Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Waken up to better breakfast choices

Granola with berries and yoghurt makes an ideal breakfast to get the day off to a healthy start.
Granola with berries and yoghurt makes an ideal breakfast to get the day off to a healthy start. Granola with berries and yoghurt makes an ideal breakfast to get the day off to a healthy start.

WHAT we eat at breakfast can affect how we feel, and what we eat, the rest of the day. Start your day with a carb-heavy breakfast of cereal and toast and you are likely to feel sluggish and hungry (or 'hangry') later in the day.

The traditional breakfast fare of cereal, a slice of toast and a glass of juice gives the equivalent hit of 16 teaspoonfuls of sugar. As this is the sugar equivalent of a 40g bowl of high fibre bran flakes, with one slice of wholemeal toast and a 200ml glass of apple juice, imagine what a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes with Nutella on white toast would do...

When this hits your bloodstream, your body goes has to do something with all that sugar. So your pancreas releases insulin to safely process the sugar. The result? Crashing blood sugar levels, cravings, irritability and fat storage.

It is time rethink our breakfast choices. Most of my clients tell me they feel so much better when they get a better balance in their breakfast bowl.

I am not advocating a no-carb diet, but simply to balance things out by choosing high fibre, low sugar, low GI (glycemic index) carbs, adding in a decent protein source and eating your fruit rather than drinking it.


The GI of a food is a measure of how fast sugar is released into your bloodstream, but this has more recently been updated with something called the GL (glycemic load), which takes into account the portion size of carbohydrate foods as well.

Foods with a higher GL have a greater effect on your blood sugar, while foods with a low GL help keep things balanced. As well as keeping your energy levels more sustained, choosing foods with a lower GL can help with weight loss.

When your blood glucose levels rise, insulin is released from your pancreas to get things back in balance by storing glucose safely inside cells, rather than in your bloodstream. Some of this glucose goes to your brain and muscles to be used as energy, but the rest goes to your liver where it's turned into fat and stored, causing you to gain weight.

Try replacing packaged cereals with jumbo oats and bread with rye bread (I like the Biona range) for a week or two and see what difference it makes for you.


A protein packed breakfast is a great way to get your day off to a healthy start. It will help keep you feeling fuller for longer, sustain energy levels and help you to stop snacking mid-morning - again, much better for weight loss than constant grazing.

Good protein sources at breakfast include:

:: Eggs

:: Natural yoghurt

:: Seeds (chia, flax, sunflower, pumpkin)

:: Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, etc.)


Despite its healthy image, fruit juice is a processed food. Drop your morning juice and add some berries to your breakfast bowl instead. You will get more fibre, less sugar and a more stable blood sugar balance.


:: Two eggs, boiled, scrambled or poached with a slice of pumpernickel-style rye bread and some tomatoes.

:: Natural yoghurt with berries, 1-2 dessertspoons of flax or chia seeds and 1-2 tablespoons of a low sugar granola (look for the words low-sugar, rather than no added sugar, as the later can be loaded with sugar).

:: Overnight oats with chia, walnuts, grated apple and some cinnamon. Soak in milk and pop in the fridge overnight, ready for a handy breakfast tomorrow morning.

Find out more about the GL index at

Check out my carrot cake overnight oats recipe at