I have never been a meal skipper. I eat about fourteen times each day. Ok, it’s more like five, but anyone close to me knows that you don’t really want to be close to me in an onset of hanger (hunger + anger). Instead of reaching for a Snickers bar (as the clever commercial suggests), I try to keep healthy snacks and easy to grab foods on hand at all times. This is probably the most important when I’m starting my day. In contrast, my husband has no issue skipping breakfast. We recently had a conversation about this and how he really must implement eating into his morning routine. It made me think about how many others start their day in a similar fashion.
Breakfast has long been cited as the most important meal of the day by nutritionists, dietitians, and Panera Bread owners alike. Have you heard the quote that you should “Eat Breakfast Like a King, Lunch Like a Prince, and Dinner Like a Pauper”? Ironically, this highly coveted meal is the one that is most often skipped. If we know we should be eating breakfast, why do we not? I blame the gallon sized coffee containers that somehow tide us over until an early lunch. Trying to get out the door and to school or work is the next culprit. Also, eating a heavy meal the night before can make us less hungry in the morning.
So we can probably figure out why we’re skipping breakfast, but what about why we shouldn’t? I’m no expert, so let me lay some citations on you:
“Consuming breakfast can also contribute to maintaining a body mass index (BMI) within the normal range.” –US National Library of Medicine
“Breakfast has been suggested to positively affect learning in children in terms of behavior, cognitive, and school performance.”- US National Library of Medicine
“Skipping the morning meal can throw off your body’s rhythm of fasting and eating.”- WebMD
Eating a healthy breakfast has been linked to lower cholesterol levels and a “more nutritionally complete diet, higher in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals”.- WebMD
“It keeps me from getting shaky and biting off anyone’s head within shouting distance”- Me
Thank you, educated people! Now you’ve convinced me that breakfast is important, so bring on the Pop-Tarts! Alas, this is where the biggest stumbling block emerges. The problem is that it’s not a cut and dry “eat breakfast and thou shall be healthy” type of situation. Many an American breakfast food can be tossed into the unhealthy pile. According to this article from Reader’s Digest, “A balanced breakfast contains a mix of protein, fat, and carbs”. This makes sense, but is still a little vague. After all, carbs is likely the most debated and confusing food category. When you hear carbs you may cross yourself as thoughts of donuts and pancakes rush to mind, or you may be able to cipher the friend from faux and think oatmeal, bananas, and whole wheat toast. Protein is somewhat more straightforward as we typically have no issue with meat intake. Fat is another taboo category that can be confusing. Many a diet promoter advises us to eat low fat yogurt, string cheese, and skim milk, while those eating a minimally-processed diet recommend whole milk, avocados, nuts, and full fat yogurt.
So what’s a well intended eater to do? When it comes down to it, it’s important to discuss what’s right for your body with a trusted adviser. It’s also worth saying to listen to your gut reaction (literally). If you feel bloated, fatigued, or otherwise uncomfortable after eating, take note. You may consider keeping a food journal. This can help you notice a pattern and decide that there are foods you’d rather stay away from. For me personally, I go the whole foods route with processed items in moderation. The fewer ingredients, the more likely I am to eat it and feed it to my family. I also try to get as many servings of fruits and veggies in per day as possible, so I try to sneak them in where I can. Here are some options of what I consider “healthy breakfasts” that we keep on rotation:
Smoothies. This is the ultimate grab and go option and a great way to get a serving of veggies in. Get some frozen fruit, plain whole fat or Greek yogurt, a banana, some spinach, ice, and peanut butter and try out a few different combos. There are tons of recipes online, but steer away from anything too complex or with added sweetener. A ripe banana should be all the sweet you need. We don’t use protein powder, but if you do make sure to check the ingredients and do some research for non-gmo options without any unnecessary ingredients.
Oatmeal. Lyla and I eat oatmeal three or four times a week. We actually share one serving as by the time I doctor it up, it’s quite filling. I buy the fast cooking oats that literally take less than five minutes to prepare. My favorite add-ins are peanut butter, banana, mixed nuts, and berries.
Avocado Toast. I know I know, it’s so cliche. Before you roll your eyes at me, give it a shot. I love smearing some on Ezekiel Sesame bread (after toasting) and topping with a little flax seed. I usually have this with a scrambled egg and some fresh berries.
Egg in a Basket. This is one of Tim’s specialties. Put a slice of Ezekial bread or whole wheat toast (you know it’s whole wheat if there’s a seal on it that says 100%) in a pan with a little melted butter. Cut out a hole in the bread and then crack an egg into it. I don’t do runny eggs, so I break the yolk on mine and let it get nice and firm. This menu item takes a tiny bit longer, but is still very doable on a week day.
Ezekial Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin with Peanut Butter. This is really more of a treat for me, but it subsides my craving for a breakfast pastry. It’s also an easy one to eat in the car. You can find Ezekiel products in the frozen part of the natural foods section at the grocery store. Keep them in the freezer at home and pop them in the toaster when you’re ready to eat.
Omelets. These guys are the perfect way to get a couple of servings of veggies in. Saute some onion, mushrooms, and peppers the night before so that you literally just have to cook the egg and warm up the fillings. Serve with a little plain Greek yogurt and salsa for a very filling and guilt-free start to the day.
Yogurt Parfaits. Keep in mind that all parfaits are not made the same and you should avoid most pre-made options. I love the little Fage split cups with the fruit, but they do contain a lot of sugar. A smarter bet is to buy plain yogurt, add your own fruit, and a little bit of honey and granola.
Larabars. When time is really tight, I’ll grab a Larabar as I head out the door. I like this brand because they’re affordable at $1 each (Kroger usually has coupons) and I can pronounce all of the ingredients. I almost always have one in my purse in case Lyla or I need a quick snack.
A couple of options that I’ve wanted to try out, but haven’t yet are overnight oats and homemade breakfast burritos that you make in large batches and freeze. I’ll update this post when I get around to finally giving them a shot. As a general rule of thumb, I try to get at least a serving of fruit with breakfast and a veggie serving is even better.
Eating a healthy breakfast is important for our kids as it gives them the best start to a busy school day. I’d say most parents understand and accommodate this. However, feeding ourselves is often less important as mornings are so busy and it’s a step that’s easily skipped. This is one of many lessons of self care. If we don’t take care of ourselves, it’s hard to take care of others. Make it a habit and find ways to work this important meal in.
Do you have any yummy go-tos to get your family fed on a busy morning??
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