It’s nearing the end of an exhausting weekend of airport drop offs, pick ups and mall-hopping with Mum and Dave arriving back from their trip to the 80s, and two of my sisters here to visit for the weekend. Ending at Dress Smart on one of the wettest Sunday’s in recent memory, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when we left half of Auckland trawling through $10 bargains to head to the airport. It was awesome to see them though, and a perfect opportunity to try out some new meals from websites and cookbooks that require more than just a table for one. Driving home from the airport on Friday night I told them we were having Sheppard’s pie for dinner. Laurie (my twin) eyed me suspiciously, and fair enough; the only other time I made Sheppard’s pie for the family it was accidentally from cat meat (aka ‘mince not fit for human consumption’). Oops. This time, though, suspicion arose from elsewhere: “Is that made with some of your ‘funny’ ingredients?” she asked. Right. The ‘paleo’ thing. ‘Umm… lamb mince?’ It wasn’t until she was commenting on how much she liked it that I told her it was pureed cauliflower and not mashed potato on the top of the mince. Eyes widened, “You can eat foods like this? Yum!”
The girls are used to me banging on about nutrition – I’ve been doing it for 20 years. This time, I thought I’d be more understated. Breakfast, though, can be a different story. It’s hardest for people to give up their usual fare for something different, particularly when you’re fighting against 20 years of jam on toast. So, on Saturday I asked what they usually have for breakfast, both Laurie and Hayley said “toast.” Hmm.. .Not going to find any bread in my freezer. “Well would you have eggs and bacon? “ Laurie looked a little taken aback – and when I made the kumara and bacon hash, scrambled eggs, and a green smoothie to go with it (every meal is an opportunity for vegetables), they both loved it. I’m pretty sure they were coming up thinking about all of the foods they wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to eat under my watch (because, yes, I wield my ‘older sister’ power over them); they didn’t think about all the foods they COULD be eating. They looked on with interest as I made a coconut slaw and frittata for my lunches during the week too. Super easy, super satisfying – just like breakfast. Of course, despite my best attempts, I couldn’t control all meals, though most were awesome.
And since we’re talking about the first meal of the day, most people are used to a lighter meal, and predominantly carbohydrate based. I’m constantly surprised at the number of people who eat a breakfast almost completely devoid of protein, are starving by 10am, and think nothing of it. From the 20 year administrator who walks 30 minutes a day, to a top-end age grouper male triathlete training and racing Ironman. Just because it’s common to eat breakfast at 8am and be starving at 10am, it doesn’t mean it’s normal. It might be satisfying at the time, but what you eat at the start of the day really affects how you feel, what you eat and how much of it you eat by the end of the day. The addition of protein can make a massive difference, though it can be hard to convince some people to eat more at breakfast, particularly those who come to me with a weight loss goal in mind. Some people don’t trust that eating more earlier will result in eating less (or choosing better foods) later. However (their) actions speak louder than (my) words, so, if the aforementioned is you, give it a go.
Eggs have to be one of the most satisfying foods out there, in part because of their high protein content. Of course, there are some higher protein cereals out there that promise greater satiety and longer lasting energy than your standard box of grains. However, sorry, additional protein in cereal (by way of added gluten – thanks Jamie and Anastasia from Whole 9 for pointing that out) is not going to fill the gap the way animal protein does. Six grams of protein from an egg, or 14g from a small can of salmon will keep your blood sugars more stable, your energy levels higher and see you through to lunch in a way that a bowl of Nutritgrain or Special K never could. To be honest, adding gluten to cereal is like double trouble. Not only do you have to contend with a refined cereal that provides no nutrients in its own right (and therefore vitamins and minerals are pumped back into it), but wheat and gluten causes so many problems for so many people, I kind of feel ripped off on behalf of anyone who thought they were doing themselves a favour when choosing ‘Ironman Food’ over eggs and bacon, and struggled through the after-effects of hunger, lower blood sugar later in the morning and difficulty with concentration levels.
So, what to eat for breakfast? If you’re not used to having a heavier meal in the morning it will take time to adapt – but adapt you will. If you are trying something new, then I recommend noting down how you feel in the few hours after you eat certain foods: that way you can begin to recognise how food affects you and it will help you make different choices later on down the track.
Here are some of the ones I’ve tried, and that I encourage clients to try:
- Eggs. At least 3. With frozen spinach, scrambled in microwave or pan with butter/coconut oil. Mix it up with the addition of mince, leftover sausages, salmon etc (omit an egg if it’s too much)
- Grain free porridge with sliced banana
- Grain free muesli with frozen berries and unsweetened almond milk
- Microwaved kumara with melted butter, can of sardines on top
- Fruit with mixture of cottage cheese, chia seeds and coconut milk on top (goes all thick and creamy, like a yoghurt; can make it dairy free by substituting cottage cheese for unsweetened almond milk)
- Velvety pumpkin casserole with greek yoghurt, blueberries and a tablespoon of almond butter
Of course, if you feel like a rockstar after your bowl of Nutrigrain, then more power to you! Otherwise, give something else a go for breakfast. You’ve got nothing to lose.