A simple slice or two of toast is a breakfast staple for most of us. Luckily, on those days when you’ve only got a few minutes to kick start your day, it can actually be the base of a very nutritious meal.
But what you put on your toast can be an absolute game changer. Of course, the type of bread you choose is an important factor in the healthfulness of your meal, but that’s a story for another day…
With everything from plain butter to fancy nut spreads on the supermarket shelves these days, the choices seem endless – so you might be wondering what the best option is. Indeed, this is a question I am commonly asked as a dietitian.
So, without further ado, here’s my quick guide to spreads.
There’s been a surge in people converting back to butter recently, thinking it is the ‘more natural’ (and therefore ‘healthier’) option – but let me clear that up for you.
Butter is high in saturated fat, the type of fat that is bad for your heart and can contribute to LDL cholesterol (read: the bad type). Saturated fat should be limited with heart health in mind, so put the butter back on the shelf.
On the flip side of the butter debate is margarine, which can be a better choice.
You see, margarine is the product of plant oils that have been hardened. Choose a margarine made from a healthier oil, like olive oil, and you’ll get a dose of heart-healthy fats (the mono- and poly- unsaturated kind). These healthier fats can even help to raise HDL cholesterol (i.e. the good type).
Although margarine is usually a healthier choice, what’s important to remember is that it’s still a fat and will contribute a significant amount of energy to your diet, so use it sparingly.
This traditional Aussie spread gets a bad rap for its high salt content, but it’s probably not as bad as you think. Plus, most of us use only a tiny smear, anyway. You can also get a salt-reduced option, so opt for that if you’re a big vegemite user.
Vegemite also comes with added B vitamins, which help our body to use the energy we give it. The salt-reduced variety is even a source of Vitamin B12, which usually only comes from animal foods. This vitamin is key for DNA production and the function of our blood and nervous system, so it’s great news for our meat-free friends.
Jam and honey
A couple for the sweet tooth’s. Most people know that jam is a sugary spread, but what surprises most people is that honey is counted as an added sugar as well.
I hate to break it to you, but it’s probably best to leave jam and honey as occasional toast toppers, not your everyday occurrences. There are certainly healthier spreads to help you break your fast.
Now we’re talking – my beloved PB.
Peanut butter is quite nutritious, providing heart-healthy fats, a protein punch and a dose of gut-friendly fibre. But before you chow down on tub upon tub of the stuff you were used to as a little kid, be sure to opt for a natural variety (one that’s 100 per cent peanuts) and enjoy it in sensible portions.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can follow her @honest_nutrition.
For more nutrition tips and tricks, this is how to feel full without overeating. Plus, is eggs on toast an okay dinner when you can’t be bothered?
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