Balanced Breakfast

You’ve heard it before: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Miss breakfast and you’ll need to make up an additional quarter (25%) of your daily nutrient needs, and we are not talking about calories!

Breakfast is vital to starting your day on a firm footing and getting the competitive edge. Eating a nutritious, balanced breakfast within two hours or so of waking will:

  • Provide you with sustained energy and enhanced mental performance.
  • Help you experience fewer food cravings.
  • Raise your metabolism significantly, assisting with weight loss and weight management.

What’s holding you back from a sunny-side-up start to the day? Why do you miss out on this all-important meal? Have a look at some of the reasons why you may be missing out, then take note of at least one of the practical strategies we have used ourselves so that we remain at our best for most of the day.

There’s just no time!

Most of the breakfast ideas below require only a minute or two to prepare. Making a smoothie, for example, can take less than two minutes and it can easily be consumed in the car while driving to work.

I’m not hungy

If you constantly wake up and get going without eating, you will train your body not to be hungry. Rather opt for something light and easy such as a small fruit smoothie or even just a piece of fruit. Do this on a regular basis and you will find your morning appetite reappearing, reminding you to have the most important meal of the day.

I am nauseous in the early morning

It is not necessary to eat as soon as you get up. As long as your breakfast is eaten within two hours of waking, your body will be getting the fuel it needs to optimise functioning on all levels.

When I eat breakfast I am constantly hungry

This is common in our modern times of highly refined breakfast foods. The secret is to choose those foods that are absorbed slowly and steadily throughout the morning, rather than the refined, fast-release cereals so readily available. Always ensure there is some protein in your breakfast. It helps to balance blood sugar levers and to keep you energised for longer. A healthy appetite is a good sign – it usually means your metabolism is increasing, and the correct response is to eat small regular meals throughout the day, starting with a delicious quick breakfast.

Eating breakfast will make me gain weight

In fact, the opposite is true: breakfast can help with weight loss. After a night’s sleep, the body needs food to “break” the overnight “fast” and kick-start the metabolism. This increase in metabolism can assist with weight control. Breakfast-eaters also experience fewer food cravings, enabling them to make smarter food and portion choices throughout the day.


Step 1
Half-fill your plate with colour from nature’s colour palette in the form of fruit or vegetables such as grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted vegetables, and so on.

Step 2
Choose one fistful of starch in the form of low-GI toast, high-fibre cereal, baked beans, and so on.

Step 3
Choose a portion (the size of the palm of your hand) of low-fat dairy or lean protein, such as low-fat yogurt, cheese, egg, fish, and so on.

Step 4
Have a small portion of healthy fat, such as nuts, seeds, peanut butter or avocado. Alternatively, a small amount of good quality oil could be used to prepare the breakfast.

The balanced breakfast ideas that will follow give amounts for women. Men would consume 1.5 times the amount given. Each breakfast (women’s portion) provides:

  • less than 360 calories
  • less than 10g fat
  • less than 45g carbohydrate
  • a GL around 20
  • as much fibre as possible


  1. Pour 3/4 cup high-fibre cereal (High Fibre, All Bran Flakes) into a serving bowl.
  2. Add 1/2 cup fat-free/skimmed milk.
  3. Add lots of fresh berries.
  4. Sprinkle with 10 almonds (10g).
  5. Serve with a tiny glass of fresh juice (100ml) and a large glass of water.

Food Facts

Consumption of high-fibre foods requires extra water. Using All Bran Flakes the GL is 29, which is a bit high, but the breakfast is still balanced. Using Hi Fibre the GL is 22 and it contains 50% more fibre (15g).


  1. Mix 5 tablespoons raw oats with 1/2 cup fat-free/skimmed milk.
  2. Add 1 large chopped or grated apple.
  3. Top with cinnamon, a dash of vanilla essence and 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds.


For a Bircher-type muesli, mix all the ingredients the night before and refrigerate.


  1. Top 1 small tub of low-fat plain yogurt (125ml or 100ml) with 5 tablespoons low-fat, low-GI muesli (with dried fruit, unsalted nuts and seeds in the muesli).
  2. Enjoy with a tiny glass of berry juice (100ml) to complement to sweet muesli.


  1. Fill half a medium papino (small variety of pawpaw/papaya) with 1/3 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt.
  2. Top with 3 teaspoons low-GI muesli and 6 chopped pecan nut halves.


  1. Spoon 5 teaspoons whole-wheat Pronutro (Apple Bake or Original flavour) into a bowl.
  2. Pour over 150ml fat-free/skimmed milk.
  3. Add 1 small sliced banana or 1 large pear, chopped.
  4. Top with 10 cashew nuts.


