Unfortunately, not all foods are created equal. Instead of grabbing whatever’s convenient or tasty, such as certain calorie-laden hawker food, sugary cereals or chocolate-smothered bread that will lead to blood sugar level spikes, aim to choose something healthy as your first meal of the day.
What makes a healthy breakfast, though?
If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what exactly makes a breakfast “healthy”, you’re not alone. Jaclyn Reutens, dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants, explains: “A nutritious breakfast is one that gives you energy to kickstart your day. Ideally, it should contain slow-release carbohydrates with lean protein and fibre. As a guide, it can have 250 to 500 calories, 7-15g protein, at least 3g fibre and less than 10g fat.”
With that in mind, here are some ideas for healthy breakfasts, plus what makes them healthy choices. The best part is, they’re easy to make at home or readily available at supermarkets or a coffee shop/hawker centre near you. Don’t worry, we’ve factored in your favourite teh c and kopi!
Saturated fat: 0.8g
Dietary fibre: 0.6g
Porridge is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of breakfast dish. If you love it, you’ll be happy to know that fish porridge is one of the healthiest options. Don’t include any fried garnishing, though. And this may be hard, but avoid the dough fritters (you tiao) too. Keep it simple and healthy.
Jaclyn’s verdict: A light and easy-to-digest low-fat meal. Add in an egg to increase the protein content of the meal.
Saturated fat: 4.1g
Dietary fibre: 0.8g
Eggs are high in protein, and are also versatile in terms of how you can cook them. Plus, they’re affordable so you won’t break the bank if you eat them often. Don’t use any spread on your toast though, to keep it as healthy as possible.
Jaclyn’s verdict: A high-protein meal that is also lower in sugar. Poached or boiled eggs are the lower calorie options, with boiled eggs the best choice as there are no added oils. Use multigrain bread to keep the glycemic index low, and to increase the dietary fibre.
Saturated fat: 1.5g
Dietary fibre: 3g
Yogurt contains calcium and is also good for your digestive health. A low-fat plain yogurt without added sugar is a good choice. Get all the natural sugar you need from the fruits instead.
Or try Greek yogurt, which is higher in protein.
Jaclyn’s verdict: A high-fibre, high-calcium meal that is high in vitamin C, probiotics and antioxidants. Eat two different types of fruit to get a variety of phytochemicals. Choose from common breakfast fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, papaya and kiwi. It makes a colourful combination, with a wide variety of antioxidants.
Check out some low-fat yogurt options here.
Saturated fat: 0.7g
Dietary fibre: 8.1g
Oatmeal is packed with fibre and antioxidants. It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contains nutrients such as iron, magnesium and folate. And, because it’s high in soluble fibre, it will keep you fuller for longer so you won’t be reaching for mid-morning snacks.
Berries are also high in fibre and antioxidants. They’re also beneficial for your heart health. While fresh berries are best, frozen versions are just as good but just make sure you pick those without added sugar.
Jaclyn’s verdict: High in soluble fibre and antioxidants. Cook with low-fat milk to increase the protein and calcium levels. Add in seeds such as chia seeds, flax seeds and sunflower seeds to increase the amount of healthy unsaturated fats.
Check out some oats options here.
Saturated fat: 4.6g
Dietary fibre: 4.4g
We love thosais for breakfast, especially on rainy days. And they’re a healthier option than, say, roti prata, as they contain less oil and are made from rice flour. Eat them with a daal gravy (and not chutney) as lentils are extremely healthy. Then wash it all down with a piping hot teh tarik.
Jaclyn’s verdict: A power-packed breakfast with some soluble fibre. Add in an egg for additional protein. Ask for less sugar in the teh tarik.
Saturated fat: 0.8g
Dietary fibre: 7.9g
Say goodbye to sugar-laden cereals and hello to wholegrain ones packed with nutrients. Eating wholegrain foods are beneficial against the risk of developing coronary heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
Jaclyn’s verdict: High in dietary fibre and minerals such as calcium, zinc and potassium. Use low-fat milk or yogurt to help meet lean protein requirements.
Check out some healthy cereal choices here.
Saturated fat: 3.3g
Dietary fibre: 2.7g
Even though these steamed buns are relatively healthy, don’t fill yourself up with too many of them as the calories will add up. And, when ordering your bean curd, ask for less syrup, if possible.
Jaclyn’s verdict: A low-fat, high-protein meal that also contains phytoestrogens that are heart-healthy. Avoid the meat paus as they contain more saturated fat, and choose the red bean or lotus paste paus instead.
Saturated fat: 3.8g
Dietary fibre: 13.1g
Avocados are high in healthy (monounsaturated) fats so don’t be scared off by the fat content. Monounsaturated fats are good for lowering bad cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. But the high calorie count means you shouldn’t eat this too often.
Jaclyn’s verdict: High in monounsaturated fats and vitamin E that improve the good HDL- cholesterol level. Use wholemeal or multigrain bread for added soluble fibre.
Dietitian Jaclyn’s tips for healthy breakfast habits
1. Include whole grains as often as possible for a healthier heart and improved gut health. Examples of whole grains are bran flakes, weetbix, oatmeal, wholemeal bread and multigrain bread.
2. Eat a serving of fruit as part of breakfast for a burst of powerful antioxidants to start the day.
3. Try to avoid or limit added sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar or honey in the morning. This could trigger cravings for more sugary foods for the rest of the day.
4. Include lean protein such as low-fat milk, soy milk, soft cheese, yogurt, eggs and beans to make it a well-balanced meal.
5. Drink water alongside your coffee or tea. Staying hydrated first thing in the morning helps you function better for the rest of the day.