From a full English to a fruit smoothie, there are plenty of tasty ways to start your day, yet many of us are still skipping breakfast. It's time to rise and shine, says Diana Pilkington.
By Diana Pilkington
Time and again we're told it's the most important meal of the day, but many of us are still failing to tuck into breakfast in the morning.
According to a new study, nearly half of us skip brekkie at least once a week, while 15% of those surveyed never eat that vital early meal.
The top reason given was not feeling hungry first thing, while 21% of respondents would rather spend longer in bed.
And one in 10 people miss out in a belief it will help them lose weight - despite breakfast-skippers being twice as likely to munch on crisps later in the morning.
The research was conducted for Farmhouse Breakfast Week, which aims to put a stop to these bad habits and encourage people to start the day with a meal.
Dietician Nigel Denby said: "People who eat a healthy breakfast have better concentration, more energy, tend to be less stressed and are less likely to be overweight.
"Despite the wealth of evidence about the benefits of eating breakfast, it's shocking to see so many people missing out and that a large number of people are unclear about the benefits.
"For those who don't feel hungry in the morning there are plenty of light breakfast options, such as smoothies or a bowl of cereal.
"If you start your day with a healthy balanced meal you are also more likely to make healthier food choices for the rest of the day."
Nadia Sawalha, who is supporting the campaign, used to avoid breakfast in a bid to slim down, but found she only ended up snacking on less virtuous foods when hunger got the better of her.
"Every meal is important but the angel wings pop out at breakfast time," says the presenter, now a convert to the breakfast cause.
"I have different breakfasts for different situations. If I'm on the run I'll peel open an avocado in the car and have it with a handful of pumpkin seeds. On a lazy Sunday I'll have blueberry pancakes or a low-fat fry up.
"It's pandemonium in my house in the morning, but the one thing we do make time for is breakfast, even if it means sending out the kids with something to eat on the bus."
Here are a variety of breakfast options for you to try at home...
The breakfast stack (Serves 4) 4 large Portobello mushrooms 2 beef tomatoes 4 medium eggs 4 slices unsmoked back bacon 2 wholemeal English-style muffins, halved 1tbsp chopped chives Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and place in a grill pan. Slice the ends off the tomatoes and cut in half to create 2 circle shapes and place in the grill pan with the mushrooms. Place under a preheated grill for 5 minutes each side. Set aside and keep warm.
Meanwhile, poach the eggs for 2-3 minutes (one at a time if easier).
Place the bacon in the grill pan and grill for 5-6 minutes, turning once until golden and towards the end of cooking, toast the muffins.
Stack the bacon on top of the muffins then top with the mushrooms, tomatoes and then egg. Scatter with the chives and season with black pepper.
Tip: To poach eggs, bring a wide, shallow pan of water to just simmering. Using the handle of a slotted spoon, swirl the simmering water to create a whirlpool or vortex then crack the eggs, one or two at a time, directly into the centre of the whirlpool.
As the eggs cook, use the spoon to keep the water moving and ensure the egg whites wrap around the yolks (do this carefully so as not to break the eggs).
After 1-2 minutes, or when the egg white is cooked, remove them from the pan using the slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. For a firm yolk cook for a further minute or so.
Chocolate granola (Serves 4) 200g jumbo oats 75g walnut pieces, roughly chopped (or other nuts, such as macadamia) 1tsp cocoa powder 100g raisins 25g plain chocolate chips Preheat the oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4.
Place the oats, walnuts and cocoa in a large baking tray and spread out evenly. Bake for 5 minutes. Allow to cool. Stir in the raisins and chocolate chips.
Serve with milk, topped with sliced banana.
Tip: You could swap the cocoa with drinking chocolate and try either milk or white chocolate chips. For added indulgence, add extra chocolate chips or nuts.
Vanilla honey yogurt smoothie (Serves 1) 100ml semi skimmed milk 150g low fat natural yogurt 25g bran flakes ¼tsp vanilla essence 1tbsp honey Place all the ingredients in a liquidiser or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and drizzle over some extra honey to serve (optional).
Tips: For a smoother texture, soak the bran flakes in the milk for 5-10 minutes in advance.
Oaty yogurt with nuts (Serves 1) 25g jumbo oats 1tbsp flaked almonds 1tbsp hazelnuts, roughly chopped 2tsp clear honey 3 dried apricots, chopped 1tbsp dried cranberries 150g low fat natural yogurt Dry fry the oats and nuts for about 3 minutes over a medium heat until toasted.
Stir in the honey and dried fruit and allow to cool slightly.
Reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture and stir the rest into the yogurt.
Spoon into a glass and top with the reserved oat mixture before serving.
Tip: Try using a flavoured yogurt like strawberry or add fresh fruit for a different taste.
Nadia Sawalha's breakfast scones (Makes 10) 1tbsp rapeseed oil 125g unsmoked back bacon 100g mushrooms, chopped 125g self raising flour 100g wholemeal plain flour 1tsp baking powder 50g butter 30g cheese, such as Cheddar or Cheshire, grated 100ml semi skimmed milk Preheat the oven to 220ºC, gas mark 7. Grease a baking tray.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the mushrooms for 4-5 minutes until golden. Grill the bacon whole and chop the bacon into small pieces, roughly 1cm.
Mix the flours and baking powder in a large bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the bacon mixture and half the cheese. Mix in the milk to form a soft dough.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 2cm thick and using a 6cm round cutter, cut out 10 scones and place on the tray. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Perfect for eating on the go, wrapped in a napkin. The scones will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container. The scones can also be frozen (best to freeze once cooled, on the day they have been baked) so you have a ready supply for busy weeks.
Tips: Serve spread with low fat cream cheese, sliced tomatoes or ham for a more substantial breakfast on the go.
For a vegetarian option replace the bacon with finely chopped spring onion or chives.
:: Farmhouse Breakfast Week runs from January 20-26. For more information, visit www.shakeupyourwakeup.com