A nutritious breakfast is one of the best ways to ensure that your day gets off to a good start: eating breakfast breaks your overnight fast and replenishes your energy stores for the day ahead.
Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast have, overall, more balanced diets and are less likely to be overweight or obese. They also have reduced risk of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. For schoolchildren, eating breakfast has been associated with higher rates of literacy and numeracy as well as better concentration and memory.
Yet, despite all the evidence supporting the importance of breakfast, many people still forgo a morning meal – an average of 77 times a year according to a study by DataMonitor last year.
Breakfast in a glass is one solution to this all-too-familiar problem. Whipping up a creamy and delicious smoothie with nutritious ingredients can take less time than putting together a cooked breakfast or preparing muesli or porridge. And smoothies are far more nutritious than toast. A smoothie can also be consumed on the go – placed in a cup-holder in the car or sipped on the train on the way in to work.
What's in a good breakfast?
Ideally, breakfast should meet 20-25 per cent of your daily nutritional requirements. It should include foods that are high in fibre and provide a good source of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are able to enjoy a higher intake of essential nutrients throughout the day. They also have better memory and concentration at work. Eating breakfast is an excellent opportunity to consume nutrient-dense and fibre-rich foods to boost your daily intake. In particular, B vitamins, folate and iron are important for thinking and concentration.
Carbohydrates are a major source of energy and help break the fast experienced overnight. The morning intake should comprise foods that are high in fibre and minimally processed. Wholegrain cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables are good examples.
Fruits that are harvested and consumed seasonally provide a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Look for varieties that are richly coloured as it reflects high levels of antioxidants. Good choices for morning smoothies include fresh (or frozen) berries, bananas, green apples and pears. Figs also contain one of the highest fibre contents of any fruit and can be added fresh or dried to milk-based smoothies.
Freshly-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices are a good source of vitamins and minerals, however they lack the fibre and some of the phytonutrients found in whole fruit. Most store-bought varieties are pasteurised or sweetened which increases the sugar content and makes them relatively low in important nutrients. Fresh, raw coconut water is a minor exception. It contains less sugar compared to conventional fruit juice and is also a good source of electrolytes, which are important for hydration.
Dietary fibre is found naturally in plant foods such as wholegrain cereals, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruit. A good intake of dietary fibre helps to keep the digestive system healthy. It also regulates blood glucose levels and lowers blood cholesterol. Most Australians do not get enough daily fibre. The recommended intake is 30grams/day, but the average intake is less than 20g. A minimum intake of 5g for breakfast would be ideal. Here are some good sources:
Green leafy vegetables
These are an excellent source of fibre and also contain a rich source of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Opt for non-cruciferous varieties, such as celery, fennel, lettuce and cucumbers. Raw cruciferous vegetables (such as kale, cabbage and spinach) contain compounds that can inhibit thyroid function when eaten in large amounts. Cooking the vegetables reduces the risk.
Oat bran is not considered a wholegrain, but it has an exceptionally high fibre content: a cup of oat bran contains up to 50 per cent more fibre and protein, calcium, iron and zinc than that of oatmeal. In particular, it contains large amounts of soluble fibre, which slows down stomach emptying and helps you to feel fuller for longer after eating.
Chia seeds are worth mentioning for their exceptionally high fibre content – a single tablespoon of chia seeds provides 8.2 grams of fibre, which is roughly equivalent to 25 per cent of the recommended daily intake. They also provide a good source of plant-based, omega-3 fatty acids as well as minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium.
It is important to include protein with breakfast as it provides a major source of energy and increases feelings of satiety. Studies have shown that people who eat protein with their morning meal are less likely to snack on energy-dense foods later in the day. Good sources of protein include nuts, seeds, eggs, avocadoes and dairy products.
Eggs are a good source of protein, healthy fats and vitamins A, D and B-6. They make an easy addition to morning smoothies, but you need to be aware of the potential risks associated with salmonella poisoning if you are in a high-risk group.
Natural, pot-set yoghurt
Yoghurt is a well-balanced source of protein, fats and carbohydrates. Unflavoured, pot-set varieties are richer in protein and contain health-promoting probiotic bacteria, which makes them easier to digest. They are also an excellent source of calcium. One cup provides over half of the daily requirements. Look for plain, unflavoured yoghurt varieties that have been pot-set with lactic acid bacteria. Avoid those made with stabilisers and thickeners.
A note on protein powders: These have become popular in recent years as a means of increasing muscle mass while exercising. It’s important to note that the quality of protein powders is highly variable, with many offering little to no proven benefit. Some brands of whey protein powder may provide a good source of protein for breakfast smoothies, but wholefood sources like nuts, seeds, eggs, avocado or fresh dairy products are always best as they provide a ‘package’ of nutrients which are beneficial to health and metabolism.
Good fats are an essential part of a healthy diet as they provide fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. They also increase feelings of satiety and help us to feel fuller for longer. Healthy additions to a breakfast smoothie include a handful of nuts, seeds, fresh eggs or an avocado. These foods are good sources of health-promoting monounsaturated fats.
Nuts contain a rich source of health-promoting monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They also contain a good source of protein as well as several important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, magnesium, iron and zinc. Nuts can be eaten raw or pre-soaked and sprouted for easier digestion. You can also add spoonfuls of nut butter straight into smoothies.
A rich source of monounsaturated fats, avocado also contains good amounts of fibre, antioxidants and folate. In smoothies, they add a lovely, smooth creamy texture, and are a great addition to any vegetable-based mix.
Varieties such as sesame seeds, linseed, flax seeds and sunflower seeds are a rich source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They also contain good amounts of protein, fibre and antioxidants such as vitamin E. They can be added fresh or ground into smoothies or pureed into a paste (in the case of tahini) and added by the spoonful.
Tips for making breakfast in a jar even better
- Fresh fruit such as berries, ripe bananas and mangoes can be sliced, ready-prepared and stored in cellophane or zip-lock bags in your freezer.
- Keep a good supply of seeds, nuts and wholegrains in your pantry. Store them in airtight glass jars.
- Consider making your own nut milk – almond milk or coconut milk for a different take on your morning smoothie blend. This can be stored in a glass jar in your fridge.
A recycled glass jar can make an excellent container for a smoothie-on-the-go. Re-use glass jars and keep them in a separate drawer of your kitchen so that they are easy to find in the morning. They even come with lids to prevent spills!
Luscious creamy fig and almond smoothie
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup plain, unflavoured yoghurt
3-4 large, dried figs
2 teaspoons LSA mix (linseeds, sunflower seeds and almond meal) OR 1 tablespoon almond butter
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1 small, ripe banana
Dash of vanilla essence
For a fibre boost: add 1 tablespoon oat bran or an additional teaspoon of chia seeds.
For a chocolate-flavoured smoothie: add 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder. Cacao powder is also a good source of several minerals and fibre.
Place all ingredients in a blender and whizz until fluffy.
Mint and Blueberry smoothie (with sneaky hidden greens)
2 large sticks of celery, leaves mostly removed, chopped into 2.5cm pieces
1 cup loosely packed lettuce, coarsely chopped
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup water
juice of 1 small lemon
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon loosely packed mint leaves
1/2 of 1 large avocado (or 1 small avocado)
For added richness: Add the remaining 1/2 of the avocado and puree to a liquid with additional water or coconut water.
Place all ingredients in a blender and whizz until fluffy.
What's your best breakfast tip? Share your tips using the comment function below.
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