This week Dr. Courtney Hathaway joins us to talk all about the “most important meal of the day.” I’ve done a few posts on breakfast before (here’s one and another), but this topic never gets old! I hope you find her perspective helpful as you work towards the healthiest version of yourself.
For years I was told by well meaning grandparents that I had to eat a hearty breakfast before getting the day started. “Its the most important meal of the day!” they would say, while lovingly shoving pancakes and syrup into my mouth.
Going Back in Time
I lived my childhood and most of young adult life forging around the pantry every morning for something quick to munch on as I ran out the door. It would be a Pop Tart (without frosting mind you, we were trying to be healthy here people. And, yes they make them and they are terrible) or muffin on the bus. I’d slam one of those chocolate flavored “Instant Breakfast” drinks on my way to calculus in the name of fueling my brain. Weekend mornings were more luxurious and I’d be lucky enough to enjoy a breakfast that required utensils like cereal with milk or waffles.
When I got into college and could sleep in or arrange my classes later in the day, I’d often skip breakfast and go straight for lunch, but then be chastised by my classmates in pre-med and exercise science.
Heeding their advice, I’d once again force some sort of simple, added sugar, carbohydrate laden convenience food into my mouth first thing in the morning. I’d pat myself on the back thinking I had just “kick started my metabolism” thanks to Peanut Butter Captain Crunch. 🤦♀️
It wasn’t until adulthood and 45 extra pounds later than I discovered the life changing truth about breakfast. It really is the most important meal of the day. But its not about WHEN you eat breakfast, its about WHAT you eat for breakfast.
Breaking the Fast
Breakfast literally means, to Break your Fast. Most of us sleep at night, (sorry to all my night float and noc shift friends) and hopefully when we get a full nights sleep we are fasting for a solid 8-10 hours. Our bodies need periods of fasting to reset our hunger hormones, lower our insulin levels and recharge our metabolic drive.
A big trend lately is to prolong this overnight fast even further to 12, 16 even 18 hours to extend the benefits of lowering insulin levels. We won’t get into the nitty gritty of intermittent fasting today. But here are some links if you want more info.
After laying dormant for several hours, your metabolism is ready to work, ready to digest, ready to fuel your muscles and brain with nutrients and make you the best version of you possible! And you feed it crap…. yep, I’ll say it. The “Breakfast food industry” is full of crap. High in simple carbs, tons of added sugar, and all of this propaganda that you have to fill your pie hole mere moments after your head lifts off the pillow. I’m looking at you Eggo…
I suggest a better way! How bout we wait until we are actually hungry, be that 30 minutes or 3 hours after waking up. And how bout we feed ourselves real food, high in protein and nutrients and….gasp… vegetables. I know I know, vegetables for breakfast, gross! But hear me out. If we are agreeing that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then why wouldn’t you include the most important, nutrient rich food groups. Protein and Veggies!
For me this looks like a late morning or early afternoon break to my fast. Because like you, I can’t really stomach spinach at 8am. And most days I’m not even hungry that early in the morning. (Stay tuned for future installments about intuitive eating.) Now, this doesn’t mean I start my day with a triple shot of syrup caramel latte to tide me over until lunch [See earlier note about breakfast food industry filling us with sugar].
Starting the Day Right
Think of your first meal of the day like the first day of the new year! An opportunity to make good choices, kick starting your day with boldness and positivity. Start with water! We all need more water, and getting it in the first half of the day sets you up for success, and bathroom breaks during waking hours, which is nice too. Maybe some black coffee or tea if that’s what you are in to. And when you are ready, and not when Big Breakfast tells you that you are ready, but when you are really actually hungry, find something healthy to break you fast and start the day right.
Here are some great breakfast ideas to fill you up and nourish your body
- Whole grain toast with avocado and a sprinkle of salt, pepper and olive oil. Better yet, top it with an over easy egg.
- Whole milk unsweetened Greek yogurt, mixed with banana slices and dried coconut flakes for crunch.
- Morning scramble – mix eggs with spinach, diced cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.
- Breakfast burritos with eggs, meat of your choice, diced bell peppers and onion and a sprinkle of pepper jack cheese wrapped in a warm whole wheat tortilla. Topped with sour cream and salsa.
- On-the-go smoothies with ice, 1/2 cup almond milk, a scoop of high quality protein powder (Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel is my favorite) handful of spinach, avocado or peanut butter, fruit of choice and a tablespoon of chia seeds or hemp seeds for fiber.
- Breakfast bento box on the road- hard boiled eggs, whole wheat English muffin or toast wedges, peanut butter, apple slices, nuts, string cheese and celery sticks.
- Weekend oatmeal
- Or my personal favorite way to break my fast…. with a mid-day Salad of mixed greens topped with chicken breasts, cheddar cheese, hard boiled eggs and sunflower seeds and avocado ranch dressing!
So what’s the take home message here? Stop putting sugar in your mouth first thing in the morning! This tells your body to make more insulin (the hormone that helps metabolize sugar), leading to insulin resistance (aka pre-diabetes) and obesity. So just STOP. Stop it! I love donuts and cinnamon rolls and syrup filled waffles just as much as you, maybe more. But save those sugary carbs for the occasional weekend brunch with mimosas and treat them like the indulgence they should be. Think of them like Birthday cake, Special occasion type foods, not every day foods.
This post was originally published at Health and Happiness with Dr. Hathaway which you can view here.
Dr. Hathaway is a Family Medicine Physician in Montana who blogs at Health and Happiness with Dr. Hathaway. As a mom of 3, military wife, family physician, cattle rancher and wannabe athlete, her life is full of adventure. Sometimes hectic, but usually fantastic! She is passionate about helping her patients and the world live their best lives.