There’s not one food that’s going to be better or worse for breakfast. Some people swear by eggs in the morning, some people swear by cereal, some people just have fruit. The important thing to remember is thinking about getting a variety of foods from across the food groups.
Let’s start with the starchy carbs, like cereals and breads. Here choose wholemeal or wholegrain varieties because they not only have higher vitamin and mineral content, but they also have high fibre content. And it’s fibre that provides us with that feeling of fullness. For these foods you should be looking for the word ‘whole’ - it will say ‘whole’ on the packet; possibly as wholewheat or wholegrain. .
"Ignore any marketing messages on the front of the cereal boxes"
I would be inclined to ignore any marketing messages on the front of the cereal boxes. The things that you’re looking for when choosing cereals are a) whether it’s wholewheat or wholegrain; and b) the nutritional information table. Go to the column that says per 100g. Anything that is higher than 22.5g of total sugar per 100g is high sugar. It’s an important figure for people to have in their minds. A low sugar product will have 5g or less per 100g. Remember these figures and you can make an informed choice. People will often ask me if a certain food is good for them and I tell them that I really can’t say unless you show me the packet.
Porridge is a great choice. Oats are a low GI food, they’re also wholegrain. Even Ready Brek, which is a slightly more processed form of porridge and really quick and easy, is good.
The second food group is fruits and vegetables. So if you are having a bowl of cereal think about having some fruit with it, or sprinkle a small handful of dried fruit like raisins on the cereal instead of adding sugar. They’re a natural sweetener whilst also adding extra fibre and nutrients.
Milk and dairy is the next food group. If you’re having a bowl of cereal with some milk and fruit you’ve got three of your four food groups covered already. If you’re having a piece of wholewheat toast with some low-fat cream cheese, you’ve covered two groups. Add a piece of fruit in and you’ve got three. So you can kind of get the way of thinking about a meal in terms of food groups.
The fourth food group is meat, fish, eggs, beans and alternatives to meat - the protein food group.
I’m not saying for one minute that everyone has to cover all the food groups at breakfast, or at every meal for that matter, but a good combination of foods from at least two of those groups is what you are aiming for.
"No food should ever be denied. It’s always about eating in moderation"
In terms of the Full English, no food should ever be denied. It’s always about eating in moderation. If you’re talking a proper greasy spoon that should be infrequent – especially if everything in that meal is likely to be fried.
Finally, hot drinks. There are chemicals in tea called tannins and they interfere with iron absorption so I wouldn’t recommend drinking tea with cereal for that reason. As a choice I’d go for a small glass of pure fruit juice (no more than 150ml), or just a glass of water. We need to stay hydrated too.