This is actually my second draft of this post.* Listen: I never do that. I seriously don’t do drafts. But after writing a lot of words, it occurred to me that I’ve got to find the best way to break this down…if we’re talking about food, what better way to do that than by meal?
So breakfast. As a person who (I know I’ve said it but I’m gonna keep saying it for the newcomers’ sakes) has struggled all her life with her weight, I can tell you, this is one hell of an important meal, and not just for the reasons we’ve been taught, though those are equally important and merit discussion, so I’ll get to that next. But for people like me, who have a tendency to make bad food decisions, breakfast becomes the moment we decide how we’re going to start the day, and some days can truly be a battle against food. I eat emotionally – most often because of stress, but I know lots of people who eat to address depression, too. I am in no position to go into the whys and wherefores of it all, but it is very much a reality for some of us, and I’ve found that what I do at breakfast time can sort of set the standard for my interactions with food for the rest of the day.
Returning to that age-old nugget of wisdom, I do truly believe for all the other reasons that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Even if you eat dinner late and wake up early, your body will have been fasting for at least 8, and sometimes up to 12 or 13 hours. That’s a long time to go without food, not to mention water. This might explain why some people feel slightly sick in the morning and so struggle to have an appetite. But studies have shown that people who eat within the first hour of waking make up 78% of successful dieters, probably because they’re a lot less likely to overeat later in the day.
So what to eat? 3 things: 1 – enough, 2 – of something you like, 3 – that’s good for you. Top of my list for this time of the day: fat and carbs. Oh no!!! Oh, yes. Protein comes in at a close 3rd.
TANGENT: fat and carbs are not bad for you, and in fact, the right varieties in the right quantities aren’t not just good for you – they’re absolutely necessary to your very survival. They make our brains think and our muscles flex. I do, however, think it’s important to know the good from the bad. With regard to fat, poly- and mono-unsaturated are best, saturated is slightly less good (except coconut, which is wonderful) but not bad as such, and trans is bad bad bad. But if you’re moving toward a whole food diet (which is sort of the point of all this, incidentally), you’re probably not getting any of those anyway. In the carb department, darker tends to be better (hence sweet potatoes better than white; brown rice better than white; whole grain better than refined), but C’s a stickler for white rice and I love my white potatoes. As with everything, it’s all about moderation at the end of the day.
Back to breakfast – and before I get to some suggestions – a word on savory vs sweet. I once read a post by a lovely lady blogger who I can’t for the life of me find anymore with regard to the tendency of some of us to feel lethargic and hungry at roughly mid-morning, regardless of how much we’d eaten to break the fast. Her solution? Cut out the sugar. No sugar in your coffee or tea, no sweet cereals, no juice, no fruit. I tried it, et voila – just like she said, I no longer felt like I needed a second breakfast and a nap before lunchtime. But some people just can’t stomach salty stuff in the wee hours…I think it’s most important to get something healthy in ya’ before you attack the day.
So without further ado:
- Avocado: C and I usually split one, with a couple of slices of really nice bread drizzled in olive oil and some kind of protein. Fat sorted.
- Tofu / egg: This is usually the protein part of that avo breakfast. The tofu can be cooked at the beginning of the week in bulk – slice up a loaf of the firm stuff and grill salted and peppered with a little oil for about 5-6 minutes on each side – 2-3 slices should do you for breakfast, so if you grill 10-15, you’ve got your whole week’s worth (also makes great sandwich “meat”). I’m also a vegan of the opinion that an organic egg is a perfectly healthy way to start the day, yolk and all. Just a shame that most of the eggs eaten in the world come from very unhealthy factories full of very unhappy hens (not to mention the miserable humans).
- Bread: I’m afraid that white simply will not do. It is pure sugar, and has absolutely no nutritional value. Save white bread for those once-in-a-while grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, not for this sacred meal. Though I’ve got my own problems with wheat (for another post), most people do not…sprouted wheat, kamut, spelt, pumpernickle…these are all delicious and way better for you than traditional white, or even wheat breads. Just because it’s brown doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
- Olive oil: As discussed above, makes for a wonderful bread/toast topping…you can do butter, and while it’s not necessarily bad for you, it certainly isn’t good for you, either. Extra virgin olive oil is – and it’s delicious to boot.
