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High Taste, Low Cal Breakfasts with Aveen Bannon

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Aveen Bannon and Paula Mee will be in with us every Tuesday in January cooking low cal, high taste recipes. Each week will be themed, this week Aveen is talking about breakfasts and she will cook up some healthy alternatives to the typical breakfast.

Aveen Bannon, Nutritionist

Despite breakfast skipping being relatively common practice now among adults and adolescents, recent research has confirmed that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast is literally breaking the fast. After a night sleep our body is running on empty and we need to supply the body with fuel. You wouldn't expect a car to run without petrol so why expect your body to run on empty?

An American study revealed that eating breakfast is the most positive thing you can do if you want to lose weight and achieve a nutritionally balanced diet. Data showed that people who regularly skip this meal are 4.5 times more likely to be overweight than breakfast eaters. Common reasons given for skipping breakfast include lack of time, poor meal planning and a mistaken perception that skipping breakfast will result in weight loss. However, breakfast skippers tend to snack more and overcompensate for the lost calories at breakfast by eating energy dense high fat foods later in the day, especially at suppertime.

Similarly, in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a study in adolescents and adults revealed that breakfast skipping is a health compromising behavior and those who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight that breakfast eaters. Smoking, infrequent exercise and frequent alcohol intake were associated with breakfast skipping.

A recent survey of Irish school children aged between 10-17 years revealed that 15% of surveyed children never have breakfast during the week and 8% never have breakfast at the weekends. These figures are cause for concern for two reasons. Firstly, the evident associated risk of skipping breakfast and weight gain and secondly missing a meal that provides a significant amount of nutrients to the diet. If children skip breakfast they will find it difficult to satisfy their nutritional needs. Fortified breakfast cereals with milk are an important source of iron, calcium, zinc, folic acid and B vitamins. Children who regularly consume breakfast cereals are more likely to meet recommended micronutrient intakes than children who rarely consume them.

Many years of breakfast skipping can result in lack of appetite in the morning and even some people reporting that they 'feel sick' when they try to eat something first thing. The first thing to do is have a glass of juice; this will help increase your appetite. Maybe try having a piece of fruit at home and then a high fibre cereal when you get in to work. Unsweetened muesli or porridge is a great nutritious start to the day. Gradually increase the size of your breakfast and your appetite will slowly start to increase in the early morning. Time is never an excuse! It only takes 5 minutes to have breakfast in the morning and we can always get up a little earlier.most people would agree that those five minutes extras in bed isn't worth the risk of potential obesity in later life.

Important Breakfast Foods

1. Fibre; Wholegrain cereals like unsweetened muesli and porridge
2. Calcium; Low fat probiotic yoghurt and low fat fortified milk e.g. supermik, could also have low fat soya milk with added calcium
3. Protein; Mixed seeds & nuts (e.g. linseed, pumpkin, brazil nuts, almonds), eggs, beans, smoked salmon


Having breakfast is vital, but so too is what you eat. The following are core breakfast foods for your shopping list:

1. Fibre rich foods; Wholegrain Cereals like unsweetened muesli and Porridge

Oats are a well documented superfood. A superfood is one which offers many health benefits without requiring too much preparation. Oats are low in fat, have a low glycaemic Index, are high in soluble fibre, are low in salt and sugar and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Eating porridge helps the brain to produce serotonin. Serotonin is a brain transmitter that helps keep our spirits up and our appetites down. Levels of serotonin dip when sunlight is low - i.e. during the winter months.

One study recently published in the American Journal of Public Health indicated that eating oatmeal on a regular basis can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Oat bran also contains a fibre called beta-glucan, a soluble fibre that can help to lower cholesterol. Another American study revealed that including wholegrains such at oats in the diet 6 times a week could help lower cholesterol.

Muesli is a great alternative to porridge but some can have added sugar so be sure to pick ones with no added sugars. All the main ingredients of muesli are considered important elements of a healthy diet: nuts, seeds, oats, wholegrains and dried fruits. Muesli is a high fibre breakfast option that releases energy slowly into the system and provides essential vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, selenium and vitamin E.

2. Dairy; Probiotic low fat Yoghurt and fortified low fat milk

Milk products are a rich source of calcium and protein. When choosing yogurt opt for one that is low in fat and one that contains probiotics. Probiotics are organisms that live in the intestinal tract and contribute to the guts health. They are often referred to as 'good bacteria' or 'friendly bacteria' and they act against the bad bacteria to maintain a balance and help to fight disease. Probiotic organisms are found in live yogurts.

Milk is another great bone food that is a rich source of calcium. Low fat functional milks are the best option. Some functional milks contain extra calcium with added vitamins A and D. other milks have omega 3 fats added so are a good option for those who dislike oily fish.