  1. Spread 1 slice seed loaf or rye bread with 3 tablespoons smooth fat-free cottage cheese (flavoured).
  2. Arrange 2 thin slices smoked salmon on top.
  3. Serve with 1 fresh apple cut into wedges and lots of sliced strawberries.

Food Facts

This breakfast provides 1100mg omega-3 essential fats per portion, which equates to a full day’s requirement. Omega-3s are essential for brain function, cardiac health and reducing the body’s allergic responses. Seed loaf has roughly double the fibre of regular brown bread and is therefore the healthier choice.


  1. Mix 6 tablespoons low-fat cottage cheese, 1 heaped tablespoon sultanas, 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds and 4 chopped dried apricot halves.
  2. Spread generously onto 1 slice rye or seed loaf toast.


One tub of cottage cheese with triple the ingredients above makes three times the amount of this topping. Store the rest in the fridge and use as a filling for mini pita pockets, or spread on crackers or toast.

Food Fact

Cottage cheese is a good source of low-fat protein but does not count as a source of calcium.


  1. Heat the grill.
  2. Spread 1 tablespoon peanut butter onto 1 slice seed loaf.
  3. Top with 2 thinly sliced apple quarters.
  4. Drizzle with 1 level teaspoon runny honey.
  5. Grill for a few moments until browned.
  6. Enjoy the other apple half while grilling the meal.

Food Fact

Honey is twice as concentrated as sugar, so use tiny amounts.


  1. Warm 3 heaped tablespoons baked beans.
  2. Spoon onto 1 slice toasted low-GI or rye bread.
  3. Top with 2 tablespoons grated low-fat cheese.
  4. Serve with 1/2 cup fresh fruit salad.

Food Fact

Thanks to the baked beans, this breakfast provides 12g fibre, which is more than double the fibre of most breakfasts.


  1. Warm 4 tablespoons leftover savoury mince mixed with 1 heaped tablespoon baked beans.
  2. Place 2 thick slices fresh tomato on 1 slice toasted low-GI or rye bread.
  3. Spoon the warm savoury mince on top.
  4. Serve with one fresh fruit of choice.


  1. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil with 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar in a frying pan.
  2. Add 10 cherry tomatoes and cook until they start bursting.
  3. Poach 1 egg while the tomatoes cook.
  4. Spoon the tomatoes onto 1 slice rye or seed loaf toast on top with the poached egg.
  5. Sprinkle generously with fresh parsley or herbs.
  6. Serve with a tiny glass of pure fruit juice (100ml).

Food Facts

The easiest way to poach eggs is to invest in a microwave egg poacher. If you prefer, you can replace the poached egg with a boiled one. Because 100ml fruit juice is so little, add as much chilled water as you like to make a fuller glass of diluted fruit juice.


  1. Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Stir-fry 1/2 sweet pepper with 1/2 cup mushrooms.
  3. Pour over 2 beaten eggs and cook until set to make a frittata.
  4. Sprinkle with fresh or dried herbs.
  5. Serve the frittata on 1 slice toasted low-GI bread.

Food Fact

To balance this meal, make sure your mid-morning snack is a fresh fruit.


Grab 6 dried mango strips and add 2 matchboxes camembert or brie cheese. Add a bottle of water.

Food Fact

Fruit and cheese make a balanced meal. The cheese provides the protein and fat of the meal, and the fruit supplies the carbohydrate.


One 40g “health” bar. Add 1 small handful of lean biltong and 6 dried apple rings or soft eating dried apricots. Plus a bottle of water.

Food Fact

Because biltong is so concentrated this small amount of biltong provides two meat portions.


350ml fat-free or low-fat drinking yogurt or milk (flavoured) plus 10 almonds.

Food Fact

Drinking yogurt contains concentrated carbohydrates of which 30g (6 teaspoons) is sugar. Adding almonds, rather than more carbohydrate in the form of fruit, gives a better meal balance. If you have the time, it would be better to make a fruit smoothie.


Smoothies are a great meal on the run. Although they are quick and easy to make, the trick is to get the nutrient and energy balance right. The biggest problem with smoothies is that they can be too concentrated, and too big. This means that the glycemic load (GL) is often double what it should be.

Smoothies need to be consumed as soon as possible so drink immediately or pour into a water bottle to drink on the run. Keep the blender within easy reach on the counter top, not packed in the cupboard and definitely not in the box! Adding ice cubes is a great way to add volume without additional calories. If your smoothie is too thick, simply add water.

Making balanced, healthy smoothies

Step 1
Use no more than two tennis balls of fresh fruit per person. Peel fruit only when necessary, for example in the case of citrus fruits, banana or pine-apple. Chopped fruit and berries can be frozen for easy year-round availability and convenience. Fruit juice should generally not be added to smoothies, as it is too concentrated.

