One of the most frequent questions I get from new clients is “what can I eat for breakfast?” We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but when it comes to choosing something healthy that will give us the nutrients and energy to get through the day, while also aiding in weight management, we often get confused or frustrated and opt out of breakfast altogether.
There have been many studies showing the importance of “break-fast” or breaking the 8-12 hour period of time since your last meal or snack. The morning hours are the ideal time of the day for refueling your glucose levels, providing your brain and body with the energy they need to function optimally throughout the day.
Additionally, by eating breakfast, you are increasing your chances of maintaining and even losing weight. Studies show that those who eat a healthy breakfast are less likely to snack or play “catch-up” later in the day. And, by starting the day off on a healthy foot, you are more likely to continue making good food choices for the remainder of the day.
Regardless of the benefits, some people still lack motivation or the desire to eat breakfast due to time constraints or lack of a morning appetite. In regards to the ladder, try eating your largest meal at lunchtime followed by a lighter meal for dinner. It’s also great to leave 3-4 hours between your last meal and the time you go to bed in order to maximize digestion prior to sleeping. This will not only give your body the digestive rest it needs, but also allow you to get a better night’s sleep and increase your desire to refuel in the morning. As for time, with a little preplanning, many breakfast meals can be prepared the night before to make for a quick morning meal or something easy to take with you to the office.
So what’s the best thing to eat for your first meal? The first thing I would recommend when choosing what to eat is to try to think outside of the typical “healthy” breakfast. Most cereals, bagels, toast, and sweet pastries do little more than provide a blood sugar spike followed by a low just a short time after. Instead consider an alternative such as a whole grain (quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, etc.) mixed with a little nut milk, natural sweetener (agave nectar and dates are good options) and some dried fruits and/or nuts.
You can also make your own granola by throwing together a variety of grains, nuts and seeds that you like. This combination gives you the protein, carbohydrates, and fat needed to help you last until lunchtime.
Fruit is also an excellent choice, especially when made into a morning smoothie. Consider adding super foods such as maca, spirulina, goji berries, bee pollen or raw cacao to increase their nutrient power even more so. Vegetable juices are also an ideal option and can be a great way to ensure an adequate daily vegetable intake. And, if you’re really willing to forfeit the normal breakfast routine, even a bit of steamed vegetables, sea vegetables or soup can provide an optimal source of energy. Many people do well eating their dinner leftovers the next morning which saves time and prevents food waste.
Regardless of what you ultimately decide to eat, the most important thing to remember is that each of us requires different foods and quantities based on our own biochemical, genetic and metabolic differences.
A great way to determine what is right for you is to experiment with varying choices and record how you feel. Explore seven different breakfasts over the course of a week and record what you ate, how you felt afterwards, and then again two and four hours later. Include in that experiment foods that you typically eat or desire the most at breakfast, regardless of their nutritional value, just to further understand the impact those foods versus other foods have on your body.
At the end of the week, I guarantee that you’ll have a clear understanding of the best energy sources for your body, be sold on the importance of breakfast and know exactly when and what to eat for this key mealtime.
American Dietetic Association
Institute of Integrative Nutrition
Published On: March 26, 2010