Although there are sound medical reasons for eating breakfast every day, when I look at the typical breakfast food offerings at many restaurants, supermarkets, and food trucks, and I think about the health of our nation, it’s sad! Muffins, bagels, donuts, pancakes, waffles, French toast sticks… Want some bacon, sausage, or fried potatoes with that, sir?
We are traditionally led to believe that a “well-balanced breakfast” consists of a big bowl of cereal and a few decorative strawberries on top, with a tall glass of orange juice. We believe that you need the calcium in that milk, that vitamin C in that orange juice, and the carbs in that cereal for energy. But do you?
Eating like this may be okay once in a while, but if you do so often, I guarantee these foods will make you both fat and sick, sooner or later!
Why are familiar breakfast foods not great for you?
Simply put, to the cells in your body, a bowl of cereal, or a bagel, or a piece of toast, or a muffin are all no different than a dessert. Processed carbohydrates and sugars cause blood sugar and insulin levels to rise. The insulin easily ushers all that sugar into your fat cells, where it becomes stored energy, also known as body fat.
The animal fats in bacon, sausage, and butter can clog up arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Cured meats and other processed foods a cause trouble for several reasons, especially because the high salt content causes us to retain water and pushes the blood pressure up. This is all a recipe for weight gain, obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol… and eventually, heart disease.
So… what should we eat for breakfast?
The answer is basic healthy eating advice: fruits and vegetables, whole (unprocessed) grains, and healthy proteins and fats. This is not a trend, this is not a hippie opinion. The evidence is overwhelming. And I love bacon. But, I treat it with respect because it can (and does) cause great harm to the human body if eaten often.
But many people need more guidance than just a list of food groups, including how to do so when you have a busy life.
So here’s what I suggest:
If you’re often on the go, your may need something quick, easy, transportable, and budget-friendly. So, try putting together an easy fruit/yogurt/grain/nut bowl every single day. Here’s a possible three-ingredient recipe:
- Frozen fruit: berries, mixed fruit, fruit with kale bits, whatever. Fruit is frozen at the peak of freshness, so the quality and vitamin content can be better than what’s in the produce aisle. Try buying large bags of frozen mixed berries at the wholesale club or discount grocery, as they are much more economical than fresh and don’t go bad.
- Nuts and/or seeds and/or grains of your preference: for example, unsalted nuts, toasted seeds or grains, or a combination such as a low-sugar granola.
- Your favorite yogurt, ideally plain or low-sugar.
- Eggs are no longer considered anathema, so an occasional one or two are OK, and consider hard-boiled, especially if you’re on the go.
- More leisurely breakfast at home: You might add whole-grain toast, but make sure it contains whole grain on the label, contains less than 180 mg. of sodium and fewer than 110 calories per slice, with no saturated or trans-fats. But be careful what spread you place on top: Instead of butter, consider cholesterol-lowering sterols/stanols such as Benecol, but others containing olive oil are also acceptable.
Why is this a healthy breakfast?
The fruit is not a token sprinkle, nor a decorative touch. The fruit makes up the bulk of this meal. There’s fiber in the fruit (but little in most juices), and plant sugars in their natural form, not to mention healthy fat in the nuts, and protein in the yogurt. A low-sugar yogurt will leave us feeling more satisfied, for longer. We won’t get the insulin spike that triggers hunger pangs (unlike when we eat processed carbs).
If you want to step it up a notch, ditch the dairy. We can get plenty of calcium and other vitamins from leafy greens and other veggies, so take your choice. At any rate, consider yogurt, for it contains not only creamy protein and probiotics, which can be weighed against the recognized risks of regular consumption of animal products that should be limited as much as possible. The rest is up to you.