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Do you often look at the menu when sitting down for brunch and think Smashed avo or Bircher muesli seem like fairly healthy choices? What about two poached eggs on toast with additions like halloumi or bacon – is this really as healthy as you might think?
We caught up with Dominique Condo, a senior lecturer in sport nutrition at Deakin University, who gave us her take on the healthiness of six popular brunch options.
Eggs Benedict – ‘a nourishing choice for breakky’
Bacon and eggs on a muffin, smothered in creamy Hollandaise sauce – while it may seem like an unhealthy choice, Dr Condo has confirmed there are some healthy aspects to eggs Benedict.
‘The eggs obviously are packed full of protein and you’re getting all of your amino acids,’ she says.
‘The makeup of the eggs Benedict is great, however the issue is the Hollandaise sauce. It’s basically like having mayonnaise all over your meal. It’s really high in saturated fats, which means it is quite high in calories.’
If you’re an athlete who needs a lot of energy, a brunch option like this would be great, Dr Condo says. But if you’re trying to watch your weight, it’s not a great choice.
Dr Condo suggests the best way to enjoy the sauce is to ask for it on the side so you can add a good proportion without overdoing it.
‘Then you can enjoy the flavour but you choose how much you consume,’ she suggests.
Smashed avo – ‘a wonder food’
A staple item at many cafés across Melbourne, smashed avocado on toast is a favourite of Dr Condo’s. While it may appear healthy, this dish can actually be quite high in energy due to the amount of avocado within the serving.
‘Avocado is a wonder food – it is so nutritious but very high in energy,’ Dr Condo says.
‘If you are someone that is trying to watch weight, you have to remember it is a calorie-dense breakfast.’
Dr Condo’s suggestion is to order eggs on toast and ask for smashed avo as a side option, because some cafés will give you much more avocado than you need in one intake.
‘If you love smashed avo, cafés will often have the smashed avo option as a side. You can then also get the eggs as extras, which is really nutritious, high in protein, and you generally get a bit less. It means you’re getting a bit less but it is a healthier option,’ Dr Condo says.
French toast – ‘one to be enjoyed’
It will come as no surprise to many that French toast is to be consumed in moderation due to the high amount of sugar within the dish. With its white bread soaked in beaten eggs and covered in sweet ingredients such as sugar, maple syrup and fruit, it is one for sweet-tooths to enjoy.
But as Dr Condo explains, French toast isn’t the brunch item to choose if you’re looking for a high amount of key nutrition.
‘It’s going to give you some carbohydrates, from the bread,’ she says. ‘It really is to be enjoyed in moderation.’
Potato rosti – ‘an upmarket hash brown’
Generally more expensive than a hash brown, it’s the homemade look that might allow you to think a potato rosti is healthier. But Dr Condo says the two are actually ‘pretty similar’.
‘The rosti is an upmarket version of a hash brown,’ she explains. ‘You can generally see the shreds of potato within the rosti. The main difference is probably the homemade ones – you can tell they’re really good quality and really made from fresh ingredients.’
However, unfortunately for rosti lovers, it is basically the same as ordering a bowl of chips.
‘Choosing the rosti is not any better than choosing a hash brown,’ Dr Condo concludes.
Smoothies – ‘a way to get in a lot of good energy’
Smoothies can be clouded by the belief that they’re full of sugar and maybe aren’t as healthy as you’d think. However, with the right ingredients, they’re a great way to get a lot of good energy, Dr Condo says.
If you’re an athlete or someone who works out and exercises a lot, they’re perfect.
‘We want athletes to have more energy to recover, and smoothies are great for that,’ Dr Condo explains.
‘For the general person, smoothies are very energy dense, which is good – the energy is coming from milk, yogurt, fruit, honey, peanut butter.’
But if you’re trying to watch your weight, it’s worth avoiding too many high-energy ingredients like nut butters, nuts and seeds, coconut, or coconut oil, Dr Condo warns. If you’re looking for a healthy option that isn’t high in energy, green smoothies are a great choice, she suggests.
While a lot is spoken about the sugar added to smoothies, natural sugar from fruit is much better than the refined sugar added to other food or drinks.
‘Fruits within a smoothie contains natural sugar, but you have to understand that is still sugar,’ Dr Condo says. ‘You have to be mindful of the overall energy intake.’
Bircher Muesli – ‘has really good nutrition but often high in carbs’
Full of oats, nuts and fruit, Bircher Muesli might look like a healthy choice on a menu, however it isn’t actually as healthy as you might expect.
‘It’s important to understand that Bircher muesli has really good nutrition. It’s made from oats, which includes really high fibre,’ Dr Condo begins. ‘But it’s often really high in carbohydrates, lower in protein, and can be quite high in sugar.’
Often made overnight by soaking the oats in either yogurt or cream and juice with dried fruit and nuts, Bircher muesli is a brunch delicacy to its fans.
Although there are some nutritional benefits, if you’re not exercising enough to work off the carbohydrates, it can actually be an unhealthy choice, Dr Condo advises.
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