‘I swapped porridge for savoury breakfasts for 7 days – this is what I learnt’

savoury breakfasts
‘I swapped porridge for savoury breakfasts’Louella Berryman

Usually, a midweek morning in my household isn’t complete without a steamy bowl of porridge. I use oats, water, peanut butter and honey to create a creamy, slightly sweetened porridge base, and top with either raspberries or banana and a mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds. So far, so healthy, right? Well, not according to everyone.

The biochemist turned nutrition writer Jessie Inchauspé (aka The Glucose Goddess) says that we should be opting for savoury breakfasts – not sweet ones – since a sweet and starchy breakfast, like porridge, isn’t the best way to give us energy. In her ultimate savoury breakfast guide, she says; ‘A sweet and starchy breakfast leads to a glucose spike, which hurts our body’s ability to make energy efficiently, makes us tired, and kicks off all kinds of side effects.’

And the Glucose Goddess isn’t the only one shouting about the benefits of a savoury breakfast. As per a couple of studies – including this 2016 paper and this 2021 paper – morning meals (aka savoury breakfasts) that don’t spike your blood sugar levels can also boost your energy and concentration levels throughout the day, reduce inflammation and even improve the appearance of your skin.

Could my beloved bowl of porridge be responsible for those dreaded 10 am hunger pangs? Perhaps.

My ½ cup of oats contains 30g of carbohydrates, which makes it a ‘high-carb food’ and eating it can result in a spike in blood glucose levels. However, oats, in particular, have a low glycemic index, and are rich in fibre, meaning that while porridge is a high-carb breakfast, oats, in particular, don’t raise your blood sugar in the same way as other high-carb foods. Both these factors mean having oats for breakfast can keep your blood sugar stable and keep you feeling full. Conflicting ideas, right?

Essentially, how your body reacts to nutrients varies from person to person. If you’re extra curious about how different types of food impact your body, new personalised nutrition tech like Zoe and Lingo and various other blood glucose monitors can help you determine things like which kind of breakfast is best for your body (and brain).

It’s also important to approach nutrition with a sense of balance and inclusivity, rather than demonising specific food choices, says nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. ‘Sweet breakfast options like porridge with fruit or overnight oats can be an excellent source of fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants. These nutrient-dense choices provide a sustainable energy boost and contribute to overall well-being,’ she says.

‘Vilifying sweet breakfasts can create unnecessary stress around food choices ... ultimately, it's about finding what works for you, what you enjoy, what keeps you satiated, and embracing a diverse and balanced diet that meets your nutritional needs,’ says Lambert.

With this in mind, while I wanted to switch up my usual oat-peanut-butter-honey-fruit combo, I knew it was important to me to keep a carb in the mix. So, most of my breakfasts for my seven-day experiment will include a carb element for a) my enjoyment (mornings are bad enough as it is, I don’t need a carb-free breakfast to make them even worse) and b) I find that a balance of carbs, protein and fibre is the magic key to feeling satiated in my meals.

So, after seven full days of embracing savoury breakfasts, here are five things I’ve learnt...

1) I got more nutrients

Switching up my routine forced me to think outside of the box for breakfast. Instead of reaching for the same old packet of oats, I planned my breakfasts in advance, making sure I had a variation of ingredients and flavours.

Studies say eating a varied diet is key to maintaining gut health, so my long-term microbiome health will probably thank me for introducing a few savoury breakfasts into my weekly meal plan. On days when I knew I’d be out and about without time for a snack, I had some meal-prepped homemade beans on toast with rocket, and for speedy breakfast days, I had a simple smashed avo toast with lemon and feta. Protein? Check. Healthy fats? Check. Delicious start to the day? Check

2) I felt fuller for longer

While I’d say my hunger levels usually depend far more on what exercise I’ve done (the mornings I cycle into the office tend to render me hankering for a snack pre-lunchtime) I did find that I felt less hungry mid-morning overall, which surprised me. On instinct, I’d say the added protein from things like beans, eggs and feta played a big part in my satiation levels. However, when I did have a craving for a snack, I was more likely to reach for something sweet like a granola bar.

3) My energy levels felt consistent

Overall, I’d say I definitely felt a difference in my energy levels. My slump usually comes post-work, leaving me with zero motivation to go for a quick swim or pay attention to those running app notifications on my phone. During this seven-day experiment, I did find I had more even energy levels throughout the day. So although I didn’t get that immediate post-breakfast energy spike, I had more motivation to be active in the afternoons and evenings.

4) I had more fasted hours in the day

On the days when I wasn’t rushing off to the office, I found I had more fasted hours (probably around 14-16 compared to 12). Instead of mindlessly reaching for the porridge pan first thing, I spent more time thinking about what I actually felt like eating, meaning I took a little time with a green tea and my emails before delving into avo toast or leftover shakshuka.

There are plenty of studies that show the benefits of intermittent fasting on everything from metabolism to blood sugar levels and even heart health, so perhaps switching up my breakfast routine for something more mindful has the potential to reap indirect benefits like these.

5) I enjoyed mornings more

I am not a morning person. I’ll never be the type to relish setting my alarm for any time before 7 am and in an ideal world, I’d sleep at midnight and wake up refreshed and ready for the day at 8.30 am. One of the things that motivates me to get up and at it in the morning is a great breakfast, so I found that being creative and coming up with some new ideas (prepped in advance, of course) made me a little bit more excited to start the day.

Feeling inspired? Here are some savoury breakfast ideas to get you going

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