- Hummus: While this might seem a weird breakfast choice, I assure you it’s positively lovely on a good slice of bread or toast, topped with freshly ground pepper, thinly sliced cucumbers, and a sprinkle of salt, in that order. Want to make your own? 1 can chickpeas (425 g) drained and rinsed; 1 clove garlic; 70 ml olive oil; juice of 1/2 lemon; 1 tsp tahini; liberal pinch salt & pepper; pinch cumin seeds; splash water to help it blend. Place all ingredients in blender. Blend. Delish.
- Peanut butter: In the savory section??? Indeed. The late and wonderful Mrs. Anne Brown taught me that toast and peanut butter with a sprinkling of salt over the top makes for an simple and satisfying quick meal. I buy the unsalted, unsugared variety, and though my ‘Mercan roots bind me fiercely to that nut of peas, any nut butter will do the trick.
- Smoothie: This one’s for those of you struggling to eat something solid in the morning. Tastes surprisingly like the most refreshing PB&J you’ve ever had, sans all that pesky chewing: 1 banana; 1/2 cup any other fruit; 1/2 cup liquid (like milk, soy milk, or juice); 1 spoonful peanut (or other nut) butter. Place all ingredients in blender. Blend. Bliss.
- Oatmeal: Here you’ve got a couple options – rolled oats and steel cut. I prefer the latter, though they do take 20 minutes to prepare…they sort of pop in your teeth, and I feel like they keep me full a little longer than the rolled variety. Those only take about 5 minutes to cook once the water’s boiling. And if you’re more pressed for time than that, an even healthier way to prepare oatmeal is to soak it in the required amount of liquid over night, but I’ve heard that if you eat it like this more than 2-3 times per week, it can start to be hard on your tooth enamel. If you’re cooking it, add a liberal pinch of salt to the mix at the outset, try 1/2-water, 1/2 (soy, rice, almond, hazelnut, etc.) milk for the liquid requirement of the recipe to make it a little creamier, and I add a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar per bowl and/or a good couple shakes of cinnamon about 1/2-way through the cooking time. Things you can add: diced apples or pears, sliced bananas or dried figs or peaches, any variety of berry, raisins, dried cranberries, walnuts or pecans…and C adds dried shredded coconut, which I think is weird, but whatever.
- Peanut butter: I know. It’s a bit of a thing for me. I know other nut butters are better for you (if a lot more expensive), but I stand by peanut butter as an excellent, filling source of protein, vitamins E and B3, copper & magnesium. There’s 188 calories in 2 tablespoons, which will nicely coat two pieces of toast and leave some left-over caloric room in this meal for your favorite jam, some slices of banana, or a bit of honey. Long live the humble peanut!
[Yes, my savory list is far longer than my sweet…I’m not one for cereal (leaves me very unsatisfied) and while the French get a lot of things right when it comes to food, they get breakfast wrong, wrong, wrong – nutella and pastries and chocolate and sugar and sugar and sugar…baaaad…Having said that, if you’ve got some healthy, delicious sweet breakfast favorites, do add them in the comments!]
- You can read that as both the imperative form of the verb and the title of this list. We need to hydrate in the morning.
- Coffee is just as good for you as tea, and you should drink what you like.
- However, I’ve converted to tea in the morning for a few reasons. It does tend to feel more refreshing, is caffeinated but a little less which makes for a less-edgy me in the morning, and then I can get a real perk out of a late morning or post-lunch coffee, which also replaces what might otherwise be an unnecessary snack (though to be fair, it also often accompanies said snack).
- Don’t limit yourself to black tea if you go that route – oolong (my fave) and green also have a good amount of kick, and white is delicious and just a little citrus-y…And if you want to cut out morning caffeine all together, rooibos is quite yummy as well.
- Don’t drink juice. Eat your juice. Peel an orange or bite into an apple. Fiberless fruit is not pointless, but it is an astronimical caloric waste for those of us forced to pay attention.
And that’s what’s on my morning plate! What’s on yours?
*In fact, this is my THIRD bloody draft of this post, because WordPress decided to delete my finished, picture-perfect last post (which might have led to world peace…but who can say now?). I should know better, but I just can’t write these things elsewhere. It screws up the formatting and my flow. C’est la vie. C’est la 2 hours of ma vie (not to mention that picture-perfect post) gone with the wind.