Hands up who’s back at work tomorrow? Me too. I was pleasantly surprised the feeling of dread had switched to anticipation of starting to tackle some tasks and feeling mildly productive. I do predict, however, some element of post-holiday blues that always accompanies the return to 9-5 (lol. As if anyone works 9-5 anymore). On the food front, you might also be coming back to work from an alcohol and sugar fuelled holiday and wanting to lose that kilogram gained over the Christmas period. Therefore, not only do you have the perceived mundane-ness of getting back to real life to grapple with, it is a double whammy to also get back into real life food habits. It’s always best to acknowledge early in the piece that the increased regularity of chocolate and wine can turn a treat into an unwanted habit that’s increasingly hard to break if not knocked on the head. I hate to sound like a spoil-sport but I have sat down with many clients who lament post-holiday weight gain due to this come March. How can we tackle both holiday blues and getting back into good food habits at the same time without the risk of dying of boredom before Monday afternoon courier drop off? Yes, the latte bowl and muffin from the coffee cart downstairs might seem appealing, and moreso when motivation levels are somewhat lacking. However, we need to change our perception (of the entire situation) and use food to our advantage by making meals with ingredients that will help your energy and motivation, not drain you of both.
The obvious place to start is breakfast. You may have your tried and true options that you know keep your energy levels stable, fill you up and keep you satisfied until lunch. You might even be looking forward to getting back to these as a way to get back to routine after the holiday. Great. However if you know you need to change it up and are looking for a bit of inspiration, then I have included a few options below, and have deliberately made them protein packed. These aren’t all new ideas, rather it’s a gentle reminder that this strategy is best for maintaining blood sugar levels and keeping you fuller for longer due to protein’s increased satiety factor. While the bowl of Special K and trim milk may seem like the sensible 250 Calorie breakfast option for those who have been overindulging of late, this lower calorie, low fibre and high gluten breakfast will likely just lead to a cereal-fuelled blood sugar crash come mid-morning. Basing your breakfast around protein and fat, and including a good source of carbohydrate (i.e. not cereal or toast) will provide nutrients, keep energy levels even and (for the athletes among us) help refuel any early morning training session. A few options for you could be:
- Eggs. Always a favourite of mine and, at 7g of protein per egg, 2 or 3 of these can really help fill you up, depending on your appetite. Scramble these in the microwave or on the stovetop and and serve with a vegetable or three, including avocado is delicious.
- Scoop the flesh out of a left-over potato or kumara and mix in hardboiled eggs, avocado, some paprika, salt and pepper for a breakfast that includes nutritious carbohydrate, protein, fat and flavour.
- Grain-free cereal (either home made (such as this but without the coconut sugar) or purchased) with unsweetened yoghurt plus/minus a piece of fruit is a handy substitute to your standard cereal breakfast. Do note, however, grains are replaced by nuts and seeds – a nutritious source of good fats. This will make it more energy dense and when consumed in the same volume as, say, Special K, can end up being a bit of a brick in your stomach. Lighten it up with some grated fruit (such as apple or pear) or berries – both low fructose options – to prevent this.
- Leftovers – yum! We are definitely in a ‘cereal or toast as a breakfast’ culture so instead think of having left-over steak or fish as part of your breakfast. It can take a little while to get your head around but you really notice the difference in your energy levels later on in the day.
- Make a breakfast burrito to rival that of your local café, by preparing a wrap from a very thin omelette, and including salmon, thinly sliced meat, avocado, bacon, some greens as an almost ‘breakfast on the go’.
- Smoothie: A great option if you want something quick – but mix it up a bit. Change your standard milk based smoothie to coconut milk – the additional fat will certainly offset hunger for your later meals. Throwing berries in there (and some spinach) with ice would make a nice change. Unsweetened almond milk with some espresso coffee, perhaps a date or two for sweetening and nut butter is another nice alternative. The addition of protein powder for those that have some on hand would make it a substantial after-training option.
- Cottage cheese blended with cooked pumpkin, cinnamon and vanilla extract, and topped with sliced banana and chopped walnuts.
- Egg-based muffins: Whizz 8-10 eggs as a base and change up the fillings to put into a texas-sized muffin tin or mini-loaf tin. Get creative with your fillings to increase variety if you get bored easily to have a different flavour every day of the working week. Some of the fillings can be put directly into the muffin tin with the egg poured on top, some would be best whizzed separately and then popped into the muffin tin (i.e. the apple and the banana option). Bake them in oven for 25-30 minutes on around 180 degrees and you are good to go. You could slice one or two of these up to have with some salad greens and avocado (the savoury options) or perhaps with a dollop or two of unsweetened yoghurt/coconut cream (the sweet options) and nut butter to have an easily prepared breakfast. Some different fillings might include:
– Chopped bacon, avocado, frozen spinach
– Grated carrot, cheese and courgette
– Chopped smoked salmon, dollop of cream cheese and capers
– Blueberries and coconut threads
– Grated apple and coconut threads with cinammon
– Banana, cottage cheese and nut butter
– Feta cheese, sundried tomatoes and olives topped with pumpkin seeds
Much of the return-to-work blues really is just a mindset, and the sooner you get back into the reality of work, the easier it is to have a happier disposition. A protein-packed breakfast that is satisfying and a little different will help :-).