A healthy breakfast for the Business Traveller

Not having a healthy breakfast is a sure-fire way to start your journey feeling weary.  According to research, one in three of us still regularly miss breakfast, and this is usually due to time pressures in the morning or not feeling hungry when setting off so early in the day.  Still, we all need to break our overnight fast so we can refuel for the activities ahead.

Substantial research evidence shows having breakfast is related to performance, particularly being able to concentrate on the day’s tasks before us and our mood, along with weight control, improving glycemic control, managing jet-lag, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure and diabetes.  All these issues we now know affect business travellers more than office-based workers.

So, what constitutes a healthy breakfast?

To get the full benefits of breakfast, it shouldn‚Äôt be just any old breakfast, but one which consists of many, if not all, the main food groups.¬† Ideally, breakfast should supply between 20 ‚Äď 25% of your nutritional requirements, Peanut butter sandwiches on white kitchen tableand include carbohydrate foods (starchy whole grains), dairy, fruit or vegetables and protein sources.¬†¬† Business travellers also need to ensure they have adequate fluids at breakfast time.

Choose a winning combination option

Excellent breakfasts are those which combine complex/starchy carbohydrate, such as porridge, cereals, or wholemeal toast, with protein, such as dairy, fish, peanut butter or eggs, which improves satiety.  This means it takes longer to digest, leaving you feeling satisfied without making you feel discomfort from being overfilled.

It’s easier to do this when at home but harder when in transit.  So, here are a couple of tried and tested examples of what you can pick up quickly at the airport.

  • Egg and mayo sandwich, preferably wholegrain or rye bread.
  • Yoghurt and banana smoothie
  • Smoked salmon on whole-wheat bagel
  • Boiled eggs, spinach and oatmeal or rye crackers (often available from retail stores at airports such as Boots the Chemist, WHSmith or Marks & Spencer)

Or combine dishes from the menu.  Most restaurants offer at least two sides which you can combine.

  • Baked beans and wholegrain toast
  • Poached egg on granary or rye toast
  • Omelet with mushroomsFresh fruit with muesli and yoghurt
  • Smoked salmon and wholemeal toast
  • Peanut butter on wholegrain toast with a chopped banana.

Cooked breakfasts

A cooked breakfast can still be part of your travelling.  However, a traditional fry up at an airport is often near 1000 calories (approximately half your daily calorie requirement).  In some airport restaurants we reviewed, cooked breakfast was over 1200 calories.  In sharp contrast, breakfasts which include healthy leaner proteins cooked with minimal added fat are only a quarter to a half of this calorific value.  A plain egg omelette and toast, for example, is approximately 350 kcals, a grilled kipper with grilled tomato and mushrooms is 350 kcal, while baked beans on wholemeal toast is only 250 kcals.

Breakfast on the go

If you’re catching an early flight, then enabling yourself to have something en route might be the only realistic option for beginning your journey with a timely breakfast.  Many airport cafes and restaurants are not fully open until the first flight has departed.  Some airport lounges also choose not to open until after the first flight has taken off.

Thick egg salad sandwich with an appleSo it’s a good idea to prepare your cupboard and fridge with easy to snatch items the day before.  It could include a carton of juice or a bottle of water; individual pieces of cheese, a boiled egg or a punnet of yoghurt; muesli, rye or oat biscuits; banana, a piece of citrus fruit or a trail mix of dried fruits and nuts.

You might consider it worthwhile making a quick grab item the night before.  For example, a whole grain roll with low-fat cream cheese and smoked salmon; an egg sandwich; or a whole grain bagel with scrambled egg and ham; or a homemade Bircher can all be made the evening prior, ready to go in the morning.

Beware of hidden sugars in fashionable ‚Äėhealthy‚Äô breakfasts

Brilliant healthy breakfasts are those that taste great.¬† But beware of those full of hidden sugars which caterers add.¬† This is particularly true when a breakfast has become a popular ‚Äėhealth‚Äô option.

Greek Yoghurt, granola and compote is a perfect example.  Most airport cafes, retail outlets and restaurants now offer this as either a grab and go item or an alternative to a traditional breakfast on their menu.  When made at home, you can control the amount of sugar which you add.  However, when purchased at airports, the compote, yoghurt and granola can all have added sugar.  So much so that most items we reviewed in airport retail, cafes and restaurants contain the equivalent of 5 to 6 teaspoons of sugar.  While some of this is naturally present, such as lactose in milk or fructose in the fruit, most of it has been added.

