We are told from infancy that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, providing our bodies with the nutritional tools it needs for a day’s work and play.
Not all breakfasts are created equal, but certain foods can give you the boost you need for a highly-productive day at work.
A recent article in the Times discussed the contention of a well-known doctor that breakfast is responsible for so many human ills – from diabetes to obesity to metabolic syndrome – that we will come to regard eating breakfast as being as socially unacceptable as smoking within a decade. It is fair to say that this runs counter to the parental exhortations of our childhood to eat a good breakfast because ‘it is the most important meal of the day’. It is also a view to which very few dieticians and nutritionists would subscribe.
That being said, there is an emerging consensus that not all breakfast foods are created equal and that you should choose the elements of the meal wisely if you want it to pack the nutritional punch that will power you through a productive day’s work.
Starting with carbohydrates, which are so often considered a dietary bête noire, you should exercise caution. There is a dramatic difference between sugary, starchy cereals, which will deliver a quick but brief boost to your blood sugar levels, and slow-burning carbs such as wholegrain cereals, which will slowly release their energy and help to keep you full and productive. A great choice is a bowl of oatmeal with berries added to the mix for their fibre content, antioxidant activity and flavour.
In terms of protein, it is relatively easy to build a breakfast that will fill you up until lunchtime and keep you energised and productive. Except on special occasions, it is best to eschew the calorie-dense and fatty breakfast proteins contained in sausages and bacon; however, poached eggs, avocadoes or oily fish make a superb way to break your fast, especially when accompanied by high grain bread for fibre and energy and a handful of green leaves such as spinach.
Healthy fats are a crucial part of a satisfying breakfast that will sustain you and boost your performance at work. The omega oils contained in certain fish – such as salmon and mackerel – can give a fillip to your brainpower and concentration in addition to supplying valuable energy. Various preparations on wholegrain toast are achingly fashionable right now, and with good reason; for example, oily avocado on toast with perhaps a sprinkling of seeds and chili is a supremely healthy way to start your day and keep your appetite at bay for hours. Add a glass of milk and you have pretty much the perfect breakfast.
Finally, let’s face it – not everyone can face breakfast. If this is you, why not try a smoothie containing fruit, yogurt and protein powder? This option is as nutritious as it is tasty. Having a cappuccino made with semi-skimmed milk along with some fruit and a couple of squares of good-quality dark chocolate will also give you a real injection of energy with which to meet the day if you do not care for a more elaborate meal first thing.
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