Doctors are only human and the stress of the job can lead to really bad food choices, too much alcohol and even smoking – though we know it’s wrong! However, most of us try to practice what we preach. As a weightloss surgeon who keeps up-to-date on all the latest nutritional and healthy lifestyle advice, I often get asked what I actually do myself. This week, I’m sharing my thoughts on breakfast – the best meal of the day. Or is it?
Is a good breakfast essential?
I am not really a breakfast person, but for years felt I should have a hearty breakfast as it was billed as the best way to start the day. Could the cereal manufacturers have had a part in that, I wonder?! In fact, there is no good evidence that a full-on breakfast is essential for health or weight control. What’s more the classic sugary cereal with fruit juice could be sabotaging our weight control efforts by giving us a sugar dip mid-morning, leaving us reaching for a sugary snack to top our energy levels up again.
In a rush?
So, as someone who can happily survive without much food first thing (later on in the day is entirely different!) I am happy to just grab a banana and go. Another quick option would be to blitz a ripe banana and some oats (great for the heart) in a blender with some ice, milk (or almond milk for a lower cal, dairy free option) and fresh or frozen berries if available. The resultant smoothie is filling and full of nutrition, without the excess of sugar found in shop-bought smoothies.
However, I try hard to do a bit of exercise in the morning when I can (as I just can’t find the willpower later in the day!) and need a bit more than a banana then. Protein and carbs are shown to be beneficial after exercising – either a veg and tuna omelette with extra egg white or a bowl of Greek yoghurt and blueberries and a piece of wholemeal toast. Protein is often neglected by women – but it is a better breakfast choice than sugary granola or muesli. If you are someone who needs a good breakfast, whether exercising or not, choose eggs or other protein sources, oats and other wholegrains and whole fresh fruit packed with fibre rather than fruit juice.
And I never forget my caffeine!
I can’t seem to get going without a coffee though. Caffeine was billed as bad – but actually, plenty of studies show a beneficial effect if you don’t overdo it. What’s more, a recent review from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) showed that caffeine may protect against certain cancers and does not seem to increase the risk of others. However, I am trying to let my usual black coffee cool a bit, or add milk, as drinking any fluids at temperatures of over 650C may be associated with an increased risk of some cancers. I try to restrict my caffeine habit to two or three as overdosing isn’t great for mood and concentration – and I avoid coffee after lunch to ensure it doesn’t disrupt my precious sleep. I also steer well clear of the huge, calorie laden lattes and similar in the hospital Costa – they can have the equivalent of a quarter of my day’s calorie needs plus loads of sugar.
So, breakfast is generally a pretty healthy start for me. The rest of the day may or may not follow suit. More to follow!
Acute Effects of Higher Protein, Sausage and Egg-based Convenience Breakfast Meals on Postprandial Glucose Homeostasis in Healthy, Premenopausal Women. Leidy et al. 2014 Experimental Biology meeting. San Diego, USA.
Roger Clemens and B. Jan-Willem van Klinken. Oats, more than just a whole grain. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014
Carcinogenicity of drinking coffee, mate, and very hot beverages. Loomis et al. on behalf of the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group. Lancet Oncology July 2016.