I am a morning person. Sometimes this is a source of frustration, because I am a bad sleeper and often wake early, unable to return to slumber. Yet, mostly, I relish the early hours. My head is clearest, my ideas are brightest and my heart most hopeful in the morning.
That time before the late risers appear feels precious, almost stolen. As if I’ve somehow added some secret extra hours to my day. Perhaps I’ve braved the rain or discovered the sun on a jog, made headway on a work project or cooked a great breakfast. I’m aware that all this may change if and when I have children, but for now I savour the luxury of those calm early moments to myself.
Whether or not you’re a morning person, getting into a routine when you wake up can set you on the right course for a productive day. These are my four essentials for a positive start to the morning. Except at the weekend, of course, when I hope to be found lounging in bed with a cup of tea and a good book.
Move: Head out on a run, walk round the block or follow a yoga video. I find taking some exercise first thing awakens not only my body, but also my mind. As I work my muscles, I also work through the night time’s worries or sort out plans for the day ahead. If you have a garden or can get to some nearby green space, even better. There’s nothing as restorative as the sight of green leaves against blue skies and the sounds of water flowing or birds singing.
Hydrate: Swap your first cup of tea for a more hydrating drink, particularly if you have taken some early exercise. My favourite morning brew is hot water with fresh ginger, lemon and a squeeze of honey. The rousing kick of ginger and the zing of lemon are soothed by the sweet honey, which makes this drink a gentle wake up call each day.
Nourish: There are plenty of studies that demonstrate the importance of a good breakfast, so I’ll leave the science to them. For me, breakfast is important because it is delicious, but it also gives me energy for a productive morning. It could be anything from a bowl of cereal to egg on toast, but make sure you choose options that you find tasty, that aren’t too sugary and feel kind to your body. Take the time to prepare and eat something you enjoy.
My friends and social media followers will know that I eat porridge year round. In the heat of the summer, however, I am sometimes persuaded to swap to what I like to think of as ‘summer porridge’ - bircher muesli. The recipe for one of my favourite summer flavour combinations is below.
Pause: Before you hurtle into action, spend a minute or two taking stock and setting intentions for the day, or week, ahead. I usually take this moment before I begin breakfast and open my emails, but find a time that works for you. Pause, breathe and begin.
Peach, almond and cardamom bircher muesli
Bircher muesli is filling, healthy and easy to adapt to your palate. In this recipe I love the gentle sweetness of almonds and the sunshine of cardamom as a base for the peaches, which are my favourite summer fruit. It would also work well with nectarines and apricots.
The majority of the recipe is made in advance, so you’ve got the joy of knowing there’s a delicious breakfast ready for you in the morning. If it’s helpful to have several days' worth of breakfasts prepared ahead, you can make a big batch and store it in the fridge for 3-4 days. Bircher is also very portable, which is ideal if you like to take breakfast to work with you.
The recipe serves 2, but you can multiply it according.
- 100g oats
- A handful of chopped dried fruit (about 50g) - I like dates, sultanas, cherries and/or apricots
- 1 tbsp ground almonds
- 1 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds, plus extra to serve
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- A few drops of vanilla bean extract (optional)
- 150ml milk
- 150ml water
- 1 tbsp yogurt, plus extra to serve
- 1 apple, grated
- 1 peach, sliced or diced
- Honey, to serve
- Place the oats in a medium-sized bowl or plastic tub.
- Add the dried fruit, ground almonds, sunflower seeds, cardamom and vanilla, if using.
- Cover with a mixture of half milk, half water (around 150ml each) and stir in the yogurt.
- Refrigerate overnight or for a couple of hours.
- Grate the apple and fold through the oats. (I add the apples in the morning so they retain their crunch, but this step can be done the night before if you need to quickly grab the muesli and head out the door).
- Loosen to your desired consistency with a little more milk.
- Place into a bowl and top with the peach, a spoonful of yogurt, a sprinkling of toasted sunflower seeds and a drizzle of honey.