You are a lover of the morning meal. Of breaking your fast. Perhaps you even live the mantra of eating breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince and dinner like a Pauper. Either way, breakfast is supreme. A non-negotiable precursor to your day.
But the problem with breakfast is that it is incredibly powerful. What you eat at 6:46am has the ability to throw you into an eternal eating frenzy on a scary level of desperation or seat you comfortably in the auto-pilot wing of your psyche.
As I stated in Part I
, it's important to recognize that we have a lot more choices when starting our day than we have been lead to believe. There's a reason why you can take down an entire box of Puffed Kapow! or Sugary Bliss Heads.
Simple carbohydrates like cereal, muffins, bagels, pancakes and the like, speak to the reward system of your brain and flood your body with dopamine and other feel-good chemicals. And because they are light on fiber and high in sugar, there is no fill power to slow the spike in your blood sugar. You could eat this stuff all day long. Perhaps at times you do. (I'm not judging. It's not your fault.)
Your pancreas releases insulin to remove the sugar (now glucose which your body uses for energy) from your bloodstream but this process is so efficient that once the quick energy requirements of your muscles, brain and systems are met, the excess gets immediately stored as fat.
Right around your belly button.
To make matters worse, this rapid drop in blood sugar, prompts your brain to request a redo. And so it begins. A day of hunger. Highs and lows. Fatigue and moodiness. Highlighted by a painful afternoon slump and late night bingeing.
But what if you could set yourself up to be in control of food for the entire day?
To feel comfortably full after breakfast and sail on through the morning?
Here are 10 tips for starting your day off right:
Get the right amount of sleep.Studies show that lack of sleep can contribute to hunger and cravings AND promote belly fat. Try and get at least seven hours of sleep a night to offset the challenges a bad night can set you up with right out of the gate.
Plan ahead.If you eat breakfast on the go, plan for it. Grab an apple and a packet of nut butter or a cheese stick and you will have the perfect balance of fiber and protein to get you to the noon whistle.
Crack some eggs.While we may have been told to avoid them, studies have NEVER shown a correlation between eating eggs and cardiovascular disease. The cholesterol in eggs has been shown to actually improve your cholesterol by increasing HDL (good cholesterol) and changing LDL (the bad stuff) to a type that is not at all associated with an increased risk of heart attacks.
[caption id="attachment_23746" align="alignright" width="300"] Hard-boiled eggs are great for grab-and-go eats.[/caption]
Eat leftovers.Our hunter/gatherer ancestors never diversified their diet. Their breakfast resembled other meals, with whatever protein, fats and plants they could find. So go ahead and warm up the leftover chicken and steamed broccoli and take note of how much your wallet appreciates your choice to empty the fridge.
Opt for oats.Skip the grocery store packets and buy your oats in bulk. This opens up countless options for enhancing a breakfast superfood. High in protein, healthy fats and soluble fiber, oats are known to boost your immune system, lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Stir in berries, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, honey, a spoonful of peanut butter, and use milk in lieu of water.
Pull out the blender.Yes, go ahead and join the smoothie craze and rev up the blender! Start with some ice cubes, a splash of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, berries/fruit, a handful of spinach and a scoop or two of whey orplant-based protein powder. That's the perfect breakfast, all confined to the glass in your hand.
[caption id="attachment_23747" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Smoothies are the snooty all-inclusive breakfast that require fancy pink straws.[/caption]
Switch up the ingredients.Go ahead and make a muffin but try a flax muffin instead of using regular flour. Or make pancakes but substitute almond, oat or coconut flour and transform your breakfast staples to a guilt-free replacement that will be filling and healthy.
[caption id="attachment_23721" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Almond meal makes terrific pancakes. I pinkie swear you won't even notice the difference.[/caption]
Go Greek.Steer clear of the low-fat and fat-free yogurts (you might as well have a Snickers bar with all that sugar) and opt for plain full-fat Greek yogurt. (Remember from above explanation: fat doesn't make you fat, SUGAR makes you fat.) Choose toppings similar to those recommended for oats: berries, coconut, nuts, seeds and honey are all delicious.
Eat your veggies.Veggies are KING. And if you know you won't be able to get your servings of veggies in on a given day, make yourself a mixed green salad with berries, nuts and goat cheese or add a handful of peppers and onions to your scrambled eggs. Vegetables are high fiber, high water, and bursting with nutrients. Popeye won't think you're weird and neither will I. In fact, it kind of makes you a genius.
Skip it.Yep, you heard me. If it's a crazy day, the last thing you need to do is make time for a drive-thru visit or corporate kitchen donut pick-up you'll definitely regret later. Don't worry, your metabolism won't stall if you don't eat until mid-morning and no, it won't throw you into a Ben & Jerrys tizzy at bedtime. There are many (okay, most) days where I combine my biggie bowl of oats with my salad and sail on into the rest of my day feeling full, comfortable and happy I didn't set myself up for failure for lack of time or energy. If need be, work the magic of #2 and pack your breakfast the night before to enjoy once you catch your breath.
The bottom line is this: NO amount of willpower or motivation can compete with your body's response to food. The best path to reaching your goals, losing weight and overall healthy living CAN include breakfast when you focus on the right ingredients.
Eat with purpose.