A healthy breakfast jump starts our metabolism, helps us to concentrate and reduces our chances of grabbing something unhealthy later in the morning when we are feeling ravenous. Our bodies are designed to eat after a period of “fasting” overnight. When you skip breakfast you are prolonging the fasting period and this can increase your body's insulin response, which in turn increases fat storage and weight gain. Eating the right foods in the morning gives you energy for the rest of the day. It refuels you body and balances your blood sugar, which increases your ability for physical activity.
What makes a healthy breakfast? Here are some suggestions:
Eggs are a great source of protein and can be cooked in many ways (soft boiled, hard boiled, over easy, scrambled, in a frittata or a quiche) Eat them with a side serving of leftover vegetables. Choose farm fresh eggs from the farmer’s market or organic eggs from your local health food store.
Smoothies are easy to prepare and you can take them with you to drink in the car on the way to work. Start with a liquid (whole fat yogurt, coconut milk, almond milk, etc.) and add your favorite fruits. It’s best to use organic berries, which don’t contain as much sugar as fruits such as banana or mango. The fruits can be frozen, thawed or fresh depending how thick you like the smoothie. In addition you can add a combination of the following for added nutrition and protein: ground flax seeds or flax oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds, almond butter, maca root, kelp, bee pollen, carob powder, goji berries, whey protein, etc.
Hot Grain Cereals are warm and comforting on a cold winter morning. Quinoa is high in protein and contains all the essential amino acids. It can be cooked the night before and heated in the morning for a quick breakfast. Add a small amount of milk or almond milk to your serving of precooked grain and heat it in a saucepan over low heat. Once heated through you can serve with chopped nuts, fresh fruits, a small amount of sweetener, dried fruit, and/or sprinkled with cinnamon. You can substitute rolled oats or steel cut oats for the Quinoa. Avoid instant or quick cooking oats since most of their nutritional value has been removed due to over processing the grain.
Yogurt & Cottage Cheese are other possibilities for breakfast. Dairy products can promote inflammation so go easy with them. Cultured dairy such as yogurt and kefir are more easily tolerated. Add fruit, nuts, cinnamon and a small amount of sweetener to yogurt or cottage cheese. Those with dairy intolerances can try goat or sheep milk products, which tend to be easier to digest. Go for whole milk products and avoid anything that is labeled lite, low-fat or non-fat. This probably won’t be enough protein to sustain you until lunch so you can eat it with a piece of toasted Ezekiel or Manna bread (found at health food stores) or other whole grain breads spread with nut butter.
Coconut pancakes: Coconut flour is a delicious, healthy alternative to wheat. It is high in fiber, low in digestible carbohydrate, and a good source of protein. Coconut pancakes can be made ahead of time and frozen. Put them in the toaster to warm them and add your favorite toppings. Coconut flour can also be used to make other baked items such as muffins and quick breads. Cooking With Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife, ND is great resource for coconut flour recipes.
Other Options: You don’t always have to have “breakfast” foods for breakfast! You can eat leftovers from dinner the night before or make a breakfast wrap using sprouted grain tortillas filled with scrambled eggs, black beans, salsa and cheese or a wrap with eggs and leftover cooked vegetables and goat cheese. Turkey or chicken sausage or bacon (purchased directly from a local grass-fed farm or organic meats from your health food store) are hearty breakfast options. Be sure to look for meat products that are nitrite and nitrate free and raised without hormones or antibiotics. Boil, sauté or bake the sausages and eat with eggs or leftover cooked vegetables. Sardines or other types of fish also make good breakfast choices.
Breakfast foods to avoid: Bagels, scones, muffins, donuts, and cold breakfast cereals are all refined carbohydrates that cause our blood sugar to spike. They are empty calories with very little nutritional value. They lack the protein and healthy fats needed to sustain us for a long period of time so we tend to get hungry well before lunch and want to snack.
Bottom Line: The amount of time we have for breakfast in the morning varies for all of us. We all have different work/school schedules, likes/dislikes, and time for preparing food. The bottom line is to figure out what works best for you but to make sure you eat a healthy breakfast in the morning! Do your breakfast “prep work” the night before, plan an “on the go” breakfast that you can grab as you head out the door, or if possible, enjoy a leisurely breakfast that you’ve taken care to prepare. Be sure to include some protein to help sustain you until lunch.
Rebecca Haines, Certified Nutritional Consultant & Certified Holistic Health Coach