6 tips to build a better breakfast and why

Bacon and Egg BreakfastHate to admit it, but Mom was right: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Since food is the fuel for you body, what you eat absolutely sets you up for a productive or a sluggish morning. A better breakfast — heavy on the protein rather than carbohydrates — will set your metabolic rate higher for the entire day, avoid a mid-morning blood sugar crash, and prevent you from scarfing down anything that moves at lunch. Sounds nice huh?

A balanced breakfast (or any meal, actually) ideally offers lots of protein, a little bit of carbohydrates and some fats (yes, fats). Why this mix? Say you eat a plain bagel with cream cheese in the morning. Although cream cheese provides a middling amount of protein (seriously middling) and fat, most of this meal is highly refined carbs. Your body immediately begins to process the bagel into sugar (or energy), which then gushes into your blood stream: aka “sugar rush”.  But what goes up must come down, right? And the small amount of protein in the cheese can’t slow down the process. The fallout from the rush causes a lack of concentration, drowsiness and/or the urge to nap at the desk. Protein and fat, on the other hand, are processed slower since it takes longer to metabolize them into energy, keeping you satiated longer.

To test out the balanced better breakfast theory, keep a food diary for a few days, capturing your morning food choices with a picture or a few words — amounts aren’t as important as which foods and what time you eat them. Also jot down how you feel 1, 2 and 3 hours after eating. Are you energized and plowing through your day or are you crashing and craving? How about your alertness? Focused and calm or distracted and chasing the shiny metal object? And are you feeling hungry two hours after eating? Answer these questions to determine if a better breakfast is something you should explore.

If yes, build one (or all) with these six tips:

1. Ditch the Cereal
Most people throw some high-sugar cereal (marketed as healthy) in a bowl, pour over low-fat milk and consider that a good breakfast. If you’re in this camp, you’re missing out on the filling protein/fat part. An alternative to a cereal scenario is steel-cut oatmeal. Add protein and fat-filled nuts like walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts plus some fresh fruit. Or try stirring in coupla tablespoons nut butter, full-fat milk and/or cinnamon. To save time on the weekdays, make a pot of oats on Sunday– it keeps about a week in the fridge — and heat it up for individual morning portions. Steel cut oatmeal — unlike instant — has all the fiber and nutrients still in tact, which the bod metabolizes more slowly, keeping you feeling fuller, longer.

2. Embrace the Egg
Before processed foods arrived and thrived, our grandparents ate eggs for breakfast. They are a classic American staple, shunned for decades while people forgot how tasty and nutritious they are. But eggs are back, and more retro-cool than ever. In the balanced better breakfast equation, serve up your eggs scrambled with some cheese, chopped fresh vegetables, maybe some ham. Then add a side of fruit and you’re good to go. Or try this simple recipe for mini crustless egg quiche. Fear the cholesterol in eggs? Learn how to unscramble egg myths here.

Greek yogurt with walnuts3. Go Greek
High protein, Greek yogurt, stirred with nuts and low-glycemic fruits like berries, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines checks all the breakfast boxes.

4. Blend Your Breakfast
Smoothies are hippity hot right now. But most recipes throw so much sugar into the mix that you might as well eat Fruit Loops. Watch your ingredients, especially at a smoothie shop, by skipping the syrups and opt for ripe fruit, nut butters and don’t forget the vegetables. Green smoothies are the best. Here’s a good recipe. And here is a really comprehensive website about how to make green smoothies.

5. Skip the Juice
High on the glycemic index, juices head straight for the blood when they enter your body. If you dig fruit, eat the whole fruit rather drinking than the juice. It’ll take 3 extra minutes to eat but your body will thank you.

6. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
More and more studies are emerging which berate the use of artificial sweeteners. Besides the cancer risk, they play Jedi mind tricks on you, making you crave more sweets.  No bueno. The best thing is the real thing: raw sugar.

These super easy breakfast recipes should help get you going and keep you from dragging in the morning.

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