I can hear you groaning and see you rolling your eyes. “That’s not a secret,” you’re saying. “We’re always being told to eat breakfast if we want to be healthier.” But the truth is eating breakfast for eating breakfast’s sake is not necessarily going to serve you. And here’s why.
Most breakfasts are nothing but sugar. Consider a standard breakfast of cereal and milk; orange juice; toast or another bread; and coffee or tea with milk.
• Cereal = sugar. Most cereals are boxes of candy.
• Milk = sugar from lactose.
• Orange juice = sugar, the fiber has been stripped.
• Bread = if it doesn’t have 2 or 3 grams of fiber per serving, it’s starch.
• Coffee or tea with milk and sugar = double whammy from the sugar itself and the lactose in the milk.
So what’s the problem here? The typical breakfast means that you’re consuming a lot of refined sugar that’s going to spike your blood sugar to a great height and result in a resounding fall not that much later. Despite having had a bunch of calories, you’re going to want to eat again mid-morning because you’re feeling lethargic, or you’re going to be ravenous by lunch. Quality protein is conspicuous by its absence.
So, by contrast, what if you take the eggs and bacon route? Is that any better? To be honest, some of the components here are fine. The issue starts when you put them all together. You’re looking at a large amount of fat and animal protein, and no fiber or good carbohydrates. Here you’re missing on the energy from carbohydrates which also feed the brain and the central nervous system.
So now that I’ve slammed most popular breakfasts, what do you do? Especially if you’re on the road.
Breakfast is one meal over which you have a lot of control. It’s not like being taken by a client to a fondue restaurant for lunch or dinner. Typically the day’s obligations shouldn’t be interfering with your eating of the first meal of your day.
If you’re at home, you can definitely strike the balance between nutrients to get you on your way and keep your energy level until lunch time. Here are some suggestions and they don’t take long:
• Oatmeal with almond milk, berries and chopped nuts.
• Veggie omelet with one full egg and one egg white. Time tip: chop the veggies the night before. Start cooking the onion while you shower. By the time you’re done, they’ll be ready and you can add the faster cooking veggies.
• Smoothie – get brave with fruit and greens. You don’t taste the greens. You can down a whole day’s worth of fruit and get a head start on veggies before your day has barely begun.
• I add almond butter to my smoothies for extra protein. I don’t usually use a protein powder. I’m more likely to have an egg or a black bean/brown rice patty afterwards. Most people can keep going all morning on a smoothie. I’m an “O” blood type so I’m always fishing around for extra protein.
• Brown rice or quinoa porridge. Yes really, you can add almond milk to cooked brown rice or quinoa and it makes a fabulous breakfast.
• I’m a little odd – I’ll eat brown rice and black beans for breakfast. It’s great, and can be prepared as a batch in advance. That keeps me going for ever.
All of these recipes are on my website. Email me if there’s anything specific you would like.
On the road, if you’re staying in a room that has a microwave, you can prepare a lot of the same stuff as at home. In a hotel, you’re going to find some healthy options, but you’ll probably have to go à la carte. You may even have to give your server some special requests. The truth is, in this day and age, kitchens are used to special requests. They’re used to preparing gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian. So here are some good options:
• Oatmeal with berries and nuts. Try to avoid the sugar. A little honey is okay. I prefer almond milk. Most places won’t have it, but if you contact the hotel in advance, they’ll get it for you. The more people request, the more likely hotels are going to step up and start offering healthier products.
• Eggs. Veggie omelet. As many veggies as possible. No more than two eggs. You don’t need four.
• If you’re having eggs or bacon (and it really should be either or except for an occasional treat), have them with whatever veggies you can muster from the kitchen. At least you should be able to get tomatoes and mushrooms. Sauteed spinach with a poached or fried egg on top is great.
• Avocado and tomato on whole wheat toast is wonderful. Avocado can be mashed to make avocado “butter” and it’s delicious spread on toast, and better for you than regular butter.
• If you’re in a hotel that serves an international clientele, you’ll sometimes find salmon on the breakfast menu to cater to visitors from Japan. That’s a great breakfast with veggies.
What’s in and out on the breakfast buffet?
In: fresh fruit, whole grain breads, eggs cooked to order, bacon or ham in moderation, any veggies, yogurt, high fiber cereal, almond milk.
Out: scrambled eggs that have been sitting for ages, sausage, biscuits, gravy, any breads with white flour, sweet pastries, juices from cartons, sugary cereals.
A word about eggs: We have been brainwashed into thinking that they are bad for us because they contain cholesterol. The truth is there’s a difference between the cholesterol in food and the cholesterol that is made from saturated fat that is carried into the body and converted.
In the US, if you want to be healthy, you eat egg whites. In traditional Chinese medicine, egg yolks are eaten and the whites are discarded because they are known to be mucus-forming. The truth is there are really important nutrients in eggs. They’re a great source of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E. Plus, the fat in the egg yolk will help you absorb the micronutrients in any vegetables that you’re eating with them. The whole egg is best to be eaten so all the complementary nutrients can do their job.
The problem with cholesterol in eggs is when the cholesterol is oxidized. That happens when the egg yolk is over cooked such as in scrambled eggs that have been sitting on a buffet line for hours or in an over-medium egg. Soft poach, sunny side up or over easy, soft boiled are all okay.
I’m a big believer in getting where you’re going the night before for so many reasons. Better night’s sleep, chance to exercise, no risk of running late because of flight delays, chance to have a real breakfast. These are all factors which help alleviate stress too. But sometimes you’re leaving home in the wee hours, it’s too early to eat, you grab coffee and run. What do you do in this situation?
You have to take something with you. At least, a piece of fruit, some almonds and perhaps a yogurt, but not if you’re a big milk drinker. Find a quiet corner to eat it. Eating in the car or on the train is not okay. You’re going to eat more because you’re not focused. You won’t even notice the food that’s going into your mouth. Your brain won’t even register that you’re full. That will lead to more hunger later and excess calories.
Let me know how these tips work for you. I’m always anxious to hear travelers’ challenges on the road…so I can help you overcome them.