I’m a big believer that what you choose to eat for breakfast sets the stage for blood sugar control and thus dictates your food choices for the rest of the day so its important to choose wisely!
If you’ve ever started the day with a coffee and a pastry you’ll know that you’re much more likely to continue eating in an unhealthy manner for the rest of the day so start as you mean to go on folks!
To give you some inspiration, below are several suggestions for healthy breakfast options, some are healthier than others – but lots to choose from whether you’re a grab & go person or someone who likes to take their time and indulge in a king’s breakfast!
Cereal based breakfast
Porridge Oats (cooked or raw) – made on water or milk of choice. Add some chopped nuts or milled seeds to add protein and healthy fats. To sweeten try cinnamon and/or fruit such as grated apple or berries.
Muesli/Granola – Most store bought brands of muesli/granola are high in sugar as they’re loaded with dried fruit. You can find a sugar free muesli with no dried fruit at your local health store. Choose one that’s oat based with plenty of nuts and seeds or add your own. If you like granola, Lizzi’es Granola is a good low sugar option, you can buy it in health stores & in supervalu. Serve with milk or natural yogurt and top with fruit of choice. Alternatively, you can try my easy peasy granola recipe below which is really delish!
Wholegrain Cereal – Good options include cereals made from one or a combination of different whole grains including wholewheat, buckwheat, rye, millet, quinoa etc. Just make sure to check the label for sugar and fibre content, see guidelines below. Click here to read my top pics for shop bought cereals e.g. weetabix
Pimp Up Your Cereal:
- Add 1- 2 tbsp of chopped nuts or milled seeds to your cereal to add protein and healthy fats
- Sweeten your cereal with low glycemic fruit such as apple, pear or berries for added vitamins and fibre.
- Try adding spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger for added flavour.
- Opt for shop bought cereal/muesli with less than 5g sugar per serving and at least 3g of fibre per serving
Eggs - Starting the day with an egg is a brilliant choice as it gives you a good dose of protein & mood boosting nutrients first thing and keeps you full for longer than cereals. One or two eggs cooked as you wish served with a slice of wholegrain toast (optional) or a couple of oat cakes is quick & easy. For added vitamins and fibre, add some veggies such as tomato, mushroom, spinach, avocado or asparagus. I love poached eggs with sliced avocado & cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar!
Fish - Smoked salmon/haddock or kippers served on a bed of steamed spinach drizzled with olive oil.
Pancakes – I recommend you try my sugar free power pancake recipe which are super quick and easy to make as well as being nutritionally balanced. They’re made with oats, egg, cottage cheese, cinnamon & blueberries & taste delicious. Pictured Below.
On the move Breakfasts
Smoothies – a smoothie is a good option for an on the go breakfast. Ideally use low- glycemic fruit such as berries and add some protein and healthy fats with ground nuts or milled seeds such as flax, chia or hemp seed. Natural whole milk yogurt adds protein too or you can use a variety of non dairy options e.g. almond, oat milk etc. Try out my LOW GI Supercharger Smoothie Recipe here!
Nut Butter – try a couple of teaspoons of nut butter e.g. almond/cashew nut butter spread on a couple of oat cakes, sliced apple or a slice of wholegrain toast.
Yogurt – a few tablespoons of natural yogurt topped with fruit and a tablespoon of milled seeds makes for a speedy but nutritious breakfast. Whole milk natural yogurt is ideal as low fat natural yogurt can be a little bitter and is less filling. If you choose a probiotic yogurt you’ll also be boosting your digestive health.
Nuts - A handful of nuts with a piece of fruit is a fairly good on-the-run breakfast albeit less substantial than previous options. Very handy to throw in the bag and gobble en route to work or at your desk! And a hell of a lot healthier than a breakfast bar
Elsa Jones is a Qualified Nutritional Therapist & Author of Bestselling Book, ‘Goodbye Sugar: Hello Weight Loss, Great Skin, More Energy & Improved Mood’. www.elsajonesnutrition.com
When it comes to embracing a lower sugar lifestyle, the topic of fruit and fructose confuses so many people.
Should you eat fruit on a low sugar diet? Will fructose make me fat? Aren’t all forms of sugar bad? How much per day is recommended? Which are high/low sugar fruits?
In my opinion, there is information overload out there on this topic so I’m going to try to make this blog as simple & succinct as I can!
So, as we know, fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit (and vegetables but to a lesser degree). So, should we eliminate fruit from our diet if we want to follow a low sugar diet? In my opinion, no, we shouldn’t.
Fructose has gotten a lot of bad press in recent years because we now know that eating too much of it can have a negative impact on our weight and heart health. However, it’s the concentrated, man made forms of fructose we need to be most wary of i.e. High Fructose Corn Syrup and Crystalline Fructose that can be found in soft drinks, juice drinks and sweets. Concentrated Fructose is not found in fruit, or anywhere else in nature. As a result, our bodies don’t recognise it and we digest it differently than the natural fructose found in nature, i.e. fruit.
