Alright, people. Fair warning, this one is longer than usual, so buckle up!
Just last week, I posted about how it can be a good idea to add a dessert item to an otherwise healthy breakfast. So what qualifies as an “otherwise healthy breakfast?”
Over the past several years of exposure to diet crazes, most of you have probably heard about the power of protein. The Atkins Diet and The Dukan Diet have both made protein famous as a means of weight loss. You may also have heard that protein is key in building and repairing muscle. And yet simple carbohydrates remain the common staple in most of our diets.
Ever gotten a “sugar rush?” That’s the easiest way to understand the effects that sugar and carbohydrates have on your body. Your body loves to burn sugar as energy. Carbohydrates convert quickly to burnable energy in the form of sugar. The simpler the carbohydrate (think white bread versus a sweet potato), the faster the conversion, the quicker you get a big injection of energy.
Sounds pretty good, right? We could all use a little more energy. So what’s the problem? The problem is largely in the excess. Most of us will grab a bagel, muffin, or bowl of cereal in the morning for breakfast, and we don’t think of those items as “sugar.” But guess what? Our BODIES do. And 99% of us don’t require that much “sugar” to fuel us for our daily activities. So we burn what we need, but what happens to what’s left over? It’s stored in the body, where it can result in weight gain and other impairments to your health.
Okay, so hopefully at this point you’re realizing that the vast majority of what you eat in the morning is really just sugar in disguise. You may even be starting to consider alternatives. When I first learned about this, my mind immediately wandered to bacon, sausage, and eggs. They’re more time consuming to prepare and are usually reserved for weekend brunch. But those are all sources of protein, right? And no one’s going to say NO to eating more bacon, so bring it on!
Not so fast. While traditional “breakfast meats” ARE primarily a source of protein rather than carbohydrates, there’s a big roadblock here that can’t be left out. They’re also a huge source of fat. Without getting into technical details of good fats, bad fats, and how much fat (I sound like Dr. Suess!), just be aware that for a healthy balance of macronutrients,* fats should be what you intake the LEAST of. And naturally, serving up a portion of breakfast meat is going to eat up a good chunk of what your fat intake should be for the day. Combine that with the fact that fats in breakfast meats fall on the “bad fats” list, and your brilliant plan for avoiding sugar in the morning isn’t looking so good after all.
So where do you get a healthy meal that’s high in protein, low in fat, and maybe has a few healthy complex carbs to give you some clean energy? Chances are good that you usually find meals like this on your DINNER menu. Things like chicken breast, turkey, certain fish, and lean beef, all fit the bill. Brown rice, sweet potatoes, and certain veggies are good sources of complex carbohydrates that will take longer to convert to sugar in your system, and will keep you feeling energized for a longer period of time.
Am I really telling you that you should be eating chicken and veggies for BREAKFAST?? YES!!! Who ever said that certain foods are reserved for certain meals, to be taken only during specific times of the day? If you can break through your own mental barriers about it and give it a go, I promise you’ll surprise yourself. Nowadays I hate it when I haven’t planned my groceries properly and am stuck grabbing a bagel or something for breakfast. I feel bloated and sluggish by mid-morning. If I can eat some lean protein and a serving of steamed veggies instead, I have way more energy, can focus more clearly, and am far less likely to be looking for snacks at work.
Let’s get a little real here. I am NOT cooking gourmet meals in my kitchen at 5:30am. Girl’s gotta sleep and get her face on in the morning. For fast steamed veggies, I use the Bird’s Eye Steamfresh bags from the frozen section (NOT the kind with sauces!) I pop them into my microwave for 5 minutes while my coffee brews and then dump half a bag into some Tupperware to take with me to work. As for protein? I usually will make a crockpot (sometimes two!) on Sundays so my chicken is already prepared and ready to go on workdays. I just refrigerate it and portion it out as I go. (Or, if you’re fancy, you can pre-portion it into smaller Tupperware for the whole week!)
Keep it simple!
*There are lots of opinions out there about what a healthy balance of macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) is. If you want to get more scientific about it or you’re interested in where I started my learning on the topic, check out the forum here.