Everyone’s heard the expression “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and while I don’t necessarily agree as a standalone comment, there are definite benefits of eating a good quality breakfast. We know that people who are most successful at losing and/or maintaining a healthy weight are breakfast eaters. This may be due to the fact that eating breakfast can help to keep hunger at bay and prevent people from over eating at the following meals. The body is pretty smart and it knows that it needs a certain amount of food and food energy; skipping meals or under-eating can lead to overeating more calories to make up for the deficit. Breakfast eaters tend to eat fewer calories over the course of a day and aren’t as prone to big swings in blood sugar and energy levels.
Eating a protein-rich breakfast helps to stimulate your metabolism which has slowed down a bit during sleep. Breakfast, especially when it includes a good source of protein, is also a great way to start to replace some of the protein that is lost from our muscle during sleep as well. Keep in mind though, that not all breakfasts are created equal. Grabbing a coffee and piece of cake, er, I mean a coffee shop muffin is not the way to go for many reasons. Even if you managed a latte made with milk or soy beverage, at least you’d be getting some much needed protein.
In this two-part post, I’ll review twelve easy steps to build a healthier breakfast which will help you to take full advantage of the benefits from eating a healthy, nutrient-dense meal to help you get on with your day!
1] Add a Veggie or a Fruit
Plant foods are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients, buzzwords which simply means they have a lot of heal-promoting properties above and beyond their vitamin and mineral content. They also help to ensure you meet your fiber requirements. Including one or two servings at breakfast will go a long way to help you reach the recommended intake of 7 to 10 servings each day to help lower your risk for chronic diseases. Throw some cold cooked spinach, squash, sweet potato, or carrots in your favorite smoothie [trust me, you won’t taste it], or try adding shredded zucchini, spinach and peppers to your scrambled eggs.
2] Finesse Your Fiber
Women need about 25g of fiber per day and men 38g; most of us fall short of this goal. Breakfast is a great time to get more fiber as many breakfast foods are typically high in fiber. Go for unrefined grains like steel cut oats, unsweetened wheat bran fiber cereal: add a tablespoon to oatmeal, throw some into your smoothie or sprinkle some, along with some chia seeds, and ground flax, on top of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt and fruit salad. Fiber helps to maintain a feeling of fullness, especially if paired up with protein [like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or whey protein powder in a smoothie].
3] Time Is of the Essence?
Some have suggested that timing is critical; that it’s important to eat breakfast within 60 to 90 minutes of waking up to avoid your body from going into ‘starvation mode’. A near mythical state where you’re losing lots of muscle tissue, your metabolism slows further and stores fat if you eat your first meal beyond that arbitrary time frame. I’ve yet to see any credible research to support this, or rather, to be blunt, this is false. It’s true, there are benefits from eating breakfast and good research demonstrates a greater benefits when protein is included at this morning meal rather than the typical carb-heavy ones we tend to eat. Relax, and put down the stop watch. Do your best to have something even if it’s just a piece of fruit and a hard-boiled egg.
4] Protein Power
Protein helps to offset muscle protein losses that naturally occur while we sleep. Muscles are made up of protein and protein is made up of amino acids. During the night, muscle is broken down to supply our bodies with necessary amino acids to repair and maintain other bodily tissues so it’s critical to eat protein to replace top up our tank. Protein-rich foods rev up our sleepy morning metabolism and, as mentioned, help to provide a sense of satiety which, helps to keep hunger in check and protein helps to stimulate the rebuilding of muscle tissue. What more do I need to say? Good breakfast protein choices include eggs, cottage cheese, cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, protein powders like whey, hemp, brown rice and pea or left over meats or fish.
If you, or someone you know, has questions like these and is interested in improving their health and eating habits, I offer a variety of services including coaching, presentations & lunch n’ learns. For more information, check out my Services page
5] Fill up on Fat
Yes, you read that correctly, fat is no longer a four-lettered word. Fat is an essential nutrient, just like water, or vitamins and minerals. Fat also provides a sense of satiety; the ultimate triad of keeping hunger at bay is protein, fiber and fat. Fat is needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like D, A, E and K and the carotenoids found in fruits and vegetables like lycopene, beta-carotene, lutein etc. Many nutritious foods naturally contain fat like eggs, dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese, milk alternatives like hemp, and soy, nuts and seeds, but also added fats like butter, olive, avocado, and coconut oil. Including foods and fats like these at breakfast will help to add flavor and fullness to your morning meal.
6] Lose the Juice
There’s nothing special or magical about fruit juice. Having said that, juice was a staple at breakfast when I was growing up. Keep in mind, juice glass back then were 125ml, or 4oz, unlike the way juice is often drank today. A 250ml/8oz glass of juice can have 120 calories whereas you’d need to eat two pieces of fruit to get that amount. Juice lacks fiber and doesn’t require chewing like eating whole fruit does, as such; it’s easier to potentially over-consume calorie and sugar-rich juice. There are a couple of caveats, low-sodium tomato juice, or vegetable cocktail is naturally low in sugar and rich in lycopene. Small amounts of 100% fruit juice like blueberry, pomegranate, grape, or freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice will be loaded with healthy antioxidants – just keep it to 125ml per day if you opt to have juice.
See Part II for more breakfast-building tips
Photo credits: Jack Lyons, Roving I , Chefwaiterhater , Tulip Girl , spornatural