Despite the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, many of us still start the morning on an empty stomach. Getting the kids ready for school, rushing to get to work or simply not planning ahead means missing out on the vital fuel we need to kick-start our day.

The belief that we should eat like a king at breakfast is not just an old wives’ tale. Medical evidence suggests that there are great benefits associated with ensuring we make time to eat first thing. Breakfast literally means ‘breaking the fast’ and, for some people, especially young children, the fast could be as long as 16 hours.

Eating well in the morning helps restore the energy stores we have used up during the night whilst our body repairs and renews itself. It also gives us the mental and physical energy we need for the day’s activities at work or at home. Research has shown that people who eat breakfast have more balanced diets than those who skip it, are less likely to be overweight, lose weight more successfully if overweight and have reduced risk of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Yet statistics show that up to one-third of us regularly miss this essential meal risking our health and potentially impacting on our performance at work.

There is no good reason for not taking the time to enjoy a tasty, nutritious start to the day and you should feel an immediate, noticeable difference as a result. Imagine a morning with no embarrassing tummy rumblings, improved mood, concentration and energy and no need for a quick chocolate bar at 11am!

The good news is that a good breakfast can also be the least time-consuming meal of the day to prepare. A simple bowl of wholegrain cereal with semi-skimmed milk takes seconds to make and a deliciously nutritious smoothie can be prepared in minutes the night before. Plus a banana, glass of fruit juice or a handful of berries in your porridge are all great ways to make a quick start on your five a day too.

Here are a few quick and easy recipes (as recommended by the NHS) to give you some food for thought…

Energy-boosting breakfasts

‘Apple pie’ porridge

Serves: one adult
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Calories per portion: 345kcal (1,443kJ)
50g porridge oats
200ml apple juice (with no added sugar)
100ml semi-skimmed milk
1 medium dessert apple, diced
1 pinch of cinnamon

A warm and comforting porridge spiced up with the classic flavours of a homemade apple pie.
Throw all the ingredients into a saucepan. Heat and stir until boiling, then lower the heat and simmer gently for five minutes, stirring often. Spoon the porridge into a serving bowl and add a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Protein-packed breakfasts

Scrambled eggs (with optional wholemeal toast)

Serves: one adult
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Calories per portion:
scrambled eggs: 247kcal (1,033kJ)
2 slices of wholemeal toast: 190kcal (795kJ)
2 eggs
4 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
2 slices wholemeal toast
2 tsp low-fat spread
1 pinch of black pepper
Optional sprinkling of chopped chives (calories nominal)

The secret to perfect scrambled eggs is to fold them gently in the pan to get curds, rather than a dried, quivering mess.
Lightly mix the eggs and milk in a bowl. Melt the low-fat spread in a pan and add the egg mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring slowly and gently until they’re just set with big soft curds. Serve the eggs on the slices of toast, sprinkle over the chives and season with some pepper.

Lighter bites

Green smoothie

Serves: one adult
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: none
Calories per portion: 140kcal (586kJ)
40g tinned mango slices (discard liquid)
40g tinned peach slices (discard liquid)
40g frozen spinach
1 medium banana
200ml water (or as required)

Smoothies are a great introduction to breakfast if you don’t normally have much of an appetite at the “crack of yawn”. They’re also a good portable option for your morning commute.
Compared with some hardcore green smoothie recipes, our green smoothie is a softer version that is quite sweet and fruity, while still giving you a healthy serving of greens. Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Add more water to achieve the desired consistency.

Five-minute breakfasts

‘Grab and go’ breakfast bar

Makes: 6 bars
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Calories per portion (one bar): 300kcal (1,255kJ)
150g jumbo oats
2 medium very ripe bananas
60g melted butter
60g cherries
60g cranberries
40g sunflower seeds
40g pumpkin seeds

Sometimes mornings can be a bit of a rush. Make a batch of these granola bars, made with no added sugar, in advance for a healthy breakfast on the go.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C, gas mark 6). In a bowl, mix together the oats, cherries, cranberries and seeds. Pour in the melted butter and mix in thoroughly to make sure the oats are well coated. On a separate plate, mash the bananas into a pulp with a fork, add to the oat mixture and mix well. Spread the mixture into a 30cm x 20cm tin. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once cooked, transfer to a wire rack to cool, then cut into six bars.

Association of UK dieticians