Fructose naturally occurring in whole fruits is not isolated or concentrated, it’s bound to other naturally occurring sugars and is accompanied by natural enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and fruit pectin which allow our bodies to digest and utilise it in a more healthful way.
So, whilst we should limit our overall intake of fructose, we should not eliminate fruit from our diet. I would also encourage you not to buy into the latest ‘you can have any type of sugar as longs as it’s not fructose’ craze either. ALL forms of sugar are detrimental to our heath if over-consumed not just fructose.
That said, I do think it’s important to have an awareness of the varying sugar content of fruit and vegetables so you can choose wisely particularly if you have blood sugar issues and/or are trying to manage your weight. In my opinion, 2-3 portions of fruit per day will give you a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fibre without causing problems.
Sugar Content Of Fruit & Vegetables
In a nutshell, some fruits and vegetables contain higher amount of fast releasing sugars than others and so need to be eaten in moderation and in smaller amounts. These include starchy vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips, swede, yams and sweet fruits such as bananas and grapes.
The table below will help guide you in terms of which carbohydrates (including fruits and vegetables) to eat more often and which to eat less often and in modest portions;
Carbohydrates – Better Choice Guide
|Grain/Seed based foods||Vegetables||Fruit|
|Great Choice The slow release carbohydrates in this category are ideal choices because they are relatively low-glycemic foods which means they’ll keep your blood sugar levels stable so you’ll feel fuller and energised for longer.||OatsQuinoaPearl BarleyBulgur Wheat
|AsparagusBroccoliBrussels sproutsBean sprouts
Green Leafy Vegetables
Onions (all types)
|Good Choice The foods at this level will trigger a moderate glycemic response which means they’ll raise blood sugar levels at a reasonably steady rate provided they’re eaten in moderate amounts.
The foods in this category are nutritious foods but still need to be eaten in moderate amounts.
|Brown RiceWhole-wheat pasta/ noodlesWholegrain breadSoba noodles
|Adequate ChoiceMost of the foods in this category contain fast release carbohydrates so will raise blood sugar levels fast and provide only short term energy. Although the fruit and vegetables within this category do offer nutritional value, they need to be eaten in strict moderation to maintain healthy blood sugar balance.||White riceWhite pastaEgg/Rice Noodles||White PotatoesParsnipsSwedeYams
Elsa Jones is a qualified Nutritional Therapist & Author of Bestselling Book ‘Goodbye Sugar’.
Who doesn’t love banana muffins? These ones are a healthier alternative because they’re made with wholewheat flour, healthy fats and no refined sugar. Most muffins you’ll find in cafe’s/shops are made with white flour, sugar and margarine which makes them light, fluffy and sweet but unfortunately not very good for you!
These ones are naturally sweetened with just bananas and a very small amount of honey so they will taste less sweet (I did say they were healthy muffins after all!) They’re also denser in texture from the wholewheat flour and oats making them high in fibre and very filling. Perfect for an on the go nutritious breakfast or a mid morning/afternoon treat with you’re favourite cuppa – A real family favourite!
Healthy Banana Muffins (makes 10)
- 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup oats
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup honey/maple syrup
- ⅓ cup olive oil or melted coconut oil
- ¼ cup milk of choice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional extras: 1/4 cup of finely chopped nuts/seeds
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease approx. 10 cups of your muffin tray with a little butter/oil or else use muffin cases.
In a large bowl, beat the oil and honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well. Mix in the mashed banana and milk, followed by the vanilla extract, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
Add the flour and oats to the bowl little by little and mix well with a large spoon until fully combined. (Now is the time to add in any optional extras you desire such as chopped nuts, seeds)
Spoon the mixture into each muffin cup/case, about two-thirds full. Sprinkle the tops with a little oats if you wish. Bake muffins for approx. 23 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer/toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
Allow the muffins to fully cool before eating, at least 30 minutes (hard I know!) Store in an air tight container for up to 3 days – enjoy!
Elsa Jones is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and author of Bestselling Book ‘Goodbye Sugar’. www.elsajonesnutrition.com
Confused about carbs? I wouldn’t blame you if you were. Never has a food group divided opinion more than carbohydrates. Most health experts preach that they’re an essential part of a balanced diet, yet the ‘low carb’ and ‘no carb’ diet remains firmly in fashion with celebrities like Kim Kardashian attributing her recent weight loss to a low carb Atkins diet.
Some people view them as the ultimate energy provider, others as the ultimate diet demon, so, which is it? As a Nutritional Therapist, it’s something I get asked about a lot. So, I’ve broken the subject down into the most frequently asked questions which will help you separate the hype from the truth about carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates Masterclass: FAQ’s
What are Carbohydrates (Carbs)?
