’s why people become tired and irritable when they miss breakfast.
  • Breakfast eaters have higher intakes of essential nutrients such as carbohydrate, dietary fibre and certain vitamins and minerals. It has been shown that if breakfast is missed, the nutrients normally provided by breakfast are not replaced during the rest of the day.
  • A healthy breakfast is one that provides a variety of foods and is low in fat and high in carbohydrates.
  • Source: Dietitian’s Association of Australia

    Now that you are motivated to eat a hearty breakfast, here are some delicious and healthy recipes to make your breakfast experience all the more sumptuous.

    Breakfast recipes

    Fruit, nut & tahini breakfast bars

    Description: Dried fruit, nuts and seeds combine in these low-GI breakfast bars. They’re only slightly sweet but full of flavour. These are adapted from a recipe on the Veggie Meal Plans blog (www.veggiemealplans.com).

    Serving: Makes 15 bars. Great for breakfast or a snack on the go.

    Storage: Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3–4 days. Can also be frozen.

    Alternatives: Different nuts, dried fruit, spice and seed combinations can be used to vary these breakfast bars.

    Ingredients

  • ½ cup dried dates, diced
  • ½ cup tahini
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • â…“ cup mixed nuts, chopped (I used almonds, pecans & brazils)
  • â…“ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruit (I used sultanas, apricots & apple)
  • Method

    Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 25cm square baking pan.

    Cook the dates: Put the dates in a saucepan over a medium heat and add ½ cup water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened. Set aside to cool slightly for 15 minutes. Add the tahini and stir to combine.

    Make the bars: Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the date and tahini mix. Stir to combine.

    Cook the bars: Pour the mixture into the baking pan, pressing down so it’s evenly spread. Cook for 15–20 minutes until the bars are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into 15 bars.

    Pea, mint & fetta mini frittata

    Description: I love these mini frittatas and make them all the time. I have a couple for breakfast and have served them with salad for lunch. They also make a useful and filling snack. This recipe is based on the egg muffins from Kalyn’s Kitchen blog (kalynskitchen.com).

    Serving: Makes 12 mini frittatas.

    Storage: These can be stored for 2 days in the fridge and can be frozen.

    Cooking: These frittatas puff up when cooking and it’s normal for them to deflate slightly when out the oven.

    Alternatives: I have made these with many different combinations of cooked vegetables and fresh herbs, though this recipe is my favourite.

    Ingredients

  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 cups baby English spinach
  • ½ bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 12 eggs
  • 150g fetta, crumbled
  • Method

    Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 12-hole non-stick muffin tray and dust each cup with breadcrumbs. Shake to remove any excess — it only needs to be a thin coating.

    Cook the vegetables: Bring a pan of water to the boil over a high heat. Add the peas and cook for 1 minute. Add the English spinach and cook for 1 more minute. Drain the peas and spinach and stir through the fresh mint.

    Make the muffins: Divide the pea and spinach mixture between the muffin cups. Top with a few slices of shallots. Beat the eggs together in a large jug and season. Pour a small amount into each muffin cup, distributing evenly. The muffin cups should be almost full, but not overflowing. Top with the crumbled fetta and place in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes until puffed and golden. Leave to cool for 15 minutes in the muffin tray, before turning out and placing on a wire rack.

    Pear & ginger toasted muesli

    Description: Most toasted mueslis are full of fat and sugar. In contrast, this recipe is made without the oil and with maple syrup instead of sugar. It makes a delicious and crunchy breakfast.

    Serving: Serve with milk and some natural yoghurt.

    Storage: Stores for 2 months in an airtight container in the fridge.

    Cooking: Take care when toasting the oats, as they can easily burn. Turn the mixture every 10 minutes to prevent this from occurring.

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ cup pear or apple juice
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 cup dried pear, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup sultanas
  • Method

    Preheat the oven to 160°C.

    Soak the oats: Place the oats and ginger in a bowl and pour over the pear juice and maple syrup. Mix until well combined and leave to soak for 10–15 minutes.

    Toast the muesli: Spread the oats out on a baking tray and place in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes, removing the baking tray and stirring the oats every 10 minutes. This is important to prevent the oats from burning. After 30 minutes, mix in the seeds and walnuts. Continue toasting for another 10 minutes until the muesli is golden brown.

    To finish: Remove the oat mixture from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Stir through the pear and sultanas.

    Apple & muesli pancakes

    Description: Delicious pancakes that contain both fresh apple and muesli.

    Serving: Serves 4. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice, some natural yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.

    Storage: Cooked pancakes can be stored overnight in the fridge.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
  • ½ cup natural muesli
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 green apple, grated with the skin on
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp butter, melted
  • Method

    Make the batter: Mix together the flour, muesli, cinnamon and baking soda. Add the apple and stir to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, honey and buttermilk. Add this to the flour mix and, using a wooden spoon, beat until well combined. Leave the mixture to stand for 15 minutes.

    Cook the pancakes: Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Brush the base of pan with some of the melted butter. Drop 2 tablespoons of batter into the frying pan, pressing lightly to spread. Cook for 1–2 minutes or until small bubbles appear on the surface. Turn the pancake and cook for a further 30 seconds or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining batter.

    Spiced plum & walnut muffins

    Description: These muffins have a high fruit-to-muffin ratio and are sweetened with honey. Great for breakfast, a low-GI snack and kids’ lunchboxes.

    Serving: Makes 12 muffins.

    Storage: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days. Can also be frozen.

    Cooking: I’ve found it easier leaving them to cool and firm up in the tin for a good 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
    Alternatives: In summer you could replace the plums with peaches or nectarines.

    Ingredients

  • 1½ cups wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 8 plums (about 570g)
  • ½ cup natural yoghurt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • Method

    Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin.

    Mix the dry ingredients: Sieve together the flour, baking soda and spices.

    Prepare the fruit: Roughly chop the plums and put them in a food processor. Pulse, until the fruit is broken up and slightly pureed, but there are still some lumps and texture.

    Make the muffins: In a separate bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, egg, orange juice and honey. Add the pureed plums and stir to combine. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix together until just combined. It’s important to the final texture of the muffins not to beat or over-stir. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin.

    Cook the muffins: Place the muffins in the middle of the oven and cook for 20–25 minutes or until golden-brown on top. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

    Rooibos & mixed berry smoothie

    Description: Rooibos tea and berries are both chock-a-block full of antioxidants. This is a refreshing breakfast drink for those who like something light in the morning but still want plenty of nutrition.

    Serving: 1 serve.

    Storage: Drink fresh.

    Alternatives: Experiment with different fruit combinations. You can also use soy, rice or oat milk.

    Ingredients

  • 1 rooibos teabag
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup mixed berries, frozen or fresh
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • Method

    Brew the tea: Place teabag in a cup, cover with ¼ cup boiling water and leave to brew for 3–4 minutes. Remove the bag and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

    Make the smoothie: Place all the ingredients in a blender with some ice and blend until smooth and thick.

    Kathryn Elliott is a nutritionist and herbalist. Kathryn also writes a professional blog, Limes & Lycopene, which includes articles, recipes and healthy diet advice. W: www.kathrynelliott.com.au.

    Terry Robson

    Terry Robson

    Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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