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The benefits of breakfast

The benefits of breakfast

Posted: 14 Jan 2019

Written by Leanne Kiezer, Registered Dietitian at Pick n Pay Retailers with information supplied by the Department of Health, National Nutrition Week 2018


We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Yet in South Africa, it’s estimated that about 19% of children aged 10 – 14 skip breakfast before going to school.  This is a huge pity, as the benefits of breakfast are well documented.

People who eat breakfast regularly:

  • Tend to be more active and follow a healthier lifestyle;

  • Get important nutrients like fibre, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, B vitamins and iron;

  • Tend to eat more vegetables, fruit and make healthy food choices the rest of the day, snacking on fewer unhealthy foods high in fat or sugar;

  • Tend to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, helping to prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure;

  • Have improved alertness, mood, academic scores and class performance.


Need some tips to make breakfast routine in your family?  

  • Breakfast is a good opportunity to set an example for your children.  Children who see adults eat breakfast are more likely to eat breakfast and carry on healthy habits as they grow.

  • Plan to start having meals, including breakfast, together as a family. Start gradually with a few meals per week and then increase it.

  • Enlist the help of the whole family.  Involve children of all ages in planning, shopping and preparing meals.  Giving jobs to everyone creates a shared experience and can make the workload lighter. Children are more likely to eat the meals they help prepare.  In addition to this, preparing meals together is a great way to connect with one another and have fun!

  • Turn off distractions like the TV, computer, tablets and phones during mealtimes. Keep toys and books off the table.


What is a healthy breakfast?  

Breakfast does not have to be a big meal. It should consist of food from at least one food group, excluding a beverage. Try to include two or more food groups in your breakfast to keep fuller for longer and to improve the variety of nutrients provided by the meal. 

  • Start with a starchy food with a high fibre content, and a low Glycaemic Index (GI).  This means the carbohydrates break down slowly during digestion, so glucose is released slowly into the blood stream. Examples include brown/seeded/whole-wheat bread, oats porridge or high-fibre breakfast cereals like bran flakes and Swiss muesli. 

  • Next add a protein-rich food like milk/yoghurt/maas, egg, lean meat, legumes, peanut butter or nuts.  Protein helps to improve the satiety of the meal, or keep you feeling fuller for longer.  

  • Lastly, add a fruit or veg.  These foods add bulk, fibre, vitamins and minerals.  


Here are some great breakfast examples:  

  • Instant oats, whole-wheat breakfast cereal or porridge with low-fat milk or yoghurt, topped with nuts or seeds and a piece of fresh fruit 

  • Whole-wheat, high fibre, low GI toast topped with nut butter, and a whole fresh fruit

  • Low fat yoghurt with low GI muesli and cut up fruit

  • Banana dipped in low fat yoghurt and rolled in granola or nuts

  • Breakfast smoothie, made by blending together peanut butter, fruit or berries, and milk or yoghurt

  • Home-made, low fat bran muffin with low fat yoghurt topped with berries

  • Home-made, whole-wheat crumpets topped with fruit, nuts and low fat cheese

  • Lean ham or deli meat on a toasted whole-wheat, high fibre, low GI bread and vegetable juice

  • Peanut butter or hummus on whole-wheat crackers, with a glass of milk and a fruit

  • Boiled egg, sliced tomato and a slice of whole-wheat toast

  • Leftover rice mixed with unsweetened low-fat yoghurt, dried fruit and nuts.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.


Quick breakfast ideas

We know the feeling – mornings can be rushed and chaotic!  How on earth will you squeeze in breakfast?  Use these tips to get you from breakfast skipper to pancake flipper!

  • Wake up earlier. It only takes 15 minutes to prepare and enjoy brekkies - and it costs less than buying something to eat on your way to work or school. 

  • To save time, try to get as much prep as possible done the night before – ensure breakfast foods, bowls, cups and cutlery are out and ready for the morning.  Move refrigerated items, such as low-fat milk, yoghurt and fresh fruit to the front of the refrigerator shelf for easy access.

  • Prepare hard-boiled eggs the night before so they are ready for a grab-and-go breakfast or to make an egg sandwich with toasted whole-wheat bread.

  • Cook extra maize meal porridge for the next day’s breakfast when making supper. Maize meal porridge that has been cooked and cooled and then eaten either at room temperature or reheated is healthier than freshly cooked porridge.

  • Oats do not need to be cooked on the stove.  Save time by cooking them in a microwave or by soaking them overnight.  


Still not enough time?  Here are some examples of grab-and-go or ‘packed’ breakfasts that should set you up for success: 

  • A piece of fruit to go and a packed brown bread sandwich with peanut butter;

  • Nut trail mix on the go with unsweetened low-fat yoghurt;

  • Lightly blended smoothie made the night before from low-fat milk, unsweetened low-fat yoghurt or maas and fruit or vegetables;


Issues with eating breakfast?

If you’re someone who doesn’t feel hungry when you wake up, don’t skip breakfast! Rather have a light breakfast, such as a piece of whole fruit or slice of whole-wheat toast.  Keep nutrient-dense foods, such as trail mix, dried fruit and unsalted nuts in the car, in backpacks, purses or briefcases to eat on the way to school or work, readily available for snacking when you feel hungry later in the morning.

And if you’re just not a big fan of breakfast foods? Don’t limit yourself – breakfast can be any food you like, so try soup, a lean protein sandwich, or even leftovers.



Click here to download the Breakfast Infographic


For further information, please contact the Pick n Pay Health Hotline registered dietitian on 0800 11 22 88 or [email protected].  To find a registered dietitian in your area, visit the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) website at www.adsa.org.za.  Please also visit the National Nutrition Week website: https://www.nutritionweek.co.za/NNW2018/ 



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