3/18/14

Perfect your morning eats - a balanced breakfast


Do you feel rushed in the morning?
Do you find it hard to balance waking up early for a morning workout, get your kids (or yourself) out the door on time and squeeze in a filling, nutritious meal all before you have to be at work? 
While breakfast might be the last thing on your mind as you dash out the door, it is important that a morning meal is emphasized in your morning routine. 

For many individuals, consuming large late-night dinners, or many calorie-rich evening snacks, reduces the urge to eat upon waking. 
I must also address the relationship with food/body that many people need to continue to work on for if you start your day feeling upset, frustrated or disappointed at your body or regret previous days of eating, it's very easy to wake up and take it out on your body by restricting food in the morning. This is not only unhealthy but also disadvantageous for setting yourself up for successful eating throughout the day.
Also, athletes often overlook the benefits of a pre-workout snack either because the athlete feels he/she doesn't need the energy or fears the added calories. However, I am a firm believer in providing your body with pre-workout carbohydrates after an overnight fast in order to help with energy, postpone fatigue, hydrate the body and prevent overeating later in the day. 


Breakfast sets the stage for the day. Imagine running a marathon and not feeling the need or neglecting to fuel until mile 20. Whereas you may not feel like you need it earlier in the race, your body is still using energy and working hard to help you sustain a given effort. Because our society tends to be very reactive vs proactive, we have a tendency to wait until something bad happens or we feel pressure to change. There are times in life when we can just get by or perhaps take some risks and receive a positive outcome but when it comes to food to fuel and nourish our body, we must never neglect the times that our body needs food the most and that is first thing in the morning. 
Now, depending on what you eat,  your breakfast meal can either enhance your day or sabotage your day. 
Among individuals who have maintained a significant amount of weight loss for 5+ years, the majority report eating breakfast on a daily basis. Research also shows that individuals who consume a large breakfast in the morning vs in the evening (ex. 600 calories in the morning vs 400 in the evening) will end up eating less total calories throughout the day. 



Breakfast is the first chance to refuel liver glycogen after an overnight fast as well as to boost your metabolism before you start the day. Breakfast can simulate the GI tract for a healthy bowel movement and eating breakfast will not only nourish your body but your mind and body will also feel energized until it is lunchtime. People who skip breakfast tend to be moody, irritable and tired and have a tendency to snack excessively, feel famished at lunchtime, experience fluctuations with blood sugar throughout the morning and experience uncontrollable cravings throughout the day. 

The Athlete
 If an early morning workout is how you like to start the day, you can get by with working out on an empty stomach for workouts lasting around an hour (or less), but I can't rationalize avoiding a 100-150 calories pre-workout snack before a workout that will likely burn 300-500+ calories. Furthermore, the pre workout snack is a way for the athlete to not only train the gut but also to help with energy, postpone fatigue and to assist in quicker recovery. Not to mention, reduce cravings later in the day.  

If you workout for 1-2 hours, first thing in the morning (within 60-90 min of waking) I recommend a small low residue/fiber snack of around 30-40g carbohydrates + 3-10g protein/fat.
Example: 1 WASA cracker + 1/2 tbsp nut butter + 1/2 large banana sliced + 1/2 tbsp honey + 8+ ounce water (coffee/tea is fine as well)

Post workout:
option a) if a meal is more than 1 hour later, have a small snack such as a hardboiiled egg, 1/2 cup 0% greek yogurt or 10-15g protein powder w/ water/milk + 2-3 dates or figs or handful cereal/granola. Then a real meal.

option b) if a meal is within 60 minutes, aim for around 45-60g carbohydrates + 20-30g of protein + 10-15g of fat.
Example: 1 cup dry oats (then cooked) + 1 cup fruit + 1 cup 0% greek yogurt + 2 tbsp chia seeds and 4 chopped walnut halves



The office worker or busy parent
Perhaps you like to eat at your desk at work or need to eat before you arrive to work. Here lies a few different scenarios as to how to plan your morning eats.
-Aim for two mini meals if you find yourself going more than 4 hours before breakfast and lunch (ex. if you eat at 6:30am and then lunch is not until 12 or 1pm).
Example - 6:30 am  - 1 cup greek yogurt 0% plain + 1 cup mixed fruit + 10 almonds chopped
9:30 or 10am  - 1/3 cup dry oatmeal (then cooked) + cinnamon and a side of hardboiled egg

-Have easy to eat snacks and a meal option available if you are someone who has little time to sit down and eat.
Example: 1-2 whole grain waffles or Ezekiel bread (or rice wrap) + 1 tbsp nut butter + small piece of fruit for on the go meal
Snack: chopped veggies and 1 ounce cheese


-If you find yourself starving by lunch or you can't stabilize blood sugar throughout the morning, aim for a bit more protein/fat with your morning meal (and optional snack as needed before blood sugar drops)
Example: Instead of bagel or bowl of cereal, add 1 tbsp PB to bagel or 1 tbsp chia seeds to cereal. 

-Whenever you plan a morning meal, focus on balance. Whether it's a smoothie, something you purchase on the road or something that is made at home, be sure to include a balance of fruit/veggies for fiber nutrients, fats to slow down blood sugar and promote satiety and grains/starches for energy and vitamins/minerals. 