Healthy SnackingTo choose to a lower sugar option, select one with only granola or compote but not both.   Better still, purchase a fresh fruit salad and add yoghurt or purchase porridge and add fresh fruit. Porridge and whole fruit can be purchased at some airport cafés, such as Costa Coffee and Starbucks.  Just make sure you double check the ingredients for added sugar on the packet before purchase!

Delayed reaction

Lastly, if eating first thing isn’t your thing, then try to eat within two hours of getting up.  A late breakfast is still a breakfast!  You could start with something simple, like a piece of cheese and an apple, and gradually build it up over time.  Once you start to have something on a regular basis, you will become accustomed to food eaten at a certain time, and your body will begin to secrete digestive juices in anticipation.  Over time, you can bring this forward a little so that your body is ready earlier in the day.


Kathy Lewis, R.Nutr, BCApSc, MSc, MBA,
Author: Kathy Lewis, R.Nutr, BCApSc, MSc, MBA,
Kathy Lewis, Consultancy Director, enjoys a multidisciplinary career based on a portfolio of achievement.  Kathy is a Management Consultant for Executive Travel Wellbeing and Stress, Health Promotion Specialist, Consultant Nutritionist (Registered Nutritionist and World Public Health Nutritionist) and a Chartered Marketer with over 25 years of experience.   Her specialist areas include executive stress and wellbeing (including jet-lag and travel wellness),  travel nutrition, travel policies, corporate vitality, employee engagement, marketing and internal communications. Kathy holds several relevant degrees, Masters in Applied Psychology (MSc) with distinction for her research in Executive stress and maladaptive coping behaviours looking specifically at clinical work-based stress and the impact on healthy lifestyles, Masters in Business Administration (MBA), with distinctions achieved in Management Accounts, Statistics and Project Management, completed with a research-based dissertation in the marketing of healthy options in catering establishments, and a Bachelor degree in Nutrition and Food Science.Over the last 25 years, Kathy has worked as a consultant and advised in various industries, from travel, health and food to financial services and telecommunications, on nutrition, executive wellbeing, workplace health, change management, internal communications and employee engagement. She has worked with a variety of clients across local government, NHS, educational institutes, NGO’s, national and multinational companies. As a Management Consultant (post-MBA) Kathy was required to travel to several locations each week and in 2002 began her masters in Applied Psychology (& Health Promotion) as a result of observing the stress in senior managers.  She was awarded a distinction for both her research on work-related stress and maladaptive behaviours and her course work.  Prior to this, Kathy spent many years working with catering establishments to provide healthy options, and prior to this working in diet and fitness centres, following her degree in Human Nutrition and Food Science in 1989.   Combining all areas of experience and expertise was the obvious way forward, and subsequently founded the concept of business travel vitality and wellbeing. Kathy is a former Consulting Editor for Readers Digest Association Inc (USA) and Readers’ Digest UK (Vivat), as well as the former founding Non-Executive Editor for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Food, Drink and Agriculture group. As an author, she has written a number of publications and a variety of articles in consumer publications and professional journals, with guest media appearances on a number of radio shows, including the BBC, London and regional radio.  She enjoys public speaking on a range of topics and is a regular speaker at professional events. Kathy is also the Vice Chair of The Caroline Walker Trust, Founder of the International Forum for Health Promotion and Education, a board advisor for the Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy, the Vice-Chair/former Chair for the Financial Services Board at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, former Trustee/Non-Executive Director for the Association of MBA’s (where she chaired the Governance Committee and was a member of the HR Committee and Strategic Working Party), former Honorary Secretary for the Institute of Health Promotion and Education, a founding Council Member of the Association for Nutrition. Kathy was also a committee member for the Food, Drink and Agriculture group at the Chartered Insitute of Marketing and a current Non-Executive Director at NZ Engineering. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Association of MBAs, Institute for Travel Management, Association for Woman Travel Executives, Nutrition Society, SENSE, World Public Health Nutrition Association, Association for Nutrition (UK) and International Travel Writers Alliance.  She is a former member of the Institute Institute of Directors, Royal Society of Arts and Institute of Health Promotion and Education.

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