Step 2
The fruit and yogurt provide enough carbohydrate and therefore it is not necessary to add a starch. If you prefer to have extra fibre in your smoothie, add 2-3 tablespoons oats, oat bran or digestive bran.

Step 3
Add low-fat or fat-free yogurt or milk, protein powder or egg to provide the protein.

Step 4
A small portion of healthy fat, such as nuts, seeds, peanut butter, avocado, or oil (macadamia, avocado or omega oil) can be added if the protein used is fat free.

Here are some balanced smoothie ideas, with the amounts listed for women. Men could consume 1.5 times to twice the amounts given.

Each smoothie below (women’s portion size) provides:

  • less than 290 calories
  • less than 10g fat
  • less than 55g carbohydrate
  • 7-12g protein
  • at least 4g fibre
  • a GL around 20


  • half medium pawpaw/papaya, peeled and pips removed (150g)
  • 1 kiwi fruit, peeled (65g)
  • 50ml fruit juice (3 tablespoons)
  • 14 cashew nuts, raw (20g)
  • 30ml protein powder
  • 200ml water
  • ice cubes (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Food Fact

This is a dairy-free smoothie provided that a milk-protein powder is used. The is no need to add lots of protein powder, as a breakfast need only provide 7-14g protein.


  • 1 large or 2 small pears (220g)
  • 1 handful white grapes (75g)
  • 5 tablespoons low-fat vanilla yogurt (75ml)
  • 1/4 cup water (60ml)
  • 1.5 teaspoons oat bran (7.5ml)
  • 7 almonds, raw (10g)
  • ice cubes (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Food Fact

This smoothie has the lowest GI of the six recipes given, despite the grapes in it.


  • 1 small apple (75g)
  • 2 tablespoons low-GI muesli (30g)
  • 6 tablespoons fat-free/skimmed milk (90ml)
  • 5 tablespoons fat-free vanilla yogurt (75ml)
  • 1 rounded teaspoon peanut butter (10g)
  • ice cubes (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Food Fact

Fat-free milk and yogurt are recommended because the peanut butter contributes to the fat.


  • 1 cup frozen or fresh berries (125g)
  • 1 large banana (150g)
  • 1.5 teaspoon oat bran (7.5ml)
  • 5 tablespoons fat-free or low-fat milk (75ml)
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt (50g)
  • ice cubes (optional, but unnecessary if frozen berries are used)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Food Fact

Berries not only give this smoothie the highest fibre content, but they also provide generous amounts of phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants.


  • 1 small apple (75g)
  • 1 small banana (80g)
  • 1 small pear (110g)
  • 5 tablespoons low-fat milk (75ml)
  • 5 tablespoons fat-free vanilla yogurt (75ml)
  • 2 teaspoons Nesquick cream soda powder (7g)
  • ice cubes (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Food Fact

Milk flavouring powders (chocolate, strawberry, cream soda, and so on) should be added to smoothies in small amounts. They are a concentrated source of sugar and should only be used to add a hint of flavour.


  • 1 small or half large fresh mango (150g) or
  • 10 stirps of dried mango, rehydrated in water
  • 100g pineapple (1 x 2.5 cm slice)
  • 100ml plain low-fat yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free/skimmed milk (50ml)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (5ml)
  • 1 teaspoon linseed (5ml)
  • ice cubes (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Food Fact

On average, seeds contain 30% fat and nuts contain 50% fat.


These are not ideal as meal replacements because they are formulated from highly processed ingredients. However, rather than skipping a meal, use a well-balanced meal replacement mix. The best way to assess the quality of such a drink, is to assess the nutritional information given on the product.

It is important to check the nutritional values per serving, and not per 100g. For example, adding 50g powder to a glass of water should result in a meal-in-a-glass that meets as near as possible the criteria given above for a balanced smoothie.

If you are not adding water to the powder, but rather fruit juice or milk, the following values need to be added to those of the single serving of powder:

  • 250ml fruit juice = 120 calories plus 33g carbohydrate
  • 250ml low-fat milk = 125 calories plus 12g carbohydrate plus 8g protein plus 5g fat
  • 250ml skimmed milk = 90 calories plus 12g carbohydrate plus 8g protein plus 0.5g fat
  • 250ml low-fat soya milk = 115 calories plus 15g carbohydrate plus 8g protein plus 3g fat

Meals-in-a-glass should not be too high in protein as the body needs adequate carbohydrate to utilise the protein effectively. In order to control this, each gram of protein should be matched with at least two grams of carbohydrate. Check that the ratio of protein to carbohydrate is at least 1:2. This means that a high probiotic protein shake should usually be mixed with fruit juice, or a fruit should be eaten with the high-protein shake prepared with water.