Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? I’m sure everyone has heard this at least once in their lifetime, most likely from their mothers. But does breakfast really deserve this title?
Kind of. That’s my professional and verbose opinion. I think every meal should be the most important meal of the day. If we put that kind of mindset and effort into each meal and snack, think of how our health would improve. The problem with giving breakfast the highest priority is that it gives the false impression that once you have your healthy breakfast, you don’t have to worry about the rest of the day. Alternatively some people will take a failure at breakfast, such as forgetting to eat or eating something they know is unhealthy, as an excuse to say their day of healthy eating is ruined so they might as well eat crap for the rest of the day. Both of these assumptions don’t line up with the mindset of treating each meal with appropriate importance.
I will concede that a healthy breakfast really can set you up for a successful day, both in eating and every other aspect of life. By giving your body the fuel it needs, you will empower your body and mind to perform at max capacity. If you can keep your blood sugar stable throughout the morning, the higher functioning part of your brain is allowed complete control of your thoughts and productivity. Once blood sugar gets low, the more primal part of the brain, the part that is concerned about your basic human needs getting met, kicks into action. It knows that the quickest source of fuel is sugar, because it will be digested and absorbed almost instantly to give your body the energy it needs to survive. You cannot reason with your brain and tell it your lunch break is in an hour, so just hang on a little longer. Your brain really thinks you’re STARVING! It wants to have the energy to run from danger should a wild animal appear to chase you. No wonder it can be so hard to concentrate and stay productive in that awkward time between breakfast and lunch, why should you be focusing on a spreadsheet when YOU COULD DIE AT ANY MINUTE!! (this is the primal part of your brain talking) This blood sugar instability can be even more exaggerated if your breakfast or snacks consists of sugar and refined carbohydrates, though I will explain this in more detail in future posts.
So how do I avoid this primal brain from taking over? Starting with the right fuel first thing in the morning is a great way to do this. Most traditional breakfast foods are high in sugar and refined carbs, and contain very little nutrients, protein, or healthy fats. The high sugar content paired with low protein/fat produces a quick blood sugar rise that your body attempts to mitigate by producing lots of insulin, which then clears away the sugar and leaves you with that dang low blood sugar. So eating this way can actually leave you feeling hungrier than if you hadn’t eaten at all. These sugary foods are especially tempting first thing in the morning because your primal brain wants a quick refuel after using up the stored energy that kept your body functioning all night while you slept. So don’t feel bad if you crave these foods for breakfast, this is just a survival mechanism. But instead of indulging in a bowl of fruity pebbles, keep your higher brain in control and choose something that will fuel you for many hours. A balance breakfast should include protein and healthy fats, and a complex carb. If you can make that complex carb a green vegetable, even better! An example might be steak and eggs, with a side of mixed vegetables sautéed in grass-fed butter. You can also make an egg bake at the beginning of the week to portion out for several days. Don’t be afraid of eating non-breakfast foods, and do not fear the eggs! None of that egg whites only silliness! The yolk is full of nutrients, and boxed egg whites have lots of nasty chemicals added to them :/ I will be doing a post in the future about cholesterol myths.
Another great option for breakfast is a green smoothie. I think I’ve recommended this to every person I’ve ever coached. It’s convenient to make the night before and grab in the morning, and you can sneak a large amount of leafy greens in there. Other great additions are coconut oil or full fat coconut milk, blueberries, and some yogurt.