Quick and healthy breakfast ideas

Judith Wills / 29 November 2016

Cereal is on the wane in favour of even faster brekkies, but, says our diet expert, spare a minute or two to prepare a meal to set you up for the day.

Who would have thought that an absolute staple of British breakfasts for the past century – cereals – would be looking at possible extinction in the years ahead?

What's the best healthy breakfast?

Apparently, a bowl of cereal with milk as your start to the day is fading from popularity in the UK, with our biggest manufacturer, Kelloggs, reporting a drop in sales each quarter over the past two years and more people opting for even quicker fixes at breakfast time, including a smoothie, a piece of fruit, or a pot of yogurt.  “Ideally” says one expert, “people want a breakfast that takes no more than a minute’s preparation and avoids any washing up.”

Well, aside from the fact that to my mind there can be little quicker than pouring some cereal from a pack and then adding a bit of milk (yes, less than a minute, I’d say) and you can always leave the empty bowl and spoon in the dishwasher (or in the sink for someone else to wash up later!), I’m in two minds about whether this decline in popularity is a good or bad thing.

If you pick the right cereal, it can be a fairly healthy start to the day.  Wholegrain varieties such as Shredded Wheat, Oatibix, and porridge are good sources of fibre and are low in sugar, while oats have the added advantage of their beneficial effects in lowering cholesterol.  That said, I’m one of the many people who believe that it’s good to get a fair whack of protein at breakfast time, to stop you feeling hungry again too soon, and cereals are not a great source, though adding milk will provide some.  It is also important to get some fat at breakfast as that also will help you stay full for longer.   So for the perfect start I’d add nuts and seeds to a bowl of cereal as these contain both protein and good fats.

Visit our breakfast section for recipes that range from super-healthy to luxuriously indulgent

Finally I’d add a piece of fruit such as an apple or orange, or a good handful of fresh berries for vitamin C, plant chemicals and more fibre.  And that would be a good start to the day.

However, many people choose cereals which are less healthy – stuffed full of added sugar (or similar things such as honey) and containing little fibre as many are highly refined, as well as being low in fat and protein.  

Even mueslis are not all particularly healthy though that is their image – because many have dried fruits as their first ingredient.  Yes, dried fruit can be okay, with its fibre and, often, a range of vitamins and minerals, but as a main ingredient in your muesli – no.  You only need a small amount, especially if you are watching your weight, as they are very high in calories and sugar.

If you want a muesli, look for one that is low in dried fruits and high in oats (and, to a lesser extent, wholewheat or rye) with a good content of nuts and seeds.

So whether or not you are still enjoying breakfast cereal most days, try to make it a healthy one – and remember that the consensus today is that low-fat is not such a great thing after all so make sure you get some fat in that bowl along with your protein bits and bobs.  Or – have boiled egg and wholegrain toast plus an orange. If you can spare the time to boil the egg and toast the bread, of course!!!

How to boil an egg

Talking of grains, they aren’t just for breakfast, of course.  I love a tasty couscous salad, but most on sale is made from refined wheat, so I’ve taken to making a similar salad with cracked freekeh – a middle-eastern grain that’s flavoursome and with a good protein content too.  Other healthy grains to try – now available in most supermarkets – are teff, buckwheat, farro and kamut.  Each brings something different to your meals and each is full of flavour and nutrients while being straightforward to cook and versatile.

Superfood carbs: ancient grains to try

By the way, someone who thinks he’s given up sugar but hasn’t is top chef Tom Kerridge.  “Quitting sugar was horrible,” he says.   But he’s still eating chocolate – which contains around 28g of sugar in every 100g!  I can’t go on at him though as he’s managed to lose 11 stones – well done, Tom.

10 ways to eat less sugar without even noticing

Judith's tangy salmon skewers

Ate last night

Tangy salmon skewers with grain salad

Serves 2

  • 2 x 125g salmon steaks, each cut into 5
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp each salt, ground cumin, turmeric and smoked paprika
  • Pinch dried red chilli pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Half a sweet red pepper
    For the salad
  • 150g cooked weight wholegrain of choice (eg freekeh or buckwheat)
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 2 large spring onions, chopped
  • 5cm piece cucumber, chopped
  • Handful fresh basil or coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • A pinch of salt
  • Lemon wedges to serve

1.  If using wooden skewers, soak four in water for at least an hour. Combine the oregano, seeds, salt, spices, lemon juice and olive oil and add to a shallow non-metallic bowl with the salmon chunks, stir to coat and leave for 20 minutes if you can.  Cut the pepper into squares.

2.  Combine the salad ingredients in a serving bowl.  Heat the grill or a griddle.  Thread the salmon onto the skewers as shown in the photo (two skewers for a kebab makes it much easier to turn them over and helps prevent the chunks of salmon from falling apart). Baste with any marinade remaining in the dish. Grill for about  2 minutes a side.  Serve with the salad and lemon wedges. Add a vegetable such as sugar snap peas, green beans or broccoli.

I’ve still got oregano growing in the garden but if you can’t find any, use fresh thyme or dill instead

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