What's for Breakfast???
When I was growing up, (and this is true for most of us) our meals were divided into breakfast foods, lunch foods, and dinner foods. Breakfast foods consisted of cereal with milk, toast, oatmeal, and (usually only on the weekends) pancakes, eggs and bacon or ham. Lunch would usually be some kind of sandwich with chips and a piece of fruit, and dinner would generally consist of meat and vegetables with bread and butter. My favorite happened to be fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, and biscuits - almost always on Sunday. If we were lucky, there would be cookies in the cookie jars for dessert as well as ice cream or popcorn while watching Bonanza (weird, also on Sundays!)
For the most part, these unwritten meal rules went largely unchallenged, although every once in a while we would have cereal and milk as a snack, or DAD (!) would make bacon and eggs for dinner (gasp!). After I moved out and began working the “9 to 5” shift, I came to realize quickly that there was some sense to some of these foods being eaten when they were as it became apparent that a lot of it had to do with how long they took to prepare. In looking back it may have been those evenings when mom had had a particularly rough day as an insurance claims officer that would find my dad in the kitchen cooking what he said was his favorite dinner!
Nowadays, it seems that people have less and less time (not to mention motivation and interest) to prepare food. This started back then too, which is why “tv dinners” (pre-made, prepackaged) and microwaves (just reheat) became so popular.
So, one of the more radical lessons in my Holistic Nutrition program for me may have been rethinking the way we eat different types of foods, how we eat a balanced diet throughout the day (not just at dinner) and how the heck we can incorporate 4 - 6 servings of vegetables in an “Eating for Health” model if we don’t eat any until dinnertime! Sure I would eat cold leftover pizza for breakfast as soon as the next guy, but that was about it for deviating from the “Breakfast Foods” rules!
So let’s think about breakfast a little bit as the time to “get your motor running” for the day! You have just completed the process where your brain has been regenerating itself and all the organs throughout the sleep cycle. You haven’t provided calories or hydration for most likely at least 6 - 8 hours, sometimes even more. Basically this means that your cells are depleted from quick energy which is why we love our coffee and tea first thing for the caffeine boost it provides. I love coffee too, but I know that is not what my body is actually craving first thing.
A glass of water (room temp or warmer is best) with fresh lemon juice or a little apple cider vinegar, or a glass of milk will begin to quench every cell’s need for hydration after the nighttime drought. A benefit of the water with lemon or ACV is that it helps to keep the pH appropriate all the way through the digestive system, which can help prevent acid reflux, support digestion, and keep elimination regular.
A balanced meal of protein, fats, and carbs will wake up and feed the brain as well as get the digestive process started so that every functional system is fueled, including the central nervous system which gets the brain fueled for the thinking process and helps to prevent mood swings, and the endocrine system which will regulate our hormones. (Think support for thyroid, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, the pancreas and the pineal gland, as well as our sex organs.)
So what should we eat? Well, proteins are the number one priority. In addition to eggs, ham and bacon for breakfast, any type of meat that you enjoy can be a part of your get up and get eating morning! Cheese, milk and yogurt also have protein, but for these I recommend full fat, clean sources with no added growth hormone, antibiotics, or sugar. For vegan/vegetarian options, the best choices for proteins (breakfast or otherwise) are beans and legumes, soy (tempeh, tofu), seed-grains such as quinoa and amaranth, and nuts and seeds, including nut milks. Oatmeal also has a decent amount of protein.
Carbohydrates — Vegetables and fruits. Okay, some people don’t like vegetables no matter what time of day, but they are so good for us! Full of antioxidant flavonoids, they fight against oxidation for us 24/7, as well as provide fiber for regularity, and feed those fabulous microbiota in our system eating away and overcoming the bad bacteria, parasites, and other toxins that have no business being in there. Yes, vegetables are the mightiest warriors of our dietary strategy for optimal health! So in order to get them into our system first thing, we need to take a completely different view of how we have been eating breakfast, and be willing to integrate vegetables into our morning routine.
Best place to start is with those vegetables that you happen to love, in the form that you happen to love them. For me, I found that when I cook dinner, it makes breakfast so much easier if I cook enough for leftovers the next morning! So my new mantra became “Dinner For Breakfast!”
One way to introduce vegetables into breakfast is as simple as adding salsa to your eggs or meat. You can then build up to the real deal tomatoes, peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, etc. on the side as you go (if a slow introduction is needed). I have LOTS of great vegetable recipes and recipes that incorporate vegetables for breakfast - please reach out if you are looking for any for your favorites (or even not-so-favorites that may help that situation!)
Fruit is good for flavonoids and fiber as well, but comes with a natural sugar content in the fructose it contains that can sometimes be difficult to balance if overdone, and can spike blood sugar levels too. But if you add a serving of fruit to a well-balanced breakfast of proteins and fats, and that is the only way you are going to cooperate with this new idea, then let’s do it!
Fats provide us with satiation and a longer term energy source. Cooking or dressing our meats and vegetables with healthy oils such as olive, avocado, coconut, ghee and butter is a good way to include fats in our get up and go breakfast plan. Generally a tablespoon is a decent serving of oils, two tablespoons of nuts and seeds comprise a serving, and 2 -3 servings of fats per day are ideal. Avocado can't be beat when it comes to healthy fats.
So let’s do this! Give yourself some time to wake up in the morning and FEED YOUR BODY!