The first hour

The first hour of my day is when it all goes wrong. The alarm switches itself off, the shower blasts me with a jet of ice, and my favourite blouse is crumpled in a heap at the bottom of my wardrobe.

I’m sure you know the feeling, especially on a Monday. You had great intentions the night before: this was going to be it, the week when you finally started on the diet for good. But somehow, you end up grabbing a pain au chocolat on the way into work, rather than sitting down and eating that bowl of bran flakes that you’d planned.

For me, the trick was to set my alarm half an hour earlier – it gave me some precious minutes of quiet time before the rush headlong into another day, and it gave me a chance to prepare a healthy lunch and eat a filling breakfast.

Why bother with breakfast?

The thought of bran flakes may not quite inspire you to leap out of bed with a smile on your face – but don’t assume that skipping breakfast will help you lose weight: it won’t. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up wolfing down a mid-morning bar of supersized chocolate from the vending machine. And breakfast foods tend to be pretty healthy, as long as we discount the traditional full English…


The best choices to set you up for the day are high in fibre and contain some protein. Cereal is a star here: cheap, quick and usefully fortified with vitamins. Obviously, kidding yourself that gigantic bowls of coco-pops and lashings of whole-cream milk are good for you probably won’t work long-term. But go for whole grains and flakes, dried fruit, some chopped nuts and skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and you’ll be positively bouncing into the office.

Food Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
Bran flakes (40g) with skimmed milk (160ml) and dried fruit (15g) 230 9.7g 45g 1.3g 5.6g


Cereal five days a week gets pretty dull, though – even if you swing between different varieties. It took me years to bring myself to try porridge, but I am now a zealous convert – especially as oats are an official “superfood”. My favourite brands are the Scotts “Porage” Oats and the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference ones – both have big grains and a proper oaty flavour. Soaking the oats in milk overnight makes a really creamy porridge – I didn’t believe this till I tried it, but I’ve not looked back since!

Just measure out your milk into a microwaveable jug the night before, add the oats, and pop it in the fridge. Then you can zap it for a couple of minutes in the microwave in the morning (giving it a quick stir part way). There are all sorts of delicious things you can add to make it a bit more interesting – my favourites are raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar, and the Boyfriend is keen on banana.

Food Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
Porridge oats (35g) with semi-skimmed milk (160 ml) 210 8.8g 34.1g 4.4g 2.5g
– with raisins (20g), golden sugar (5g), cinnamon 295 9.4g 55.4g 4.5g 3.7g
– with banana (medium), brown sugar (10g) 345 10g 64.9g 4.7g 6.8g

Cooked breakfast (on a diet?!)

You lucky few with time to spare in the morning don’t have to miss out on a cooked breakfast just because you’re dieting. Wholemeal or granary toast with baked beans is a brilliant option for fibre and one of your five-a-day – or scrambled eggs and mushrooms are great sources of protein. And with moist toppings like these, you can get away without using any butter or spread.

Food Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
Wholemeal toast (2 slices – 80g), mushrooms (100g), egg (1 medium) 270 18.3g 33.1g 7.3g 5.8g
Wholemeal toast (2 slices – 80g), baked beans (small can – 200g) 330 19.2g 58.9g 2.2g 13.1g

Eating and commuting

Sometimes you really have to eat on the run, especially if you have a long commute. You don’t have to succumb to the coffee shop at the station though: try a cereal bar, a piece of fruit and a yoghurt, and a box of juice, which can be eaten en route.

If you have a break room at work, or office mates who don’t mind you crunching and slurping away at your desk, keep a pint of milk and a box of cereal at the office and get in ten minutes early – it’ll give you a chance for some guilt-free faffing on Facebook whilst munching breakfast.

Food Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
Cereal bar (25g), yoghurt (200g pot), apple (medium), box of juice (200ml) 310 11.9g 60.6g 1.2g 8.1g

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