Spring has sprung and the annual influx of joggers and gym junkies aiming to get beach-ready are out in full force. For those getting into shape, it's important to remember that a healthy lifestyle is all about balance, and the warmer months bring loads of in-season produce to help get your diet into shape too.
A good breakfast is essential, helping to regulate appetite and energy throughout the day. Research shows breakfast cereal eaters are likely to be slimmer and have more nutritious diets than people who eat other breakfasts or no breakfast at all.
Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and ABCMF Director Leigh Reeve has developed some clever combos to help boost the health benefits of your favourite breakfast cereal, please see them below.
For Great Gut Health And Digestion
Bran is a full of insoluble fibre. Spice up a bowl of bran cereal with fresh mango and a drizzle of passionfruit pulp for added pre-biotic dietary fibre
For Long-Lasting Energy
Thiamin found in breakfast cereals helps unlock the power of carbohydrates for energy. Try soaking oats overnight with water, a splash of juice and cinnamon, before topping with fresh sliced banana in the morning for a healthy carbohydrate and energy boost.
Folate is critical for making healthy new red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, helping to prevent tiredness and fatigue. Ready to eat breakfast cereal can provide up to half of your daily folate needs. Top with fresh summer berries for added folate
For Nutrient Absorption
Ready to eat breakfast cereals are a major source of iron, especially for vegetarian eaters, and Vitamin C helps you absorb iron. Topping your favourite breakfast cereal with citrus fruits like berries, kiwi fruit or oranges will help get your iron levels up to give you energy throughout the day.
To Stay Fuller For Longer
Soluble fibre found in breakfast cereals is great for satiety and even better when teamed with protein. Try layering oat, barley or psyllium-based breakfast cereal with protein-packed nuts, Greek yoghurt and your favourite fruits in a glass jar for a brekkie to enjoy at home or on the go.
To Fuel Your Workout
Protein also helps grow and maintain our body cells, including muscle cells. For a quick and easy after-gym brekkie, make a higher protein breakfast smoothie with skim milk powder, milk, berries and breakfast cereal
Magnesium and potassium are important for bone health, muscle contraction and nerve function. Both of these nutrients are found in fruit and nut muesli; team with chopped mango and banana for an extra boost of potassium
Question: Can you talk about the breakfast matches that boost health benefits?
Leigh Reeve: There are so many health benefits! Here are just a few examples
Whole grain breakfast cereal + milk or yoghurt = all the good carbohydrate, fibre, vitamin and mineral goodness of cereal + calcium, and Vitamin B12
Bran cereal + yoghurt = prebiotics and probiotics for digestive health
Ready to eat breakfast cereal + citrus fruits = Better iron absorption (the vitamin C helps the body absorb the iron from the cereal, especially important for vegetarian eaters)
Muesli and Greek yoghurt = all the health benefits and protein of muesli and an extra protein boost from yoghurt
Oats + chopped apple = feeling fuller for longer plus helps lower cholesterol levels (both are high in soluble fibre)
Question: Why is it important to have our breakfast match our upcoming day?
Leigh Reeve: Ensure you have the energy you need for the day ahead
Regulate your appetite and avoid unintended snacks
Moderate your kilojoule intake over your meals
Question: Is it best to eat breakfast before or after a workout?
Leigh Reeve: It depends on the intensity and duration of your workout. For example, if you enjoy a leisurely half hour walk first thing in the morning, you are unlikely to need eat beforehand, providing you eat breakfast afterwards.
If your workout is more strenuous, then it's wise to top up your energy levels before you start exercising. This will give you the fuel you need to get through the workout at a sustained intensity. Research has found that not eating before strenuous exercise can impair performance, compared to exercising after eating breakfast.
Question: What should we eat before a workout?
Leigh Reeve: Ideally, something rich in carbohydrates for energy and low in fat so that it is easy to digest. A small serve of breakfast cereal and milk will do the trick. Or a liquid breakfast drink is an easy option for those early morning workouts. It will put some fuel in the tank and help to avoid hunger pangs during your workout.
Question: And, what is best to eat after a workout?
Leigh Reeve: After light to moderate exercise your usual breakfast will be all you need. After a strenuous or endurance workout it's all about the three R's – refuel, repair and rehydrate. You want to refuel your energy stores by eating foods rich in carbohydrates, repair your muscles with protein and rehydrate with fluids. A meal of breakfast cereal (refuel), milk (repair + rehydrate) and fruit (refuel) is a great option after a workout. If you exercise for very long periods or are in training you may need bread or toast and spreads as well.
Question: What does a good breakfast need to include to provide energy throughout the day?
Leigh Reeve: To supercharge your energy levels, start with a breakfast that provides low GI carbohydrates, fibre, protein and vitamins and minerals including thiamin, folate and iron:
Carbohydrates are our body's primary energy source and low GI carbohydrates release energy slowly. Breakfast cereals based on oats, barley or bran are lower GI choices and you can also top your favourite breakfast cereal with bran cereal to help reduce the GI
Protein and fibre work together to keep us feeling full
Ready to eat breakfast cereals are good sources thiamin, folate and iron. Thiamin helps to unlock the power of carbohydrates for energy. Folate and iron are needed to transport oxygen around the body, helping to prevent tiredness
All of this is provided in a bowl of breakfast cereal and milk.
Question: How does eating breakfast actually make us slimmer?
Leigh Reeve: Eating breakfast, and especially eating breakfast cereal, is associated with being slimmer and having a lower Body Mass Index (BMI). Breakfast is not the magic bullet for weight loss, but it is part of the bigger picture. Most of the research has found that regular breakfast eaters have more healthful diets overall and they also tend to be more physically active.
Question: How can we boost our favourite breakfast cereal?
Leigh Reeve: Mix with bran cereal to boost the insoluble fibre Sprinkle some psyllium flakes or husk for a dose of soluble fibre
Top with fruit for added potassium, fibre and folate
Question: What do you eat for breakfast?
Leigh Reeve: With so many different breakfast cereals and new varieties to try, I enjoy breakfast cereal with low fat milk most mornings. I usually add yoghurt or fresh fruit too.
Interview by Brooke Hunter