We hear it time and time again, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” What does that mean, really? Some argue that the mere eating of breakfast, regardless of the contents, is the key. It seems that breakfast kick starts our metabolism, and some rationalize that since we have a whole day to burn those morning calories, the actual content doesn’t really matter.
I subscribed to this theory for many years. In fact, I thought my ‘heart healthy’ cereal was actually doing my body some good. I didn’t begin to rethink this logic until my doctor posed the question ‘How do you feel after you have breakfast?’ I began to wonder if my late morning energy slumps and sugar cravings might have a culprit.
As it turned out, the nutrient profile of my typical breakfast looked impressive on the side of the box, but in reality it was a carb-loading crisis. Accordingly, over the past few years I have revamped and fine-tuned my breakfasts for maximum energy, endurance, and of course flavor. Here are the three staple breakfasts I now rely on to power me through the week:
#1 High Energy: Berry Delicious Smoothie
Three days a week I hit the gym in the morning for a strenuous one-hour workout. I only have time to fit breakfast in 45 minutes before the exercise begins, so I need something that will keep me going, without taking a lot of work to digest. Enter…the incredible nutrient packed smoothie. The following recipe (from Dairy Free Made Easy) yields one generously sized serving…
- 1 cup Fortified Almond Milk – Beyond the fact that I do not consume dairy, this may not be the best meal for cow’s milk if you are planning on working out. The animal proteins in milk can be hard to digest, and may weigh you down. High protein foods are beneficial post-workout, when your muscles need help in the repair and building process.
- 1 cup Blueberries – This is my favorite antioxidant packed berry in smoothies, not only for flavor and health, but also for color (it masks the green stuff). Though almost any fruit will work great.
- 1 small Banana – The banana gives the smoothie body and potassium to help prevent muscle cramping.
- 1 Tablespoon Flaxseeds – A healthy Omega-3 source, flaxseed grinds up easily in the blender for better digestion and nutrient absorption.
- 1/2 cup Spinach Leaves – This is the green stuff that blueberries mask so well (cherries and blackberries are excellent camouflage too). Spinach is tasteless in smoothies; trust me, no one will ever know.
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon – This is optional, but cinnamon has been shown to help keep sugar spikes in check, and is recommended to many diabetes patients. Since the berries and banana in a smoothie do contain a high level of natural sugars, I like this extra insurance against energy peaks and valleys.
Throw it all in a blender (banana first) and blend away until smooth and creamy. For a refreshing beverage, blend in some ice until it reaches your desired consistency.
Note: This concoction has yet to fail me on a workout, and it tastes like a reward in its own right. Upon arriving home, I usually enjoy a slice or two or whole grain bread or brown rice cakes with nut butter for some post workout protein, and to keep me satiated until lunch.
#2 Duration: Oatmeal with Oomph
On days when I expect moderate activity and a long morning of work at the computer, I need a breakfast that is more filling and won’t leave me craving sugar at 11am. The following recipe yields one filling serving…
- 2/3 cup Oats, whole or instant – Whole oats will give it more of a warm muesli texture, while instant will offer a creamier consistency.
- 2 Tablespoons Raisins or other chopped Dried Fruit – Diced apples, berries, and other fresh fruit are also a nice addition.
- 2 Tablespoons chopped Walnuts or other Nuts – Nuts provide a good dose of vitamins and minerals and just enough ‘healthy’ fat and protein to give this meal some staying power.
- ½ teaspoon Cinnamon – I add this more for flavor than anything else, but the sugar/insulin benefit is always welcomed.
- 1 Tablespoon ground Flaxseed – Since there is no blender in this recipe, you will need to grind the flaxseed before adding it to the oatmeal. It is best to grind flaxseed just before use in your spice grinder to keep it from going rancid.
- 1 teaspoon Evaporated Cane Juice, Honey, or Maple Syrup – I typically make my oatmeal without any added sweetener, relying on the dried fruit and cinnamon for contrast, though you may want a little sugar boost.
- 1/2 to 1 cup Almond, Rice, or Soymilk – Your milk of choice is suitable in this one, fortified is an added bonus.
Put some water on to boil. Combine the oats, raisins or fruit, nuts and cinnamon in a cereal bowl. Pour the hot water onto your oat mixture while stirring until desired consistency is reached. Stir in the ground flaxseed and sweetener if desired. Top with your favorite “milk.”
#3 Relaxing: Perfect Pancakes w/ Protein
Weekends are my down time. Sure I want enough energy to putter around the house, run some errands, and catch up on my to do list, but a leisurely breakfast helps to remind my body that it is the weekend.
Keep in mind, that fluffy short stack is full of empty calories. It may offer the feel good factor and an hour of instant energy, but refined carbohydrates are notorious for quick exits. However, whole wheat pancakes accompanied by some fruit and a modest serving of protein will leave you feeling satisfied and indulged, yet not weighed down.
If you don’t have that “made from scratch” time, reach for a good mix, such as the whole grain vegan mix from Goodbaker or the Gluten-Free mix (that I used in this batch) from Sylvan Border Farm.
In my meal shown above, my refrigerator was void of any good vegan or low fat breakfast sausage, so I reached for another favorite, almond butter. First, I trialed one pancake slathered with a teaspoon of almond butter plain. Then I drizzled just a bit of the maple syrup over the second almond buttered pancake…we have a winner! It was delicious. Though a touch higher in sugars and flours, this well-rounded meal, kept me until noon without an energy slump or a single pang of hunger.