You know what they say: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” While you may have heard this over and over again, it’s about time you listen up.
Not only is breakfast a great way to start the day off on the right (healthy) foot., but it’s essentially “breaking the fast” from not eating for 8 to 10 hours throughout the night. Therefore, when we awake, our bodies are screaming for food and nourishment, so the first meal we put into them—breakfast, that is—is extremely important.
Studies have shown that eating a healthy breakfast can increase the metabolism, promote clear, focused thinking, curb cravings, decrease mood swings, and potentially lower our LDL (bad cholesterol).
If that’s not enough reason to squeeze in some breakfast, I don’t know what is.
While we now know breakfast is important, you may be wondering, ‘where do we begin?’
For me, that all starts with hydration. Not only are our bodies starving for food, but more often than not we’re dehydrated upon waking.
I recommend drinking 8 to 16 oz. of water before touching anything else. Yes, that means no coffee, no bagel and no breakfast without downing some good old-fashioned H2O first. Try sprucing it up with mint leaves or fresh grapefruit juice to give it a little kick, or drinking some hot water with lemon to improve digestion and cleanse the liver.
Other Recommended Morning Drinks: Herbal, Yerba Matte or Green Tea; Kombucha; Coconut Water; coffee with splash of milk
Now that you’re properly hydrated, let’s talk about some different breakfast scenarios. After all, every day is different and what works for one person may not work for another. The type of food we consume in the morning depends on your workload, exercise level, mood and general activity level.
Here are a few different breakfast scenarios:
- 1. Before a Group Fitness Class, Run or Other Cardio Activity: You want quick energy, but nothing too heavy that you’re going to “feel” in your stomach, like high-fiber oatmeal or heartier grains. I recommend eating something light with a carb-protein combo like a piece of whole grain toast (I love Ezekiel Sprouted Grain bread) with some all-natural peanut or almond butter, a gluten-free Van’s waffle or a small bowl of unsweetened corn flakes with milk. After your run, you can eat a heartier meal packed with whole grains (complex carbs) and protein to both restore your energy and repair your muscles.
- 2. Before a.m. strength training: Whether you’re heading to bootcamp or a personal training session at Fitness Together, you’re going to need stamina to get you through! First off, make sure you’ve consumed an adequate amount of water beforehand for energy and hydration. Once you’ve done that, I recommend eating a small meal a couple hours before your workout (if you can wake up that early) or a snack-size meal an hour before.
Aim to consume some protein and carbohydrates, with little to no fat (which can upset your stomach or cause digestion issues during your workout). This includes some scrambled egg whites on whole grain toast, a non-fat greek yogurt like Chobani or Oikos with some nuts or granola or your favorite protein bar. (Note: Check the label! Can you recognize the ingredients? Are their any funky additives?) After your workout, you’ll want to repair your muscles with a larger meal like a protein shake, or scrambled eggs with a heaping amount of veggies, a bit of cheese and a side of toast.
- 3. During a Long Day Packed with Meetings: Your work schedule is nuts, you
have back-to-back meetings and you don’t know when your next meal will be. Sound familiar? On days like these, you need a meal that’s going to tide you over until lunch, and give you energy to get you through the morning. My go-to breakfast of Champions? Oatmeal. And no, I’m not talking about the kind that comes in a packet or is filled with Splenda and other artificial sweeteners. I’m talking about real, old-fashioned rolled oats. Top your oats with a half of banana, berries, or even some chopped apple with cinnamon for an extra nutrient boost.
While oatmeal is packed with fiber that will keep you full and stick to your ribs, it’s not very high in protein on its own. Therefore, I recommend “dressing it up” with 1 TB of all-natural peanut butter like Teddie, 1 TB of ground flax seed, or some slivered almonds or walnuts. To add sweetness, use natural sweeteners like fresh fruit, raw agave syrup, honey or pure maple syrup. Hint: a little bit goes a long way!
