Thursday, 20 January 2011


“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” - John Gunther

My grandfather used to say: “Breakfast as a king, lunch as a noble, dine as a pauper…” This was sound advice, especially in the times of long arduous days where hard labour was the lot of most people who worked on the land, cottage industries or even manufactories. One used to get up very early to greet the dawn and the table was set with a variety of nutrient-rich foods to “break the fast” of the night and prepare the body for the onslaught of the hard work of the day. This was followed by a lunch later in the day, which provided a much-needed respite from labour and a top-up of nourishment. The evening meal had to be only light, as the exertions of the day were over and everyone went to bed early, which needed to be done on a light stomach.

Our meal patterns have changed greatly over the last century as has our diet. In many countries around the world breakfast has been reduced to a token meal, which typically consists of coffee, tea or milk and toast, cereal or some fat-laden pastry. People may have too little time, may need to eat breakfast alone or may be a victim of a routine that started during their childhood. In any case, the majority of people fail to eat a proper breakfast, being content with a cup of coffee only! Breakfast should be the most valuable meal of the day, or at least one of the most valuable.

Both body and brain need refuelling
after the overnight fast. Yes, the derivation of the word breakfast is right! Energy reserves can be running low after an overnight fast, and doing the things that you need to do during in a busy morning takes energy. Traditional breakfast foods are nutritious
and can provide much stored energy. Grain products like bread and cereal provide carbohydrates for energy, B vitamins, and fibre. Many fruits are a rich source of vitamin C and/or vitamin A. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are among the foods richest in calcium and vitamin D. Eggs are protein-rich and contain valuable brain foods. One should try and limit the amount of fats that one has at breakfast, so go easy on the bacon, lard, butter, oils and other fatty foods.

Having a good breakfast could help you control your other meals of the day. Studies have shown that those people who don’t eat a good breakfast typically eat more calories over the course of the day. Eating breakfast is not linked to gaining weight. People who eat breakfast tend to be fitter and less fat than those who skip breakfast. People who have lost weight and kept it off for many years report that they usually eat breakfast every day.

Even if you’re short on time, a healthy breakfast is easy to take with you. Nowadays, there many product options in single servings that can be had away from home. Ready-to-eat cereal in a bag with a tub of chilled yogurt with a piece of fruit is a good breakfast choice that travels well. Have it in a park close to your work, while enjoying nature! Heat a microwave breakfast and allow it to cool while you’re in the car or train. Prepare a breakfast smoothie and place in an insulated cup to have it as you are travelling on the train (personally I detest doing that, but there so many people that do it!).

Best of all of course is to get up earlier, and make a habit of preparing a proper family breakfast that you can have with everyone around the table, making it a good quality fun time, as well as a nutritious preparation for the toil of the day. However, one should remember my grandfather’s advice, wise as it is true. If you have a good breakfast, you will need to eat less during the day. Habitually, you should aim to have a light meal in the evening, which should be the lightest meal. All the more reason for having a formal family meal at breakfast-time.

What does a good breakfast consist of? One should avoid simple carbohydrates (e.g. sugar) and concentrate on consuming complex carbohydrates (e.g. starches in grains and rice), lean proteins and healthy fats (polyunsaturated, low cholesterol fats and fish oils). Whole wheat bread, cereals, white meats, eggs, low-fat dairy products, vegetables and fruits are excellent breakfast choices.

Eggs are one of the most popular breakfast foods and can be scrambled, made into an omelette, poached, boiled or fried. They are packed with protein, which “wakes up” the body more quickly. When eaten with starches and grains such as toast or potatoes, an egg breakfast becomes a hearty meal that will provide you with energy until lunch. Other protein-rich foods, such as cold meat cuts, are popular in Western Europe and South America. Usually accompanied by cheese and bread the protein is thus accompanied by carbohydrates for energy.

Dairy products are a great way to start the morning as they can be cool, refreshing, sometimes sweet and usually a good accompaniment to bread. Dairy products (especially the low-fat ones) are full of vitamins and minerals, helpful bacteria and protein. Yoghurts, cream cheeses, cottage cheese, cheese spreads and milk are great breakfast foods. If you have a sweet tooth, try using honey as a sweetener or use natural low calorie sweeteners like stevia.

Fruits and vegetables can be combined with other foods to complement the protein and carbohydrate with vitamin and micronutrient rich sources. Having an avocado instead of margarine or butter on toast is much healthier alternative. Avocados are packed with nutrients, protein and calories that will sustain you longer than just carbohydrate.

A variety of home-made whole grain muffins, nut breads, cereal and nut bars, scones, oatmeal-based foods can be incorporated into the breakfast menu and provide much-needed variety and interest to the breakfast table. Here is a recipe for some breakfast bars, especially suited to breakfast on the run.


1 large egg white, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 and 1/3 cups rolled, toasted breakfast oats
2/3 cup crushed toasted almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 160°C. Coat an 20 cm square metal baking pan with cooking spray.
Whisk egg white, honey, oil, vanilla and cinnamon in a small bowl until blended. Combine oats, nuts and raisins in a mixing bowl. Stir in the wet mixture until well coated.
Press the mixture into the prepared pan with a wet rubber spatula.
Bake until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 12 bars.


  1. Good advice. I'm definitely trying this recipe - thank you. These will be good snacks for my birding trips as well. And these are all ingredients I have on hand almost all the time. I keep the nuts in the freezer as it's hard for a person living alone to use up a variety of nuts before they go stale.

    Coincidentally, I saw that Gunther quote on a wall plaque while browsing through a store yesterday and thought how true it is. I'd never heard it before, and now I've read it twice in 24 hours. Life is strange.

  2. You are quite right, of course, but I am of the "don't-talk-to-me-before-noon and don't-show-me-food-until-lunchtime" brigade.

    Yet even bad habits can be changed. When I lived in Israel for 3 years, meat was so expensive that breakfast became the major meal of the day. In fact any meal that could be made up of eggs, breads, cereals, salads and fruit became the main meal of the day, whenever it occurred.

  3. bleuccchhhh gimme coffee lotsa coffee