Breakfast seems to be the hardest of the three meals for us to switch to real food. Bagels, donuts, cereal, toast, oatmeal, orange juice - they all are pretty simple and straightforward options, especially for busy mornings. However, starting your day with such a huge hit of carbs really will mess with your blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day.
But, if you choose to start your day with a more balanced breakfast that contains protein, fat, and carbs, you'll be much better off and won't have that mid-morning or mid-afternoon crash that leaves you reaching for sugar or caffeine (or both!).
To illustrate my point about choosing a real food breakfast compared to one that is more common, I'm going to compare two different breakfasts, both "healthy" by two different standards.
½ cup rolled oats
2 Tbsp raisins
1 tsp brown sugar
12oz orange juice
Coffee with a little milk and 2 tsp of sugar
TOTAL CALORIES: 473
TOTAL FAT: 4 grams
TOTAL CARBS: 102 grams
TOTAL PROTEIN: 12 grams
3 whole eggs
2 slices of tomato
1 cup broccoli
Coffee with 1oz half and half or heavy cream
TOTAL CALORIES: 468
TOTAL FAT: 32 grams
TOTAL CARBS: 22 grams
TOTAL PROTEIN: 26 grams
What jumps out at you first? Did you think that one would be lower in calories than the other? Take a look at the exact nutrition facts in the photo below (taken from one of my continuing education courses). You'll see that the second meal is getting you 50% of your daily fat intake already just from that one meal. But, if you remember what I've told you about the importance of fat in our diet, hopefully you'll push this aside.
Take a look also at the two different carb counts. Who wants to start their day with 102 grams of carbs?!? Talk about a sugar high! You would think that it wouldn't be that high - oatmeal is healthy right? OJ too? But how quickly those carbs add up! And with only 4 grams of fat to counteract that, you are setting yourself up for a roller coaster of a morning with your energy. Remember, carbs aren't bad, just like fat isn't bad. What we need is balance between the macronutrients AND real food micronutrients (not fake or added or enriched nutrients) to go alongside (which breakfast 2 will provide…not so much breakfast 1).
Now let's talk a bit about what these meals will do in your body after you consume them. Say you were hungry for breakfast that morning and your blood sugar was a little low. After you eat the first breakfast, your blood sugar is going to shoot straight up, insulin will work to bring it back down, and then 1-2 hours later, you'll feel that crash in energy or that hungry/angry feeling aka "hangry." To fix it, you turn to more sugar or refined carbs and the cycle begins again! Other breakfast foods that fall into this group as well include granola bars, bagels, pop-tarts, cereal (especially if you eat it with skim milk), donuts, and other processed breakfast options.
But, if you start the morning with the second breakfast, you energy remains stable throughout the morning. You might be able to make it all the way to lunch without even thinking about food! Your energy doesn't crash mid-morning. The donuts in the break room don't even smell good because you are full and satisfied from the real food nutrients in the second breakfast.
Although the calories are similar, the breakdown between the two breakfasts shows a different story. Remember, eating real food is about getting as much nutrition (not worrying as much about calories) as possible. If you were to eat 1200 calories of Snickers all day, every day OR 2000 calories of real food (salmon, avocado, butter, broccoli), which one would realistically help you lose weight? Of course the higher calorie meal because it has more nutrition!
Hopefully that illustration helps you conceptualize the importance of a balanced breakfast. The one in the example is a great option, but here are several other options to try:
Vegetable egg muffins (Mix sautéed veggies with eggs and salt, pour into a lined pan or muffin tin, and bake until cooked through. These freezer really well!)
Three hard-boiled eggs, banana, almonds or almond butter (great for traveling as you can sub any nut or fruit of choice)
Sausage (from any ground meat), avocado, sautéed kale or veggie of choice
Full fat, plain, organic yogurt with blueberries and almonds (I like Fage or Maple Hill Creamery brand. You can also use a plain coconut milk yogurt if you are dairy free.)
Canned salmon, cauliflower rice, and avocado (this is what I’m currently eating, and yes, I’m well aware that I’m weird!)
Smoothie with full fat canned coconut milk, almond butter or avocado, and berries/fruit of choice (I’m not a huge smoothie person. Google “paleo breakfast smoothies” for some ideas; just make sure they have a source of protein, fat, and carbs!)
Leftovers! Breakfast doesn’t have to be “breakfast” foods.
Hopefully that helps give you some ideas going forward to help create a balanced breakfast. Choose real, whole foods that contain a balance of protein, fat, and carbs is so much better than getting a huge shot of carbs right away from the typical options.
This week, I challenge you to try two real food breakfasts instead of your typical breakfast. Note any changes in your energy throughout the day, as well as your digestion. You won’t be disappointed!