To make your oats easier to digest, try soaking them the night before to break up the phytic acid (see recipe below), and consider adding in a tablespoon of vinegar, lemon juice, or yogurt which are fermented to improve digestion and increase nutrient absorption.
- 4. To Prep for a Big Presentation or Important Meeting: Different foods have different energetics, some creating balance and calm, others creating clarity or energy. On days when you have an important meeting or presentation you’ve been planning for, you’ll want to eat something grounding that helps calm you down and tame your nerves. My favorite grounding foods for breakfast? Homemade vegetable omelet or quiche, baked sweet potato with a little agave, cinnamon and nut butter, or Kale and turkey bacon stiry-fry. If you’re making eggs, I love to add garlic and turmeric which both work as a natural anti-inflammatory, herbs like parsley to decrease bloat, and cayenne pepper for extra heat and a metabolism boost. Avoid cold or raw foods, which can make you even more tense.
- 5. When You Simply Don’t Have Time: We are only human, so on days you simply don’t have time for breakfast, it’s still better to eat something than binge on a donut and coffee or even worse, skip breakfast all together. On these days, go for a healthy nutrition bar like a Larabar, KIND bar and Truebar. Or, make these Overnight Mason Jar Oats the night before, which takes the cooking part out of oatmeal altogether.
Turkey Bacon and Kale
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
1 bunch of kale
4 strips of turkey bacon
1. Slice turkey bacon into bite size pieces (kitchen scissors work best). Place in pan and cook for a few minutes.
2. Chop kale, keeping the stems separate.
3. First add chopped stems to pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the rest of the kale, mix well with turkey bacon.
4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water, cover and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.
5. Remove cover, allow water to evaporate and serve.
Serve 1/2 of a raw grated carrot on top or sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 serving
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup dried fruit (such as blueberries, raisins, cranberries, currants)
1/4 cup flax or sunflower seeds
1. The night before, place all ingredients in a bowl, then fill about 1/2 inch above oats with water.
3. Place in a cool, dry place overnight.
4. In the morning, warm with a bit of water over the stove or eat at room temperature.
Variations: In the morning you can heat up a cup of soy or rice milk to serve with oats and/or cut up fresh fruit to mix in. Also try pumpkin seeds or chopped nuts to add variety.
Note: This is a great breakfast to bring along with you on the road. In a plastic container, pre-mix oats with your favorite toppings, add water to soak the oats, and take them with you.
1/2 cup(s) oats, rolled, quick cooking, *
4 egg white(s)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar, granulated, (may use sugar substitute if diabetic)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground, (optional)
1. Generously coat a skillet with oil spray and preheat over medium heat.
2. In a small bowl whip together all of the ingredients. Pour the mixture onto the skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown, on each side.
Tip: For a moister pancake, cover the skillet with a lid while the pancake is cooking.
handful of frozen berries
1/2 of cucumber
2-3 pieces of kale
1-2 tbs of all natural almond butter
1 tsp of spirulina (optional)
3/4 – 1 cup of coconut or purified water
- Blend on high speed until all ingredients are incorporated. You can always add more water if you like less of a thicker consistency.
3 egg whites
1 cup milk
1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped scallion
6 basil leaves, chiffonaded
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Sprinkle of kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs. Add the milk and whisk again. In a medium bowl, combine the red pepper, scallion, cheddar cheese, and basil.
2. Spray a muffin tin well with cooking spray. Pour an even amount of the egg mixture into each muffin cup. They will be about 3/4 full. Divide the veggie mixture evenly amongst the muffin cups. Sprinkle each with a little kosher salt.
3. Put the filled muffin tin into the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the quiches are just starting to brown.
4. Remove the muffin tray from the oven and cool on a rack for about 5 minutes. Place a cutting board over the muffin tin and flip upside down so that the quiches fall
Rachel Chemerynski is a Boston-based Certified Holistic Health Counselor and founder of Zesty Living, a health counseling business focused on stress relief, energy, weight loss and “getting your zest back.” Join her for monthly workshops at Fitness Together North End on the second Wednesday of each month.