When eating ‘al-desko’, food choices are largely driven by convenience rather than nutritional value. Some of the most popular breakfast choices I see around the office are not only some of the most unhealthy options but also detrimental to productivity and our long term health.
So which are the worst offenders, yet the most popular?
1. Health food imposters such as granola and muesli
2. White toast/ bagel/ crumpet with jam
3. Instant porridge
Why are they such poor choices?
Well the granola and muesli options are laden with sugar. Their packaging is distracting and makes you feel you are buying a natural and healthy product. Just because something says ‘100% natural’ doesn’t mean it is good for you. Sugar is natural and we all know the issues there yet the second ingredient on most shop bought cereals list is sugar. Cereals are based on carbohydrates which in the body breaks down to sugar. Your body will quickly utilise this sugar either carrying it off to cells or storing as fat, thus giving you a quick boost of energy before a deep slump which leaves you craving the next sugary intake, queue elvenses. Just one biscuit with your tea, a glass of sweetened squash (even if ‘sugar free’ your brain reacts to the same way as if you were having sugar so the metabolic response is the same). All of this is a vicious cycle of sugar driven energy highs and lows.
Even instant porridge is too refined to give the slow release energy porridge is known for. Oats have had to have been processed to enable them to be cooked so quickly, this changes them into a poor breakfast choice whereas jumbo oats cooked slowly with milk are far superior and will keep you fuller and more focused for longer.
So what can we have instead?
Forget everything you think know about what breakfast should be. As long as its nutritious and well balanced, anything goes for breakfast, a favourite of mine is leftover dinner, but I appreciate this may be too much of a jump for some.
Well balanced means protein, fat and carbs. All of the traditional breakfast options are mostly devoid of protein and until milk is added, as long as it is full fat, are fat free too. But as our brains need fat to function, this is a vital ingredient you can’t afford to leave out. So in practice what does this look like?
- Swap shop bought granolas for homemade versions with more protein and less sugar. Serve with full fat natural greek yoghurt and a handful of fresh berries.
- Even small changes like having wholemeal toast instead of white is a good start. Ideally we’d swap out processed bread in favour of homemade buckwheat pancakes or biona organic bread, topping with nut butters and berries.
- Swap instant porridge for jumbo oats and cook slowly. If time is an issue, soak overnight first in milk and warm in the microwave. Serve with nuts, seeds, berries, cinnamon, a small amount of honey or greek yogurt.
- Eggs are a fantastic breakfast source, a perfect protein, perfect ratio to fat and cheap. Batch cook boiled eggs at the beginning of the week, store in the fridge and serve with some olive oil, salt and pepper and oatcakes. Can even add some leftover veggies from dinner to up the nutrient status.
- If buying breakfast look for wholegrains and protein. Pret’s 5 grain porridge is perfect or any egg based dishes are a great place to start.
- Homemade muesli. Batch prepare and serve with milk and fresh berries as a cereal alternative. A muesli recipe I like is here.
- A smoothie is another amazing breakfast choice. All ingredients can be placed in the blender jug and stored in the fridge the night before and quickly blitzed in the morning. See my recipe here for a well balanced and nutrient packed breakfast.
Just making one small change, such as breakfast, can really impart positive changes to your health and wellbeing. For other breakfast ideas, see my page here.