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OPINION PIECE: The best way to start the day


First thing in the morning is often a busy time for households and time is limited. Therefore, there is a need for breakfast to be quick and easy to prepare.

Lindsey MassonIdeally, we want a healthy start to the day, which means a breakfast that is low in saturated fat and free sugars, but high in fibre, fruit and/or vegetables. Variety is also important, to ensure we obtain a range of nutrients and other beneficial compounds, but also for enjoyment – boredom can easily set in if we consume the same breakfast every day.

Fibre keeps the digestive system healthy and is beneficial for reducing the risk of bowel cancer and heart disease. It also helps us feel full, which means we are less likely to eat too much later on in the morning.

However, in general, the UK population is not meeting the recommended intake of 30g/day. To improve this, there are significant sources of fibre that can be easily consumed at breakfast time, including wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholemeal bread, fruit and vegetables.

Some wholegrain breakfast cereals do tend to be high in free sugars however, so it is important to use the front-of-the-pack traffic light labelling system and avoid cereals that are high (red) for total sugars. We should all reduce our free sugar consumption to less than 30g/day (around seven sugar cubes), in order to prevent tooth decay and weight gain.

A number of quick and nutritious breakfast ideas include:

-      Wholegrain breakfast cereal and reduced fat milk (semi-skimmed or skimmed) – you can try adding some chopped or dried fruit on top.

-      Porridge oats are an excellent fibre source and porridge can be jazzed up by sprinkling on chopped or dried fruit, such as sultanas or apricots, or by stirring in some cinnamon.

-      Wholemeal bread or toast with mashed banana, mashed avocado or peanut butter on top.

-      Chopped fruit with plain low-fat yogurt and no-added sugar muesli on top for a bit of crunch. You should limit consumption of flavoured yogurt, which will contain added sugar.

If you have more time in the morning, eggs are a fantastic source of high-quality protein. They can be boiled, scrambled, poached or turned into an omelette with your favourite vegetables, such as peppers, spring onions or mushrooms. You can try adding some black pepper or chilli powder for a bit of a kick.

Pancakes might also be a good idea for a weekend treat and kids will love making them. You can enjoy them with low-fat spread or your favourite fruit.

The main things to avoid or limit at breakfast time are biscuits, cakes, pastries and confectionary, which are generally high in free sugars and/or fat, low in fibre and contain very few vitamins and minerals. Sugary drinks in general also contain few nutrients. Whilst a small glass of fruit juice can contribute to one of your five-a-day of fruit and vegetables, it is also high in free sugars, so fruit juice consumption should be limited.

Lindsey Masson is a Registered Nutritionist and a lecturer in Nutrition at the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences.

Posted by Jonathon Milne
Communications Officer | Health and Sport
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