When it comes to breakfast, many health experts agree that it is the most important meal of the day. Unfortunately, many people don’t exercise their options to choose healthy foods.
When you think of breakfast, what foods come to mind? The smell of eggs and bacon wafting into your bedroom? Perhaps you sleep through the former only to be seduced to the kitchen by the aroma of coffee brewing?
I remember old TV commercials depicting exactly that scene as a typical morning for American families. Fast forward to our continuing advancement in our knowledge of how food can affect our health and be the gateway for preventing many chronic diseases. We can use this knowledge and begin to make better choices, one day at a time, beginning with breakfast.
One of the most common patterns I see in clinical practice is people choosing the same foods for breakfast every day. This lack of diversity can create problems like food sensitivities and vitamin /mineral deficiencies—among other problems. I recommend rotating your foods on a 3-5 day rotation, even better if it’s 5-7 days. This means that you don’t eat the same food but once during 3-7 days. At first this may seem impossible, until you understand that despite having thousands of food items to choose from, most people manage to eat less than 60 different food items on a regular basis.
Acknowledging how difficult it is to change our eating habits, I have listed a week’s worth of healthy breakfast ideas to tease your taste buds into creativity.
- Eggs– For those individuals on particular diets, one may choose to utilize egg whites only. The preference should be to utilize fresh eggs, not prepared egg product in cartons. Although egg carton products may be convenient, they also come with “natural flavors”, “yeast”, or the latest additive “nisin” (an antibiotic food preservative). Adding chopped vegetables to a scramble is a great way to squeeze in some extra servings of vegetables—along with the fiber that comes with it. I like to use chopped tri-color peppers with onion or mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes.
- Overnight Steel Cut Oats– For those of you short on time in the morning, these are a great make ahead option. Using the steel cut variety retains the fiber, keeps your net carbohydrates low, and is a good source of plant-based protein in just a ¼ cup = 1 serving. Instead of plain water or cow’s milk, unsweetened almond or coconut milk offer a vegan friendly alternative without compromising taste. Without adding sugar, spices can be used to add unique flavors. For example try pumpkin pie spice for fall, apple pie spice for Christmas or New Years, unsweetened cocoa powder for Valentines Day, etc. Flavor variety keeps your taste buds interested. Other additions can provide textures like unsweetened coconut flakes or, for some crunch, add pecans, walnuts, or almonds. For a hint of sweetness, add some raisins. If you must use a sweetener, honey is a good choice. Stick to the serving size since 1 Tablespoon=16 grams of sugar.
- Sprouted grain waffles– these are an easy way to increase fiber, decrease net carbohydrates, and get some plant based protein. It can be topped with a nut butter to pack more of a protein punch, while adding healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to your diet.
- Plain Greek yogurt– using the plain one provides a great 18-gram protein base in a 6oz serving while allowing you to mindful of added sugars. Flavored yogurts have upwards of 15+ grams of “added sugars”. I like to know where my sugars coming from by adding my own berries or a touch of honey and granola for that addictive crunch. Nuts may also be added to grab some extra healthy fats.
- Chia seed pudding– this is also a great make ahead choice. Adding just three tablespoons of chia seeds to one cup of an unsweetened nut or coconut milk and leaving in the refrigerator overnight thickens the dish into a pudding consistency. Note this pudding is very filling in a small serving size due to it’s high fiber content (i.e. 1 cup=16 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein). Additives to this can be cinnamon, unsweetened coconut flakes, chopped nuts, chopped berries, etc.
- Meat lovers skillet– Traditionally you would use bacon, ham, or sausage, HOWEVER to make a healthier version, substitute turkey sausage or bacon and toss in a skillet. Add some chopped vegetables and a few sweet potato chunks for a hearty protein packed breakfast.
- Protein Smoothies have limitless possibilities. The most popular choices are whey or plant based protein powder. Beware of added sugars here and artificial sweeteners. Another common pitfall is adding too much fruit or juices that make it more like a dessert than a healthy breakfast possibility.
A great way to kick off your strategy in choosing healthier breakfast options is to write down what you currently eat for breakfast for an entire week and then review it. You are your best motivator for change—you can do it !