Are you a regular breakfast eater? Or, like many of my patients, do you skip the first meal of the day because you’re too busy, not hungry, or trying to lose weight?
Here’s a word to the wise — if you’re not eating a healthy breakfast every day, you’re missing out on one of the keystones of good overall health.
Studies repeatedly show that eating a good breakfast — I’ll explain exactly what that means shortly — is the best way to start the day. For example, eating breakfast…
- Reduces the likelihood of blood sugar problems, which, in turn, also reduces the risk of diabetes or high cholesterol.
- Improves memory and brain functions.
- Provides your body with much-needed nutrients that may not be obtained with later meals.
- Helps maintain a healthy weight.
Clearly, eating breakfast has substantial benefits. But are you consuming the right breakfast foods? That’s an important question, because those benefits can backfire if you’re eating processed foods made with refined flour and sugar. Those processed foods include most cereals and pastries, as well as breakfast meat, like bacon, that’s high in fat and salt. For better choices, please read on.
Before Taking a Bite of Breakfast…
Quick reminder: I encourage all of my patients to drink about 20 ounces of fresh, filtered water first thing in the morning, even before having a cup of coffee. It’s vitally important to re-hydrate your body when you wake up because it has just gone 7 or 8 hours without water. Patients who do this describe the benefits in glowing terms.
A patient I’ll call Sam told me, “I can’t tell you how much better I feel now that I’m drinking a big glass of water first thing in the morning. It’s a totally different way to start the day. This is really a game changer.”
Give it a try, and see what a difference it makes to be properly hydrated first thing in the morning.
Healthy breakfasts don’t just happen. And during my two-plus decades of practicing medicine, I’ve discovered that one of the key elements in eating well involves getting ahead of hunger. Even the most determined weight-loss patients have been undermined by not preparing. And that’s a shame, because it’s such a simple thing to do.
For example, be sure you always have the ingredients for a healthy breakfast in your pantry, including (depending on your taste buds):
- Quick-cooking oatmeal or other whole grain cereal, unsweetened
- High-quality whey protein powder
- Eggs, preferably organic from grain-fed, free-range chickens
- Low-fat milk or nut milk, such as almond or coconut
- Organic, raw honey or organic maple syrup for sweetening
- Fresh or frozen organic fruit
- Low-fat string cheese
- Raw almonds
- Low-fat cheddar or Swiss cheese
- Plain, low-fat yogurt
- Assorted fresh vegetables for juicing (kale, spinach, and so on)
- Organic tea or coffee (see below)
- Organic, salt-free or low sodium almond butter
- Organic tofu
- Whole grain bread, preferably with no added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup
With healthy ingredients like these on hand, you’re far less likely to succumb to the temptation of grabbing a quick doughnut, or skipping breakfast entirely.
Think Outside the (Cereal) Box
The majority of packaged cereals today contain far too much sugar (including the supposedly nutritious granolas) and other unhealthy ingredients. But there are plenty of other foods to choose from, as you can see in the list above.
A good breakfast should consist of complex carbohydrates and protein. This combination prevents dangerous blood sugar and insulin spikes and the mid-morning hunger pangs that go hand-in-hand with sugary, simple carb-laden cravings.
Using the list of ingredients above, you can create a varied, interesting, nutritious breakfast menu for the week ahead. Here are a few of the possibilities:
- A vegetarian omelet from eggs or egg whites
- A hearty bowl of hot cereal with protein powder, chopped fruit, honey, and nut milk
- A bowl of yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit
- A protein drink (perfect for after your workout) with nut milk and whole grain toast with almond butter
- One string cheese, one apple, and ¬ľ cup raw almonds
- Two hard-boiled eggs and a pear or apple
- A leafy green smoothie or juice drink made with kale, spinach, and your other favorite veggies.
“But I don’t have time for breakfast!”
That is the most common excuse I hear for skipping breakfast — and I’m not buying it. Let me tell you why: I work 12-plus hours a day, and have a family — as well as commitments in the community — and if I can find time to have breakfast, anyone can.
Let’s be honest — it takes two or three minutes to make a smoothie, scramble a couple of eggs, or heat up a bowl of quick-cooking grains. Here, again, you can get ahead of the game by planning. Let’s say, for example, that you need a breakfast that’s ready to go out the door in less than a minute. In that case, take a few minutes during the weekend to boil one dozen eggs. Then when it’s time to go, just grab a couple of eggs and an apple — and you’re off! How hard is that?
The Coffee Controversy
If you’re one of those people who can’t imagine starting the day without a cup of coffee, here’s a bit of advice: Go organic. Conventionally farmed coffee beans are loaded with pesticides and other chemicals that are best avoided. That’s why I urge my coffee-loving patients to find a source for high-quality, organic coffee.
Although the jury is still out on whether or not caffeine and coffee are healthy, having a moderate amount — one cup of organic coffee a day, for example — is a good compromise that should not put your health at risk.
By now, you should have a fairly good idea of why I consider breakfast an absolute must for good health. Start your day with a nutritious combination of protein and good carbohydrates, and you can reap the rewards throughout the day.