Breakfast - the most important meal of the day

Yes - what you have heard for years is right. Breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day! It helps to kick-start your metabolism and sets you up well for the rest of the day. The word breakfast literally means “to break the fast” and it is recommended to eat within two hours of waking in the morning.

The ideal breakfast would be a combination of protein from low fat dairy, beans, eggs or meat options, a wholegrain cereal or bread and fruit. High fibre protein choices help you for feel satisfied for longer and prevent the mid-morning munchies. In general who miss out on breakfast are likely to be heavier than those who do not. Those who skip breakfast have actually been shown to eat more throughout the day than those who have breakfast. If you miss breakfast it can be much harder to get all of your nutrients you require for the day. Foods eaten at breakfast usually provide good sources of carbohydrate, calcium, protein and fibre as well as essential vitamins and minerals which are often not made up for later in the day.

Having breakfast helps to improve your performance throughout the day. If you regularly skip breakfast it has been shown to reduce memory, concentration and productivity through the day.

 Often the morning is a very busy time for people getting off to work and organising the day ahead. If you find that you are rushed and unable to sit down to a bowl of cereal or toast, another option could be to have a low fat yogurt and fruit, cereal bar, smoothie or a ready-made breakfast drink.

Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereals are an excellent source of carbohydrate and fibre. It is best to look for breakfast cereals that are made from wholegrain or high fibre cereals. When reading the label look for the following:

Nutrient                   Amount per 100g

Total fat                     <10g (ideally <5g)

- Saturated fat        <2g

Total sugar               <15g (without fruit)

                                    <25g (with fruit)

Fibre                         >6g (preferably >10g)

Sodium                    <600mg

Some healthy options to look for are untoasted or natural muesli, rolled oats, weetbix and sultana bran. There are now so many options to choose from that it is important to compare labels and choose the healthiest option that best meets your needs.


Wholegrain breads are made from whole cereal grains whereas wholemeal bread is made by grinding whole grains to make wholegrain flour. A general rule of thumb would be the least processed the bread the better. Again look at the fibre content of the bread to ensure it is meeting the recommendation of greater than 5gm per 100gm and greater than 7gm per 100gm is even better.

Breakfast spreads

Breakfast spreads are all very different, some are high in fat, some are high in salt and some are high in sugar. It is important to use any breakfast spread only in small amounts. When choosing a spread for your bread in most cases it is recommend to opt for a margarine rather than butter due to the high levels of saturated fat found in butter. When considering a margarine look for one that is less than 55gm per 100gm total fat, low in saturated fat (15% or less) and low in trans fatty acid (less than 1%). Another option in place of margarine or butter would be to use avocado or hummus instead.

Some healthier options for table spreads include, vegemite or marmite (although need to be careful for those people with high blood pressure), reduced sugar jams and a lite smooth peanut butter.

Healthy breakfast ideas

  • Poached or boiled egg on wholegrain toast
  • Natural muesli, low fat milk and fruit
  • Baked beans on wholegrain toast
  • Omelette with low fat cheese, tomato and ham
  • Avocado and tomato on wholegrain bread
  • Porridge, fruit and low fat milk
  • Banana on English muffin or crumpet
  • Weetbix or bran flakes with low fat yoghurt and fruit
  • Fruit smoothie made with low fat milk, yoghurt and fruit.

Don’t forget to include a drink of water, herbal tea, low fat milk, tea or coffee with your breakfast meal.