This post is a three-in-one low down covering my thoughts on ‘why eat breakfast’ and top 10 online resources for healthier breakfast recipes, as well as my current summer favourite of honey grilled peaches, ricotta and pistachios.
A healthy breakfast, as the wisdom goes, is the most important meal of the day. Miss it and the body will crave carbs by 11am in great quantities to mind its gap while we jump the gap boarding trains, take-aways in hand. How long does it take to make breakfast at home? I’ve never been one to enjoy gulping food on the run, or lurching around with a scalding hot coffee on car dashboards, or as trains go through point changes. If I have to take time to queue at a take-away or shop counter to pick up some stop-gap breakfast, I’ve the same time, and in greater comfort, to rustle up some breakfast at home. What’s it to factor in 15 minutes more even on the earliest of starts?
OK, I am not commuting these days, and haven’t for many years, but I do have incredibly early starts school terms and summer holidays too. Usually days start at 6.15. The heat gets me up early in summer, and to beat the traffic jams, term time sees us properly fed and watered, lunch pack made and on the road by 7.30.
Only yesterday I read on the BBC that people should eat breakfast to maintain a healthy heart. Waiting til lunchtime to eat can stress the body, and tempt us to pack in the wrong type of food (starches, aka sugars which convert to body fat).
While the body does need to kick start itself, the healthiness of some breakfasts is a moot point. While on holiday in the UK last week, we ate breakfast out each morning for the first four days. Our intake varied from McDonald’s (once) to M&S take-away counter food (three times) which included a wide range of whatever took our fancy from granola, fruit, yoghurt and orange juice to iced cinnamon twists and Eccles cakes. Our next place, a rambling vicarage BnB near York, offered the full Monty traditional English cooked breakfast of egg, bacon, sausages, black pudding, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes and copious volumes of toast, tea, jams, fruit, yoghurt, cereals, honey as well.
Which options were healthier? The short answer is the protein-based breakfast, so the full Monty English despite its fat is not too bad a choice. If you follow Dr Briffa, the media-friendly British doctor of Maltese origins, you’ll be familiar with his mantra that fat is not the evil it’s made out to be; Dr Briffa lays into carbs and therefore nearly all our familiar breakfast ingredients of cereals, toast, marmalade and fruit juices (less worry with Smoothies) as starches, which converts to fat.
The days we had the English cooked breakfast, we didn’t eat lunch nor feel like eating lunch. Granted, we had a later, longer breakfast and the hot weather put us off stoking up midday. And yes, we certainly over ate at breakfast. But from my school days, I remember cooked breakfasts keeping me going til school lunchtime (no mid-morning playground snacks allowed or needed in those days of strict three meals a day regime). The joint first place is the yoghurt and granola. Dairy is protein, and with a homemade and less sugary granola this would be an ideal breakfast-to-go ‘lite’ for commuters. Not everyone can take time to cook up each morning.
Then again, breakfasts should be out-of-the-box meals in terms of our thinking, not take-away cartons. If you’ve cooked up too much chicken or salmon for supper the night before, why not eat some cold (minus the pasta!) for breakfast? One breakfast recipe in the resources list below is a tabbouleh with cucumber, tomato and mint. Anything is possible but most of us are rooted to cereal and toast. Try some breakfasts from other parts of the world. My healthy breakfast recipes list (see below) has plenty of unusual and other wordly options to try.
This link provides a good round-up and comparative review of 10 breakfasts from commercial cereals to the full Monty English. Dr Briffa and a US doctor’s theories are tested. Try a week of testing out a certain breakfast type that’s not your norm and see how you feel mid morning, lunchtime, late afternoon. When are the peaks and troughs of tiredness and hunger? The basic rule of thumb to pacing meals is not to let yourself get over hungry nor eat when you are feeling famished, whatever meal or time of day.
My breakfast for the past week since our return home has been peaches and cream. I don’t think I’d manage the full English day in day out. It’s hot and humid, so cooking is off my radar. Our markets are choc with perfect peaches – red, yellow, golden, rosy. All ripe to perfection. This is less a recipe and more an idea post; breakfast on peaches, ricotta, (honey, yes, a mere drizzle) and thyme on the patio before sun rises and heat hits.
This is how I am enjoying my first half hour of July days…eating an age-old Mediterranean style breakfast that’s low Gl and protein-laden even if it has fruit (aka sugar, but at least fibre, vitamins & minerals too). I must miss out the honey but not just yet. Peaches for now, but I’ll use figs when in season in September. By getting up half an hour earlier than I need to, I can eat leisurely, savour the cool and peace of early morning, really taste those peaches rather than gulp them. If you don’t have time for breakfast, make some. It’s less stressful on mind and body to start the day this way.
10 Healthy Breakfast Ideas & Resources
Healthy Breakfast Recipes – a round-up from Taste magazine, Australia. Some carb ones, but minimal (odd slice of brown toast, bagel etc) and good tasty ideas.
10-minute breakfast recipes – Eating Well. I am not sure of the need for the emphasis on low fat, but some good ideas in this bunch.
What Katie Ate breakfast recipes – I particularly like the smoked trout one which I’ve made three times but for weekend brunch not a speedy breakfast. A mixed bag of recipes to suit most diets and tastes. Lovely to gawk if not make!
Healthy Breakfast & Brunch Recipes – Cooking Light. I like the Libanais option which is a Middle Eastern inspired dish. Salad for breakfast! Plenty of healthy options in among the regular carb waffle and bagel recipes. Worth browsing through to think laterally on your breakfast.
Jamie Oliver Breakfast Recipes – I love the ‘morning-after breakfast’, Pukkolla (kind of porridge) and all the smoothies. And he has the ‘full English’, of course. Listings are helpfully categorised by the main ingredient – pork, eggs, milk etc.
10 Nourishing Oatmeal and Porridge Recipes – The Kitchn. Ones for winter days but an excellent resource to help you spice up porridge – one of my favourite and a very healthy breakfast option. Use oatmeal on yoghurt in summer months.
Greek Yoghurt and not just for Breakfast – 51 ways to use Greek yoghurt. Enough said!
How to Cook a full English Breakfast – Cosmo Soave-Smith (author’s name says it all doesn’t it?). Immense detail on timing, and choosing pukka raw ingredients to make a difference. The full English can be eaten any time of day, that’s its beauty.
Gluten-free Breakfast Recipes – useful if you need some gluten-free bakery options, but protein and dairy breakfasts do the job.
Healthy breakfasts at hotel buffets? How and what to choose to eat healthier. I came across The Healthy Road Warrior and suggest you browse it if you’re off on a hotel holiday. It has several posts giving advice on what to avoid at the breakfast and lunch buffets. US-centric but equally valid info for Europe too.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
Mediterranean breakfast of peaches, ricotta & thyme honey
1 large or 2 small peaches or nectarines per person
ricotta (crumbly sort best)
pistachios or other nuts of choice (almonds are nice too)
fresh thyme sprig (or mint)
small sprinkle of caster sugar to griddle peaches
1. Wash peaches, pat dry gently, slice in half and remove stones.
2. Sprinkle a little caster sugar on the cut sides and griddle in a pre-heated, ridged cast-iron pan or on the BBQ until seared and lightly soft to touch.
3. Cool or serve warm with dollops of ricotta (or thick yoghurt if preferred).Sprinkle ricotta with chopped nuts, a drizzle of honey and some thyme sprigs.
Perfect for breakfast or a dessert.