“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” How many times did you hear your mum tell you that on all those early mornings before school, while struggling to prop your eyes open, let alone prepare a healthy breakfast? As in most cases though, your mum was right. According to the textbooks: ‘breakfast provides your body with key nutrients and energy after your overnight fast, restoring glucose levels in the brain to aid your cognitive performance which is especially important before a day of lectures or studying.’
As students, however, it’s probably a bit too easy for us to reach for last night’s pizza, a bowl of sugar-loaded cereal or to simply end up having nothing at all after rolling out of bed five minutes before your first lecture begins. Luckily, there are plenty of healthy, filling and wallet-friendly options for you to try.
An old reliable that has a plethora of health benefits: this grain can help lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol, as well as having slow-release wholegrain goodness that’s perfect for fuelling you for a long day on campus. Its slow energy release ensures that blood sugar levels remain stable preventing spikes and lows, which also makes it a good choice before exercising.
Cheap to buy and simple to prepare, it’s the student’s best friend. Simply put half a cup of oats and one cup of liquid (either all milk/dairy-alternative, all water, or a mix of both) in a bowl and microwave for two to three minutes.
While the humble oat is perfect alone, it’s also easy to spice it up with various toppings and flavourings. Topping with peanut butter and banana adds a delicious source of protein and sweetness; you can even mash half of the banana in to the oats to create a stronger flavour. If you like cinnamon, then stir one teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon through your cooked porridge or simply sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. Adding nuts like sliced almonds or chopped walnuts gives an added kick of protein and healthy fats and you can swirl over a teaspoon of honey for an extra boost. If you fancy something more indulgent, stir in two teaspoons of cocoa powder in to the milk and cook for a chocolate-y treat.
Adding fruit to your breakfast is a great way to get ahead with your five-a-day and needn’t cost the earth. Try buying fruit from local markets, such as the two on Hosier Street and St Mary’s Butts near Broadstreet Mall, or the fruit and vegetable market on campus every Thursday in 360. Buying frozen fruit is also a great way to pick it up cheaply and avoid wastage, with 500g of frozen fruit, such as berries, mango and pineapple, usually costing around £2.00 in most supermarkets.
If you don’t fancy your oats hot in the morning, then try making overnight oats, the same mixture of oats and milk simply soaked overnight. Stir together half a cup of oats and three-quarters to one cup of milk (depending on how thick you want it) in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. By morning the oats will have swelled and soaked up the liquid to create a creamy, smooth texture.
To develop that basic recipe, try adding one teaspoon of vanilla essence for vanilla overnight oats, to which you can also add chopped berries. Stir through one to two teaspoons of honey for some natural sweetness or try stirring one tablespoon of peanut butter in to the milk, then adding the oats and half a mashed banana. You can also try using half milk and half yogurt, experimenting with different yogurt flavours.
In the morning, top your oats with any extra fruit, nuts or seeds that you’d like and a little sprinkling of granola for extra crunch.
Smoothies and Smoothie Bowls
While some health food websites and Instagram posts might make smoothies seem extravagant due to using various expensive health-food ingredients, a basic smoothie needn’t be costly. Blenders can be picked up fairly cheaply and, while there are many top-of-the-range brands available, you don’t need to spend a lot to get a good quality one.
For a basic smoothie, blend together a banana, one cup of fruit and one to two cups of liquid depending on how thick you want it. Your liquid can either be milk, water, yogurt, fruit juice or coconut water and you can experiment with the ratios of each. As mentioned earlier, using frozen fruit can reduce the cost and the fruit can be used straight from the freezer. Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started:
Berry Blast – blend one banana, a cup of mixed summer fruits and one to two cups of liquid.
Refreshing Mango – blend one banana, a cup of chopped mango, half a cup of orange juice and half a cup of water; you can also substitute the banana for a cup of chopped pineapple or peaches.
Green Smoothie – don’t be put off by the leafy green addition, it doesn’t alter the fruity flavour, but does give you a healthy burst of morning vegetables. Blend together one banana, a cup of chopped mango or pineapple and one cup of fresh spinach.
For a smoothie bowl, a much thicker smoothie that’s eaten in a bowl and topped with extra fruit, granola or muesli, simply blend together one banana, one cup of frozen fruit (which helps it to thicken) and a quarter of a cup of liquid.
If you’re interested in getting some vegetables into your morning meal, try fried or scrambled eggs on toast with a generous serving of spinach, cooked with a little oil in a frying pan. Mashing some avocado on to your morning toast provides an abundance of nutrients and healthy fats and can also be paired with a poached egg. Whip up a breakfast omelette with plenty of mushrooms and kale or spinach, or make a breakfast Panini with sautéed vegetables and wholegrain bread.