Breakfast. The first meal of the day. It breaks a fasting period of twelve hours or more. It sets the tone physically for how you will feel all day long. Eat a sugar-filled breakfast of Special K cereal, orange juice, and coffee with caramel creamer? Set yourself up for hunger pangs around 10:30 and a headache by 4:00. But fill yourself up with protein and healthy fat, like a breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs? You’re more likely to have stable energy (and blood sugar levels) through lunchtime and beyond.
Not only does a poor-quality breakfast impact how you feel throughout the day, but it sets you up for dietary failures later on. The biggest mistake that I used to make with my diet was at breakfast. Hopping out of bed at 5:15, I would exercise—hard—for 90 minutes on an empty stomach. I would come home, shower, and get completely ready for work, still on an empty stomach. When I finally fueled, around 8:30, I usually chose an unsweetened package of instant oatmeal mixed with a nonfat peach yogurt. I was already in a calorie deficit of as much as 900 calories, and I tried to refuel with 200. It was no wonder that, by the time I got home from work at 5 PM, I pretty much sat down and ate my entire house before cooking and consuming supper. My body was starving!
Fast forward four years, and I have more than learned my lesson. For starters, I now know that 1/3 of my protein needs should be met at breakfast. General guidelines for protein requirements are your body weight, divided by two, in grams. So a 150-lb. woman would need a minimum of 75 grams of protein per day. (Weightlifters and athletes whose bodies undergo excessive stress and muscle breakdown need more. So do nursing/pregnant women.) That slice of toast and bowl of cereal? Not gonna cut it!
Okay, so cereal is out…what does that leave? I’ve constructed this list of healthy breakfast options to get you thinking about what might be effective morning options for you and your family. Ready, go!
When you’re in a time-crunch:
- Crustless quiche. Yep, you heard me correctly! Back when I could tolerate eggs, I would make an egg-bake each Sunday night. Think 6-8 eggs, a dab of heavy cream/milk/coconut milk, whatever meats and/or vegetables that appeal to you, and cheese, if you choose. Bake at 350 until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cut into six pieces, and you have a high-protein, nutrient-dense breakfast for Monday-Saturday. It’s that easy!
- Greek yogurt with walnuts and/or berries. No, really…you actually hate to cook. Like, at all. Okay, no problem! Look for a plain, unsweetened, 2% fat content or higher Greek yogurt. In your search, remember this: if it is flavored, it has added sugar. If the company that produces it has removed the fat, they’ve usually added sugar to compensate. When I still ate dairy, my favorite brand was Fage. 20 grams of protein for 8 grams of carbohydrates. Sprinkle on a little Stevia, some walnuts (for omega-3), and some fresh or frozen berries. YUM.
- An apple & a handful of nuts. Okay, so as far as quality protein goes, this option is a little low on the list. But it IS convenient, AND healthy. Just be prepared with a little snack to munch on later in the morning to tide you over until lunchtime.
- A shake. Shakes/smoothies are an awesome option, as long as you’re making them at home and utilizing a quality protein powder. (See my post The World of Protein Powders for more info on this.) What I really love about shakes as an option are all of the veggies that I can throw in and drink down on my way to work. Kale, chard, avocado, beets, and carrots all blend well with some apple or frozen raspberries. Now that’s a nutritional punch!
When you’re hungry:
- Pancakes, hash browns & sausage. Maybe it’s the weekend, and you want a big, family breakfast! Or maybe you had too much to drink last night and you need to fill your belly. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this choice! (As long as you have a healthy pancake recipe that isn’t loaded with white flour and sugar.) I make my pancakes with almond flour, cinnamon, eggs, and a mashed banana, all fried up in coconut oil. Throw in some hash browns fried in bacon grease and a couple sausage links, and you have one happy tummy! All non-hydrogenated fats, quality protein, and minimal carbohydrates. As long as you take it easy on the maple syrup, that is. 😉 Or, better yet, use a bit of blackstrap molasses! With 20% of your RDA of iron and potassium, it’ll put the mineral content of your breakfast through the roof!
- Bacon. Bacon has fat AND protein. That, and it’s delicious! You can have half a grapefruit too, if you want. Or a cup of berries. But honestly, the bacon is usually enough. Four slices is usually perfect to tide me over until a 2:00 lunch. (As a side-note, it is ideal to purchase nitrate/nitrite-free bacon whenever possible.)
- Scrambled eggs. This was our staple breakfast when we were out camping. We’d usually throw in some ground sausage or venison, onions, green peppers, and whatever else we had on hand. It is relatively quick, as far as big breakfasts go, and it will stick with you!
- Soup. Those of you who follow my blog know just how highly I advocate the consumption of bone broth soups. It is a healing super food! All the more reason to include it at breakfast. My husband and I often add a mug of chicken broth in to our morning routine, and this is the next step up. A good batch of meat & veggie soup can lend itself to breakfasts all week long.
When you’re feeling creative:
- Butternut squash with cinnamon, coconut milk (or butter) & pecans. If you prefer things sweet, you can add a pinch of maple syrup or coconut palm sugar, but this is pretty delectable on its own. If you are someone who grew up on Cream of Wheat, you’ll love this as a breakfast option. It’s great fuel pre/post-workout since it has quality carbohydrates and fats. Plus it is easy to have the squash on-hand and already cooked to save time.
- Chia seed pudding. This is a great meal for those of you who don’t tolerate a heavy breakfast. (I usually use this as a dessert, but it can be either.) Chia seeds are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fats. They are inexpensive when you buy them in bulk, and they are super fun! Choose an unsweetened milk such as almond or coconut. Use about a half cup of milk to a quarter cup of chia seeds and stir together. This is not an exact science. The goal is to get the chia seeds to soak up the milk and thicken it. Add in whatever you like to make it taste good. Some ideas are: cinnamon, maple syrup, mashed banana, vanilla bean, cocoa powder.
- Primal hot cereal. This is a grain-free oatmeal of sorts. If you have a food processor at home, you can make it in a few minutes. This is another option that should stick with you for a long time! Just throw a banana, a half cup of two types of nuts—macadamias, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, etc.—enough almond/coconut milk to work the food processor, and a pinch of salt and cinnamon in the machine, and pulse until smooth. You can add milk to desired consistency, and heat in the microwave or on the stove. This is excellent when heated and topped with blue or blackberries! You can sweeten to your liking. Also, if you want to take the easy way out, Paleo on the Go makes a version of instant Paleo hot cereal that is available on Amazon for $17.95 for 14 servings. It. Is. Delicious!
So there you have it! You no longer have an excuse not to consume a nutritious, delicious breakfast. Start your day off the right way, and notice how much better you feel for it.
Yours in Health,