Now I love scrolling down my Instagram feed seeing beautiful pictures of “healthy” breakfasts just as much as the next 20-something year-old girl enduring their early morning commute. BUT whilst I appreciate their striking photography skills or the vast array of colours in their epic fruit salad-smoothie-granola bowl, I am irritated how this is marketed as a ‘healthier’ breakfast. I hate to break the news to you gals, but these aren’t actually the best breakfasts for you if you are looking to get into better shape. True, they might be packed full of anti-oxidants, super foods, and all the vitamins and minerals you could wish for, but they are also full of sugar. Take a look at these images for example:
Look delicious don’t they? Too good to be true? That’s because they probably are! I would approximate there is at least 100g of carbs in each of these bowls, if not more, and a large portion of this will be from sugar.
Take your classic granola, fruit and yoghurt breakfast from your local hip-healthy-trendy cafe. They serve it up with a generous amount of delicious toppings, such as dried fruit, some extra nuts and seeds, a drizzle of honey, some chia seeds, and BOOM your up to the same macro-nutrient break down and calories of a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. I kid you not.
Let’s look at a what could very easily be served up at a brunch cafe or even for yourself as a ‘healthy’ alternative to coco-pops or a greasy fry-up in the morning:
50g Lizzis organic granola: 257 kcal, 14.4g fat, 24.8 carbs, 5.4g protein
200g Rachel’s Organic Greek style coconut yoghurt: 290kcals, 20.1g fat, 20.8 carbs, 6.6 protein
25g mixed nuts: 167kcals, 15.7g fats, 1.6 carbs, 3.7 protein
30g Dried berries: 107kcals, 0 fat, 26g carbs, 0 protein
1 tbsp chia seeds: 70 kcals, 5 fat, 1 carbs, 3 protein
1 banana: 105 kcals, 0 fat, 27 carbs, 1 protein
1 teaspoon raw honey: 32 kcals, 0 fat, 8 carbs, 0 protein
Total for whole granola amazingness: 1,028 Kcals, 54.1 fat, 109.2 carbs, 19.7 protein. And I’ve not even delved into adding peanut butter yet.
Total for a whole 500ml tub of Ben and Jerry’s strawberry cheesecake: 1, 040kcals, 60g fat, 112 carbs, 16 protein.
As you can see these ‘healthy’ breakfasts we see pictures of everywhere can VERY easily become an ‘unhealthy’ start to the day, bombarding your body with a huge influx of sugar which unless your about to run a marathon, you are unlikely to be burning off as a female. For a small female like me, this meal would take up more than half my daily calorie allowance! Now with my macro-tracking skills I COULD, in theory, work this meal into my diet, but it would mean starving myself for the rest of the day if I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going over my calorie allowance.
Next up we have a classic avocado, eggs, smoked salmon, sourdough super-seeded bread, and feta combination. This meal, whilst slightly better than the granola, still racks up to about 700 kcals. It has roughly 38g carbs, 43 fat, 42g protein. Throw in a Chai Latte and were not all that far-off the macro profile to the Ben and Jerry’s again. Although this meal would be much more filling due to the higher protein content, it could easily fill up an average sized females fat allowance for that day.
So what DOES constitute a healthy breakfast? What would I recommend to eat in the morning?
This is a tough question as, because I previously said, you could in theory work all these foods into your diet if you were macro-tracking it in. If aren’t tracking however, here’s a few guide points:
1. Look for 0% plain greek yoghurt with less than 5g carbs per 100g (all flavored yoghurt will have higher sugar content)
2. Steer clear of granola. And most other yummy cereals unfortunately – frosties, museli, coco-pops, special K, anything with clusters, fruit and nut = SUGAR, SUGAR, SUGAR! Unless you know it is low in both fat and sugar (which is quite hard to find I assure you!) Your better off with going for something plain like all-bran or porridge and making the toppings yourself. Or use very small amounts of the sugary cereal as a topping to something else rather than the base of the meal.
3. For toppings: Fresh berries are WAY lower in sugar than most other fruits (such as apples/bananas/pears/melon/grapes) and I would try to avoid too much dried fruits as they are also packed with sugar – although a tiny sprinkle here and there would not do a great deal of harm. A small amount of honey is also fine in the grand scheme of things for most people too, but if your trying to lower your carbs there plenty of sugar-free syrups out there, or you could use stevia to sweeten your breakfasts. I also add chocolate flavoured protein powder, cacao powder and a very tiny amount of 90% dark chocolate to make my porridge less bland and become a taste-sensation!
4. Don’t be fooled by terms like ‘superfoods’, ‘gluten free/refined sugar-free/fat-free/dairy-free’ and ‘fibre-rich’ – this does not mean they are lower in calories or by any means ‘healthier’!
5. Watch your portion sizes. Don’t go overboard with carbs, putting carb on carb on carb. For example I see so many pictures of whole bananas on toast with honey and berries. If it were me I would avoid this type of breakfast as its just so many carbs and not overly filling. Similarly whilst nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs and smoked salmon are definitely more ‘healthy’ fat sources and packed full of omega-3s, this doesn’t mean you can shove your whole plate full of them. They are very high calorie foods, so make sure you watch your how many different types and how much your eating of them. I would recommend if you are going to go for a savoury breakfast such as the one I mentioned, stick to lower carbs (so no bread or just 1 SMALL slice). Pack out the volume with veggies like kale, spinach and tomatoes and replace 1 of the whole eggs with an egg white to make an omelette or scrambled eggs. Look for the lowest fat content on the cheese you want to go for and make sure it is a pretty small amount just for the taste (feta, cream cheese, mozerella- they all usually have low fat varieties)
6. Drink your coffee black with a splash of unsweetened almond milk instead of semi-skimmed milk and some stevia/sugar-free syrup!
If you stick to these guidelines you should hopefully avoid the Ben and Jerry-equivalent fiasco breakfasts. And as always, my best advice is always to learn whats IN your food, rather than assuming that something is ‘healthy’ because it is marketed as so!
Let me know if you have any questions.
Lots of love,