Taking a look at what constitutes a healthy breakfast in order to get the day started in the right direction
The importance of a hearty and healthy breakfast
If you are going to give breakfast the starring nutritional role in your day, what exactly should you serve up? Anything you fancy really, provided you look at your plate as a pie chart (but definitely not a real pie) reflecting the daily “reference intakes” recommended by governments and nutritionists around the world.
In terms of the weight of the three big macronutrients consumed daily, of an ideal total of 380 grams of food, carbohydrates should account for 260g (about 70 per cent), fats 70g (18 per cent) and protein just 50g (12 per cent). Consumed over a day, this provides about 2,000 calories, enough to maintain, but not increase, weight. Men can allow themselves 200 to 500 calories more.
If your breakfast reflects these proportions, you’ll be doing well. There’s no reason why a smoothie that blends fruit, yogurt, nuts, seeds and avocado can’t do the job: modern food labelling will tell you exactly what you’re getting in terms of the recommended daily amounts.
One ingredient, however, is vital – fibre, in the form of wholegrain cereals. A study by Tufts University found that schoolchildren who ate instant oatmeal for breakfast performed better in cognitive tasks than those who consumed prepared cereals with the same calorific value. The key appears to be how well the food rates on the glycaemic index (GI) – the measure of the relative speed, on a range of 0 to 100, at which carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels (vital knowledge for diabetics). For example, pure glucose has a GI of 100, while most fruits, vegetables, milk and wholegrain cereals have a much lower GI.
So, including carbohydrates with a low GI in your kick-starter breakfast means your body will access its energy stores gradually throughout the day, and not leave you craving a sugar hit mid-afternoon.