What many people don’t realise is that most foods contain carbohydrates, just in varying amounts. Carbohydrates tend to be found in non animal plant based foods such as bread, pasta, rice, cereals, potatoes, beans, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. However you also find small amounts in milk and other dairy products. They supply the body with the energy needed for the muscles, brain and central nervous system to function. In fact, the human brain depends exclusively on carbohydrates for its energy.
How do carbohydrates work?
During digestion, all carbohydrates are broken down into glucose before they can enter the bloodstream where insulin helps the glucose enter the body’s cells. Any glucose that isn’t needed immediately for energy is stored temporarily as glycogen in the liver and muscles for future use, but, if there is a surplus of glucose, the body will store it as fat, end of.
Are there ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbs?
well, In terms of how our bodies process them, not all carbs are created equal. Carbohydrates can be divided into two main categories: ‘Fast release’ carbohydrates break down into glucose very quickly and thus tend to give us a sudden burst of energy followed by a slump whereas ‘Slow release’ carbohydrates are broken down slowly and enter the bloodstream more gradually which provides sustained energy.
|Fast Release Carbohydrates||Slow/Medium Release Carbohydrates|
|Sweets, chocolate, biscuits, breakfast bars, cake, muffins, ice-cream, jam, honey, refined cereals e.g. corn flakes, special K, rice crispies, chocolate, ‘white flour foods’, white bread, pastry, pizza, crisps, chips, bagels, white pasta, white rice, crackers, scones, pastries, fizzy drinks, fruit juices, dried fruit, baked beans.||Brown rice, wholemeal pasta, wholegrain bread, sweet potatoes, baby new potatoes, wholegrain cereals, oats, quinoa, millet, oat cakes, whole fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils.|
How do fast release carbs affect our health & wellbeing?
Problems can arise when we start over-consuming fast release carbohydrates which is very easily done. In fact most of us do. If, for example, you have a bowl of corn flakes for breakfast, a white roll for lunch and a bowl of pasta for dinner, your diet is predominantly made up of fast release carbohydrates. This can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels which in turn causes energy slumps, excessive appetite, food cravings, weight gain as well as increasing risk factors for various other health problems such as Type 2 Diabetes.
What is GI and GL?
The Glycaemic Index (GI) or Gylcaemic Load (GL) both measure the degree to which a carbohydrate is likely to raise your blood sugar (glucose) levels. However, GI does not consider the portion size of a food, whereas glycaemic load (GL) does. The GL takes the glyacemic index of a food and considers its common serving sizes to give a more practical indicator of the effect of that food on blood glucose. The idea of both rating systems is to help you choose foods that will keep your blood sugar levels stable. As a rule of thumb, slow release carbohydrates (as listed above) will have a low GI/GL. I’m a big believer in following a Low GI Mediterranean style diet for good health & weight management. In fact, this is the very style of eating that I outline in my book ‘Goodbye Sugar’ with meal suggestions and recipes.
How much carbs should I eat?
The truth is, you can have your carbs and eat them too, you just have to choose the right ones and in the right amounts! Also, how much you should eat depends on your age & activity levels. Outdated food pyramids encourage over-consumption of carbohydrates but nowadays most nutrition experts will agree that for those who lead sedentary/moderately active lives, starchy carbohydrates (bread, rice potatoes) should make up no more than one third of our diet. This translates to roughly ¼ of your plate at meal times. Another ¼ or your plate should be taken up with protein and the remaining half with vegetables/salad/fruit. If you get this balance right, you’ll never go too far wrong.
Why favour wholegrains?
As the name suggests, these are grains from which no part has been removed. As a rule, wholegrain foods tend to be brown, while products made from refined grains tend to be white. For example, white rice has the germ and bran removed during the refining process. When a grain is refined, much of the fibre, vitamins and minerals are lost making them far less nutritious. A diet that is rich in wholegrains is linked to many health benefits including lowered cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as a reduced risk of developing bowel cancer or a stroke.
Are low carb diets healthy?
Very low carb diets may trigger fast weight loss, however, the effects are almost always short term and the negative health effects often make it unsustainable for the long term. Eating too few carbohydrates can cause low energy levels, low mood, digestive problems and headaches. It can also lead you to eat an unbalanced diet that is too high in protein and/or fat. Another possible side effect is a higher risk of developing certain cancers if you severely limit vegetables and fruit consumption as per very low carb diets.
Whilst limiting refined carbohydrates is always a wise idea, cutting out good carbohydrates can backfire and may actually make you gain weight instead of lose it. A healthy diet must include some carbohydrates. It’s just about eating the right ones in the right amounts. As boring as it may sound, your mother’s ‘everything in moderation’ mantra really does apply to just about everything – including carbohydrates.
Elsa Jones is a qualified Nutritional Therapist & Bestselling Author of ‘Goodbye Sugar’ – www.elsajonesnutrition.ie