The morning meal must be practical and easy. It doesn't have to be complicated. 
You must anticipate the morning meal and know exactly what you will eat before starting your day. Your morning meal should be nutritious, filling and should leave you satisfied for at least 2.5-3 hours. Adding fiber, protein and fat to your calorie-controlled (ex. ~350-500 calorie) morning meal will also keep you full throughout the morning so that you can focus on the tasks that need to be accomplished for the day. To break some habits, (ex. picking up your breakfast at a fast-food restaurant on a daily basis or skipping breakfast) be sure to have easy options at home for quick meal prep in the morning (or better yet, spend 10 minutes to prepare the breakfast meal the night before). 

Breakfast does not have to take 30-minutes to prepare and what works best for you may not be conventional "breakfast" food. 
Here are a few creations of mine to help you out so that you can feel satisfied, nourished and energized with your morning eats. 


The busy bee- NB and J Wrap 
*For parents, kids and those who don't like to meal prep1 whole-grain wrap 
1 tbsp. natural nut butter
1 - 1½ tbsp. natural (100% fruit) jam OR sliced fresh fruit (ex. peaches, apples blueberries, bananas, strawberries)
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tbsp chopped nuts1 glass milk (organic skim or soy. If almond milk, add 10g whey or vegan protein powder)

Heat wrap for 10 seconds in microwave. This will help peanut butter spread easily. Spread peanut butter and jelly on wrap covering the entire inside of the wrap. 
Sprinkle chia seeds and nuts on wrap. 
Roll up wrap and you are ready to go.
*Optional: top nuts with cinnamon and a drizzle of honey

The Athlete – Smoothie Meal
1 cup cow or soy milk
½ cup water
Handful greens
1 celery stick (chopped)
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup frozen fruit
1/2 large banana2 tbsp ground flax or 1/2 ounce nuts or 1/3 avocado
5-8  ice cubes 
1 scoop whey or vegan protein powder (1 serving/scoop protein should have 90-120 calories and at least 18g protein)Optional: 4-5 chocolate covered espresso beans

Blend ingredients until smooth, starting with liquids first. May need to add more water to meet consistency needs. .

Simple and satisfying (two mini meals) -  Waffles With Eggs

Mini meal 1:

3-4 hardboiled eggs (1 whole and 2-3 egg whites) (optional milk)Large handful mixed greens

Salsa
Feta cheese

Mini meal 2:

2 frozen whole-grain waffles or 2 slices Ezekiel or fresh bread

1-2 tbsp whipped cream cheese
1/2 tbsp maple syrup


Toast waffles. While waffles are toasting, spray a large microwave safe tupperware/glass bowl w/ non stick spray to cover inside of bowl.
Crack 2-3 egg whites and 1 whole egg in bowl and add a dash of milk (optional). Scramble eggs until they are mixed well.
Microwave eggs for 60-90 seconds (eggs may pop if left in microwave too long). Stir eggs and microwave again for 60-90 sec. until soft to your liking.
Eggs should be properly cooked, but soft enough to separate with a fork. Spoon out eggs onto a plate and “scramble” eggs with greens, with fork until eggs look scrambled. Top with salsa and a tbsp of feta. 
Place the two waffles on the plate and spread w/  cream cheese (~ 1/2 -1 tbsp. per waffle). Drizzle with syrup (or honey)

Heat plate in microwave for 30-45 sec. until warm.


Depending on your options for when/where you can eat - either start your day with the waffles OR eggs and whatever you don't eat first, save for a mini meal later that morning.



Office worker – Nutty Oatmeal With Fruit 
1/3 cup dry instant oatmeal
2 tbsp. raisins or chopped dates
1/4 cup skim/soy milk or water 
Cinnamon
1/8 cup mixed nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, walnuts – best if all chopped)
1/4 - 1/2 scoop protein powder (90-120 calories per serving, at least 18g protein) OR 1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup seasonal fruit (chopped)
Combine oatmeal, milk, fruit and fixings (nuts, cinnamon, raisins) in a large microwave safe bowl. Stir well to make sure protein powder is comined. You may need to add more water depending on your preference for the consistency of the oatmeal. 
Cook for 90 sec - 2:30. Stir at 90 seconds and keep reheating. 

*If your office does not have a microwave, use hot water from a coffee machine. *If on the go, heat your oatmeal at a gas station, a facility that has a microwave (ex. gym, coffee shop, etc.) or use a hot water maker in your office. 
*To save time, prepare ahead all fixings for oatmeal for easy assembly.

Other tips: 
-Casseroles make great breakfast options to last a few days. Search recipes and modify to meet your health/diet needs.
-Don't overthink breakfast. Think about the foods you are eating rather than what the meal looks like when it is put together. This will help you prep a balanced meal vs feeling overwhelmed by "making" breakfast.
-If you are a new breakfast eater, start with convenient and easy options to get yourself into a routine of having breakfast. This will be the good option compared to not having breakfast. Then move yourself to a better option of preping more real food and eventually, the best option will be planning ahead so you have a real food breakfast option every day of the week.
-Athletes should prioritize the fuel around workouts to support the body under times of physiological stress. If a workout occurs within 90 min of waking or 3-4 hours after a meal, a small snack should precede the workout and a "meal" (and optional recovery drink) should follow. 
-Snacks throughout the day should serve three purposes: control blood sugar, honor biological hunger and compliment two meals with nutrients to nourish the body. 

For more creations, SEARCH on the right hand page for an ingredient/food such as muffins, smoothie, pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, bread, veggies, etc. 


A few more additional reads of mine that you may find helpful:

Smart meals for traveling triathletes