Ahhhh…. breakfast. The most important meal of the day. Right? Maybe…
But what do you eat? Lots of carbs, or a protein shake, or eggs and bacon??
Here’s the deal with the expert opinions on breakfast breakfast: it depends on WHO you ask!
ALL THE OPINIONS!
Folks who buy into the FDA “my plate” (UM, not MY plate, amirite??) recommendations will say some sort of healthy whole grain. In my experience, a healthy whole grain turns into a processed pseudo-grain that has to be labeled as healthy to convince the population. This causes cravings later in the day and you’re full for like, a MINUTE. And PSA: Cravings and crashes after eating a carb heavy meal can be a sign of blood sugar instability, which is not so great for overall health.
Those low carb, intermittent fasting gurus recommend skipping breakfast and eating the bulk of your meals at lunch and dinner. That may work for folks who are pretty healthy to start with. But in my personal and professional experience, those of us with Autoimmune issues don’t fare so well with this approach.
Your local supplement store may tell you to just have a protein shake- it’s easy and you don’t have the time to treat your body right in the morning. Those shakes tend to have lots of poor quality vitamins, minerals, sugars, artificial flavoring, and just make life a little less exciting. Plus you may have to remortgage your house to afford all those options.
And we Paleo folk are all about an egg and two slices of bacon. Except that my son eats that and he’s only a year. So how I’m supposed to feel full with less than 300 calories to start the day?
What to do?
Here’s my take on breakfast: the answer is almost always somewhere in the middle of the madness. And as always, bio-individuality plays a huge role. But when I’m planning and making breakfast, I stick to these three simple rules to design great, nutrient dense breakfasts to keep me full and make that 8am meeting on time.
1. Get Your Macros Right
Protein. Carbohydrates. Fat. The big three macronutrients. While everybody has different needs, we can apply some general principles to get us started. Keep reading for your macronutrient breakfast crash course!
Fat should make a big appearance at breakfast. I realize this flies in the face of what the food pyramid fanatics would say. However, when we look at what’s happening to your body in the morning, fat makes sense.
After we wake up from our long slumber, our body has been burning fat for a majority of the night (unless you spend half your night sneaking around for midnight snacks). Eating a bunch of carbohydrates, which our body interprets as sugar, turns our body into a sugar burning machine. Once your body has used up the sugar you just consumed, it immediately starts craving more. And you’ve officially boarded your sugar roller coaster for the day. Eating fat, which is a dietary fuel that takes longer for our body to use in entirety, keeps us in that fat burning, full state for longer.
Nutrient dense sources of fats include:
- High quality oils (avocado, coconut, olive)
- Fat from pastured and appropriately raised animals
- Coconut or almond milk (PLEASE read ingredients- not all milk substitutes are automatically good)
- Egg yolks (preferably from pasture raised chickens, and don’t throw out the whites, that includes the protein!)
- Aged cheese
- Full fat/plain yogurt avocados
- Nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, hazel nuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts)
- Seeds (chia, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower)
Protein is another way to increase satiety and keep your body from boarding that sugar burning roller coaster. I am on board with the idea that protein should come from a real food source, not a powder. I do understand that in a pinch a protein shake has to do. But that’s not the best source of sustainable nutrients. So I recommend saving protein powder for the “have to” times.
In fact, if it comes down to a low quality protein powder or no protein, I would go with no protein. For example, you can throw together a smoothie with a ton of good fat and some low sugar fruits and veggies (check out the Blueberry Avocado Power Smoothie recipe below). Just be sure to include protein at your next two meals.
Nutrient dense sources of protein include:
- Eggs (remember to eat the yolks- those are great sources of fat!)
- REALLY- if it walks, swims, or flies, eat. Obviously you want to be careful of polluted sources of fish and avoid animals fed antibiotics and growth hormones. But the point here is to eat real food, animal protein.
Carbohydrates are pretty controversial when it comes to breakfast. I’ve found that some people need ’em, but a lot of folks don’t. I like to keep carbs in the form of veggies, such as peppers, onions, mushrooms, and spinach. HOWEVER the one major exception here is if you work out in the morning or if you’re pregnant/breastfeeding. At that point, people find that adding some great starchy carbs, such as sweet potatoes or soaked oats, can be helpful.
Nutrient dense sources of carbohydrates include:
- Non Starchy veggies such as green beans, onions, peppers, spinach, summer squash, tomotoes
- Low sugar fruits such as berries, apples, and cherries
- Starchy veggies such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, parsnips, and winter squash
- Starchy fruit such as bananas, mango, and plantains
- Selective grains such as sprouted grain bread and soaked oats
Macronutrient Summary: we’re talking about a good serving of fat, a solid source of protein, and some carbohydrates mixed in as appropriate. Start with that idea and look for/create recipes as appropriate.
2. Meal Prep like you Mean It
Prepping is the key. Every once in awhile, someone comes to me who wants help with his or her diet. He/she says “I don’t have time to meal prep nor can I make time.” This is pretty much halts our conversation. I can’t really help them.
Maybe that’s cruel of me, or close minded, or whatever.
But the truth of it is you’ve got to make the time.
Start by setting a timer and prep like a crazy person during the allotted time. You can get a lot done in 30 minutes or an hour. OR just pick one meal to prep for the week – for the sake of this post, start with prepping breakfast.
When I prep, I get as much stuff done as possible. Meaning I’ll go ahead and cook meals that will reheat well, rather than just chopping veggies. I will partition out my meals in fridge containers, ready to eat, so I can grab and go rather than having to cut into a casserole or assemble a salad (P.S. Salads are one of my favorite breakfast foods!).
I have a whole post on how to be an awesome meal planner and prepper here. Be sure to check it out because I’ve included some printable templates that will make your life SO much better.
3. Don’t Get Fancy
I like to think I’m a gourmet chef. And sometimes I make freaking fabulous meals. But 95% of the time, I’m playing fridge clean out, or making lunch one handed and the meal looks like what they serve in an army mess hall. MOST DAYS I eat the same breakfast and lunch as I did the previous 2 days, 12 days, 32 days…..
Variety is the spice of life, but there is no shame in monotony.
This is was makes prep work effective- rather than prep 5 different breakfasts, prep ONE meal to eat all 5 days. Ya feel me?
*Side note- we all seemed to be married to the idea that breakfast foods have to be eaten at breakfast. If breakfast is allowed at other meals, why can’t other meals come to breakfast? In a pinch, heat up some leftover meatloaf or throw some soup in a thermos! It’s weird the first time you do it, but then it gets SO much easier.
I’ve included some of my go to breakfast recipes below. I will prep ONE of these and eat on it all week. ALL of these can be prepped in advance and partitioned in the fridge for out the door meals.
I HOPE this makes your life a little easier!
Kelsey Albers, NTC
What do you like to eat for breakfast? What’s your favorite/easiest prepped breakfast? Share in the comments below!