“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” “We are meant to fast, so I do not eat until 10am and after a good hard workout to allow my body to continue necessary repair functions.” “I practice time-restricted eating and eat between noon and 8pm.”
All of these statements could be attributed to well-educated and extremely healthy individuals. So what’s the ‘right’ answer? I think it boils down to knowing yourself and what works for you. I also think that the sentiment that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is very, very important. Not because you should eat right away, but because what we eat early in the day matters a whole heck of a lot, perhaps more than what we eat at any other time in the day. It can be hard to recognize if we are not cognizant of it, but when I work with someone who struggles with binge eating or cravings later in the day, it can usually be stopped by tweaking meals earlier in the day. That might mean adding more food earlier in the day, or it could mean tweaking the foods that are consumed earlier.
So, whenever you eat your first meal of the day, nailing that meal to get the right amount of calories and nutrients for your body is one of the keys to controlling your eating habits for the rest of the day. The most common breakfasts in the standard american diet are about the worst possible breakfast options for anyone because they are filled with sugar and simple carbohydrates. This will raise your blood sugar quickly, causing a rapid spike, and increased hunger (and sugar cravings) later on.
So what should you eat? Here are six breakfast ideas that work for some people. Experiment with what works best for you — consider how you feel later in the day and monitor cravings, how much time you have to prepare ahead of time vs. the day of, how long you stay full, what you enjoy eating, and how much variety you need. Consider choosing a few options that appeal to you and eating the same thing for 3 to 7 days in a row and keeping a journal to consider the factors I mentioned above. It can be something as simple as jotting down a few words at the end of the day, but writing down your thoughts the day of will likely be essential to really be able to find your ideal breakfast. In addition to being able to look back, it will make you more mindful throughout your day knowing that you will have to record how you were feeling and what your hunger level was. As you experiment with different options and different amounts, if you find that you are getting really hungry (must eat now vs. slowly developing belly hunger) or it seems you are getting hungry too quickly, try adding fat and/or protein to your earlier meal and cutting back on fruit and/or grains.
1.Heat and Go: Leftovers
There is no reason that you need to start your day with typical breakfast food. A protein and vegetables from the night before, maybe even a little whole grain, can make for a great quick and easy breakfast.
2. Quick morning prep: Avocado Toast
Using sprouted grain bread that is truly whole grain, toast a piece or two, smash 1/2 an avocado on top, and you are ready to go. Quick and nutritious. For more information about whole grains, you can read this earlier post.
3. If you need to take it with you: Yogurt and Granola
I recommend plain whole fat yogurt, and there are now some vegan options for those who do not do well with dairy. You can either purchase small containers, or for a likely more economical option, buy a larger amount and put into a smaller container yourself. If it is your own container, you can add in some berries or 1/2 banana (or other fruit of choice but not dried fruit). In another container or plastic bag you can add some nuts and seeds or granola. When you are ready to eat, mix together and you have a meal. Homemade granola is best with low to no added sweetener. Avoid flavored yogurts that are loaded with sugar.
4. Make for the week ahead: Steel cut oats
Steel cut oats are great because they digest more slowly than rolled oats, but they also take a long time to cook so it is a good food prep project when you have time at home to make up a big batch to eat throughout the week. My favorite additions (some combination of these): dates or bananas for sweetness (avoiding sweeteners such as maple syrup and sugar if tolerable without), cocoa nibs, unsweetened shredded coconut, nuts, chia seeds (adding extra milk or milk alternative because the seeds will absorb liquid), ground flax seed, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
5. For a variety of different flavor and nutritious options: Eggs
Eggs are a wonderful source of protein and fat. Eat the whole egg and not just egg whites. Add lots and lots of vegetables, possibly some meat, maybe some black beans, and perhaps a little avocado. For eggs throughout the week you could make a frittata and save portions in serving-size glass containers, or you can make eggs in muffin tins. Or you could roast vegetables for the whole week and fry two eggs each day to put on top of a serving of the roasted vegetables, or make your eggs however you like. There are endless flavor combinations with eggs, vegetables, spices, legumes, meat, tofu, etc! Play around and find what you like.
6. Quick and easy way to load up on greens to start your day: Smoothies
Another option with so many variations. Here is a basic structure to create a smoothie as a meal. If desired, start with 1/2 banana (I prefer frozen), and some greens (spinach, kale, arugula, chard, beet greens are all great options). Add some liquid of choice (such as coconut water, milk, soy milk, almond milk). Start with about 1/2 cup and add as needed to desired consistency as you go along. Blend. Potentially add more greens. You can experiment with other vegetables as well. Blend again (if more vegetables were added). Then add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of berries (fresh or frozen), either 1/2 avocado or Tbsp of nut butter, and any other food you want to add such as a cooked beat (can purchase pre cooked or roast ahead). Blend to get to desired consistency. Add powders such as protein powder, spirulina, maca powder, collagen powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg (these are just some suggestions, you will not want all at once and do not need to use any of these options). Blend just to mix.