3. Protein; Mixed seeds, nuts, beans, eggs, smoked salmon

High fibre protein rich foods are considered low glycaemic index foods with lots of nutritional a great start to the day. Seeds are high in fibre, a good source of essential minerals including zinc, magnesium and copper, contain vitamin E, and are a good source of omega-3 fats. Nuts are another great breakfast food. They can be high in fat but most of the fat in nuts is considered a good fat i.e. unsaturated fat. As seeds and nuts are so nutrient dense, yet high in calories, you only need small amounts to benefit from their antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium, their iron and their essential fatty acids. A small handful is considered a portion.

The benefits of eggs are numerous. They are a low fat source of protein that contain the essential amino acids we need to build brain neurotransmitters. Eggs are also a rich source of iron which is important for providing energy and supplying oxygen around the body. A diet low in iron tends to lead to fatigue so ensuring a good iron intake can help increase alertness and concentration. They also contain choline and biotin for healthy skin and hair. It is ok to have an egg a day if your cholesterol is within the recommended level. If you have high cholesterol, restrict intake to no more than 5 per week. Do try to avoid adding fat in cooking though.

Other nutritious protein rich options include beans, makeral, and smoked salmon for a weekend 3 fatty acids are found in oily fish, nuts and seeds and are essential components of brain cell membranes, and play an important role in heart and joint health.

Less nutritious breakfast choices:

1. Danish pastry, tea with full fat milk and sugar - 650 calories
2. Bowl of sugary cereal with full fat milk, 2 slices of white toast with butter and jam and a glass of sweetened juice - 778 calories

Healthy alternative's

Bad choice
Sugary Cereal, white Toast,
Orange juice

Healthy alternative
Homemade muesli with low fat milk. ***
herbal tea

Fibre rich muesli

Makes 2 servings

. 100g oat flakes
. 20g wheatgerm
. 2 tblsp chopped almonds
. 2 tblsp chopped brazil nuts
. 2 tblsp linseed
. 2 tblsp pumpkin seeds
. 1 tblsp lecithin granules
. 60g of sultanas, raisins or chopped apricots


1. Stir all the ingredients together and mix well.

Food groups

1. Fruits; Fresh fruit (berries, banana, grapefruit) & dried fruit; Dried apricots, prunes
2. Cholesterol busting; Lecithin granules
3. Energy boosting; wheatgerm

1. Fruit; Fresh & dried
Fruit is packed with vitamins, phytochemicals, fibre and folate but has the added benefit of being low in calories and fat. It's a good idea to include some colour at every meal so including juice, fresh fruit or dried fruit at breakfast is a good way to ensure a nutritionally rich start to the day. Citrus fruits are thought to protect our hearts and protect us against certain cancers. Bananas are great source of vitamin B6 and potassium; they also supply magnesium which is thought to help regulate our mood. Berries are particularly high in vitamin C which helps us absorb iron from pant sources e.g. the iron in nuts, seeds, wholegrains or beans.

Dried fruits are great fibre rich way to add sweetness to breakfast. Traditionally people will chose prunes for a healthy bowel but raisins, sultanas, apricots, berries in their dried form will provide significant amounts of iron, potassium, vitamin A and fibre.

2. Cholesterol busting; Lecithin granules contain phosphatidyl choline.
Choline is required for the proper metabolism of fats; it facilitates the movement of fats in and out of cells therefore playing an important role in the breakdown of fat in the liver and emulsification of fat in food. Lecithin may be useful for those with raised cholesterol and can be taken alone or added to everyday foods like cereals and yogurts.

3. Energy Boosting; Wheatgerm is the nutritional heart of the wheat kernel.
The germ is packed with vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, thiamin, folate, magnesium, iron and zinc. Just 2 tblsp of wheatgerm will provide about 35 calories, 3g of protein, 1.5g of fibre and lots of nutrition.

The following are examples of less nutritious breakfasts :
1 Bagel with cream cheese/ Danish pastry/ sausage roll
2. Sausage sandwich on white bread with ketchup -

Nutty banana toast

Serves 2

. Peanut butter
. 1 banana sliced
. Wholegrain toast

Spread some peanut butter in a slice of whole grain toast. Place sliced banana on top and serve.

Eggy veggies

Serves 1

. 2 medium eggs
. 2 tblsp milk
. 1 tblsp olive oil
. ½ cup of chopped veggies e.g. tomato, spinach, peppers, aubergine or courgette

1. whisk the egg and milk in a bowl together
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently cook the vegetables for 5 minutes until soft.
3. Add the egg mix into the pan and stir well until cooked. Serve on a slice of wholegrain or rye toast.