Most Important Meal of the Day?
No matter what other resolutions you make next month, I’d like to suggest one that will have a huge impact on your health : eat breakfast. Make sure it’s healthy. Try to eat it sitting down, not driving a car or at a computer. Do it within an hour of getting up.
For some, these seem like ridiculously simple guidelines, but for a huge portion of Americans, this feels impossible. More and more of us skip breakfast, or eat it on the run. If you think of what the typical “breakfast food” is, you’ll also realize that often this meal is anything but healthy.
Many studies have shown that skipping breakfast leads to weight gain; those who eat an early meal tend to eat less later in the day overall. Eating within an hour of rising has also been shown to increase metabolism and lead to more efficient use of calories, which contributes to healthy maintanence of weight. Studies in school kids show that skipping breakfast leads to poor concentration, slower reaction time and loss of fine motor skills. (I have to assume that this doesn’t change as we age!). So even though many of us say we don’t have time for breakfast, it appears to be in your best interest to make that time.
Cold breakfast cereals are often an answer to the lack of time, cause what could be faster? Cold cereals originated in Battle Creek, MI. The Seventh Day Adventists had founded a hospital (“sanitorium”) there, and it’s chief physician, John Kellogg, was searching for a way to improve the vegetarian diet of his patients. He and his brother, W K Kellogg, accidentally made wheat flakes while trying to find a more digestible version of bread; these were a hit with the patients. They then made corn flakes, and eventually the Kellogg Company was founded.
Unfortunately, the cereal aisle of most stores is filled with many products that are little better than candy. Even the best cold cereal is still a large amount of processed starches and not really the best way to start your day. Also, when most folks think of “breakfast foods”, they imagine muffins, bagels, pancakes, french toast—all starches!
A better choice for your first meal is more concentrated protein and vegetables. Eggs can take many forms and are healthy. However, studies have also shown that if produce is not eaten at breakfast, one will likely not reach enough servings of veggies and fruit for the day. Many of us drink juice; this isn’t horrible, but it’s better to eat whole fruit so you also get the fiber and decrease the effect on glucose. Some will put veggies into an omlette; this is fine, but there are lots of other things to do! Try the following: a small baked sweet potatoe with cinnamon and cardamom; leftover cooked greens such as spinach or chard, mixed with lentils; broiled tomatoes (this time of year, use the “vine-grown” type); spaghetti squash mixed with sauteed mushrooms and a sprinkle of cheese. Soup is also a great way to start the day this time of year. Any squash soups or even miso soup can be highly addictive and warming.
Most of all, think of beans. They have a huge amount of protein, will hardly raise your glucose at all and will keep you full for hours. Start simple: Huevos Rancheros is simply mashed pinto beans on corn tortillas, covered by a poached egg and salsa. (You can add some greens as well if you have leftovers). Another favorite of mine is leftover baby lentils, reheated and topped with a soft boiled egg (especially good if you cooked the lentils with chopped onion and carrot).
Of course, there’s always the smoothie for those who insist on drinking their breakfast while they drive or work. Smoothies should NOT be just fruit and yogurt–that’s dessert! Here’s what goes in my own smoothie each morning (which I drink as a mid-morning snack, since breakfast is so early): flax and hemp seeds, pepitas, 3 brazil nuts and my liquid adaptogen extract. Then 1/2-1 orange (peeled), 1/2 an apple (not peeled!), a big portion of sweet bell pepper for the antioxidants, and a few handsful of greens like chard, collards, kale or spinach. I use green tea for the liquid (make it first thing in the morning and let it cool down a bit). I usually add in some fresh ginger root as well, and sometimes add in berries in place of part of the fruit. Yes, it’s thick and sometimes a weird color, but it’s a fabulous way to get loads of good stuff into you in one fell swoop!