• A healthy, sugar-free breakfast doesn't have to be boring. (Smith Street Books)
Sugar Free Farm dietitian Hala El-Shafie delivers a breakfast wake-up call - cutting down sugar in your morning meal can help you eat healthily all day long.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

9 Mar 2017 - 12:46 PM  UPDATED 13 Mar 2017 - 12:18 PM

The saying 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' is more than just a clever marketing line pushed out by cereal manufacturers. 

What you eat for that first meal of the day can make a big difference to how you feel, your energy levels, and what you will crave for the rest of the day, according to registered dietitian Hala El-Shafie.

"What you have to remember is, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, because that's got to carry you through the rest of the day," she tells SBS. "So getting it right from the start is always good."

El-Shafie has been advising a group of celebrities how to improve their terrible diets on the second series of Sugar Free Farm (starts Thursday 9 March 8.35pm on SBS - find out more here).

On the show, seven British stars quit sugar, bad fats and processed carbs for 15 days, while living and working on a farm in the English countryside.

Many breakfast foods such as shop-bought cereals, yoghurt, fruit juice and muesli bars can be high in sugar, even when they are marketed as healthy options. 

So on the program the 7 celebrities are introduced to the idea of adding seeds and nuts are added to porridge to give it flavour and texture, rather than the hidden preservatives and sweeteners found in some pre-packaged porridge, and washing it down with a kale, carrot and celery smoothie.

The healthy meal horrifies the contestants, but El-Shafie says starting your day with sugar-laden food can set you off on a whole day of bad eating habits.

"From a physiological point of view, if you have a breakfast that's not balanced and that is too high in sugar then of course it's going to have an effect on your blood sugars, and if your blood sugars spike, they're likely to come crashing back down very quickly, which will mean you'll need another hit," says El-Shafie, who also leads Nutrition Rocks - a team of nutritionists, make-up artists and fashion stylists who encourage people to eat better for health while supporting a positive body image.

"We get this zig-zag effect, when actually we want much more of a flat-lining plateau going on, so what we're looking at doing is stabilising blood sugars so that you don't have those cravings.

"In the morning what we would really want is a good amount of protein and complex carbohydrates to carry you through. Because when our blood sugar drops, we tend to go for things that raise our blood sugars very quickly, and that's usually things that are sweet and easy to grab. So if you have a good breakfast, you're less likely to snack on something such as chocolate or sweets or junk."

El-Shafie recommends a well-balanced cooked breakfast, made up of ingredients such as eggs, rye  bread, spinach, avocado, tomatoes and mushrooms or home-made beans on toast as a great way to start the day. 

But she urges clients to "really get creative" with their morning meal.

"As human beings we are creatures of habit, so generally speaking we go down the same aisles in the supermarket," she says.

"I've got people to lose weight just by taking a different route into work because they miss the Starbucks and the latte and croissant.

"So often it is just about breaking that cycle, and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone as well."

On Sugar Free Farm, the celebrities learn to make the unusual-sounding sweet potato granola

Here are more no-sugar or low-sugar ways to kick-start your day. 

Toasted almond, coconut & chia seed cookies sound decadent, but can be made with no added sweeteners.

Breakfast tacos with avocado, scrambled eggs, corn salsa and hot sauce will spice up your morning.

This vegan scrambled tofu is very adaptable - slap it on toast, add your favourite veg to make it more omeletty, put it in a burrito or brekkie tacos, or eat it directly from the pan.

These chocolate, pistachio & cardamon scones do contain dark chocolate, but go as dark as you dare to keep the sugar content to an absolute minimum.

If you're not aiming to quit sugar altogether, these superfood bars offer a bit of added sweetness in the form of rice malt syrup.

This carrot, parsnip and cardamom loaf is a great way to use vegetables; it's sweetened with rice malt syrup, for those looking to cut back on refined white sugar.

 

People have been sharing some of their favourite #sugarfreebreakfasts on social media.

This one is a healthy porridge using rolled oats, spices, seeds, nuts and coconut yoghurt. 

This different version of porridge uses red rice and quinoa as the base, oat milk and some chopped date and berries for a little sweetness.

This savoury option is quick and healthy!

Any dietary information in this article does not constitute medical advice and readers should consult their healthcare providers before attempting any extreme lifestyle changes. 

Sugar Free Farm Season 2 airs Thursdays at 8.35pm from March 9. Discover more about what happens in season 2 here. View our TV Guide to find out when episodes are on air or catch up on missed episodes at SBS On Demand.

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