We are creatures of habit. We tend to find foods that we like, that are easy to prepare, and that are familiar to us … and we subsequently eat those foods over and over again. There are many reasons why varying the foods we eat keeps us healthy. One reason is that we get a more balanced array of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), and we get a host of different micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to keep our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems running smoothly.
Eating a healthy breakfast is a challenge for many people because we tend to eat on the run or in a rushed manner. Also our options are often limited to what we consider “breakfast food.” We need to expand our view of breakfast in order to eat a varied and balanced morning meal. Think about what the standard American breakfast consists of … muffins, cereal, bagels, toast, pancakes, waffles, and doughnuts. For starters, there’s not a lot, if any, of protein in sight. Foods that we commonly consider to be morning foods tend to be incredibly high in carbohydrates. And when we add syrup, sugar, and jelly to our already carb heavy breakfast foods, we’re adding sugar on top of sugar.
When I counsel patients on eating healthy foods, one of the first things we talk about is throwing the idea of the standard American breakfast out the window. Replacing a carbohydrate heavy breakfast with a morning meal that consists of protein, healthy fats, and fruits/veggies is a great way to feel more satiated through the morning; not to mention, it can give us more energy and focus, less dips in energy, and fewer carboydrate cravings during the day.
A few examples of a more complete breakfast are as follows:
- A veggie omelet (add avocado for added healthy fat content)
- Plain organic yogurt with nuts, seeds, and berries
- High quality chicken or turkey sausages with vegetables and/or fruit
- Homemade oatmeal with nuts/nut butter stirred in and fresh or dried fruit
Eating organic plain yogurt and kefir also allow for more variation in your diet, which include a variety of beneficial flora to aid in healthy digestion. Too busy to cook breakfast, you say? How about an apple and nut butter or hardboiled eggs and a banana as you run out the door? Homemade shakes are okay, but remember, some can be sugar and carbohydrate heavy too.
Let’s move beyond the idea of cereal, muffins, and doughnuts for breakfast … and think about breakfast as a meal, the most important meal of the day. Why not eat your leftover dinner or the salad you’re making for lunch? All we have to do is change the way we think of breakfast. Don’t feel limited by what the food industry and the advertisers tell us we should eat in the morning.
Here’s one more trick to varying foods in the morning. Think about eating fruits and vegetables in all the colors of the rainbow. If you have a banana one morning, think about having blueberries the next. Don’t forget about plums, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, apricots, and mangos. Vary and increase the colors you are eating. Remember your colorful veggies as well, and eat them for breakfast too. Shake it up!