You probably know that people who eat breakfast generally weigh less and have a lower Body Mass Index than people who don’t eat breakfast. Maybe you’ve learned from personal experience that when you skip breakfast, you have low blood sugar later in the morning and can be more easily tempted by junk food. Or that you are ravenous by lunchtime and tend to overeat. And it likely makes sense to you that children who skip breakfast more often have behavioral and learning problems at school. There are even more reasons I can offer to reinforce the importance of eating breakfast, but I would probably be preaching to the choir. So instead, let’s focus on how to build a better breakfast.
Personally, I get excited to wake up in the morning and eat something delicious. But not only should my breakfast taste good, I want it to help me focus and feel energized until lunchtime. Ideally, my breakfast won’t trigger sugar cravings and more importantly it will keep my blood sugar stable throughout the morning. This is even more important when I consider what to put in my kids’ breakfasts. Here’s how:
- Protein — everyone needs a certain amount of protein over the course of a day, but it’s essential that breakfast (as well as lunch) contains some form of protein. Protein stimulates the brain to help us feel alert. It is also takes a long time to digest, makes us feel full, and helps keep blood sugar levels stable, which is especially key for kids in school. Protein does not just come in the form of animal protein. Other high quality sources are organic, free-range eggs, nuts ( we love almonds, walnuts and pecans), seeds (e.g. hemp, sunflower, pumpkin), dairy (if you can tolerate it ; try sheep and goat yogurts or raw unpasteurized cow dairy), legumes and quinoa.
- Complex (High Fiber) Carbohydrates — Not all carbs are created equal. Complex carbs partnered with fiber and/or protein release energy into the bloodstream at a slow, steady rate and make us feel more satisfied throughout the morning. Look for WHOLE grains such as steel cut oats, millet, quinoa, brown rice, farro and barley. I am not a big fan of processed grains, such as cold, boxed breakfast cereals, instant oats or foods made with refined flours which your body turns into sugar really fast.
- High Quality Fats — the brain is 60% fat and needs high quality fats to perform better. Fats also help you feeling satisfied and full for longer. Avocado, nuts and seeds, organic butter from grass-fed cows, whole eggs and whole dairy are all good sources.
- Savory vs. Sweet — if you suffer from sugar cravings, starting your day with a savory meal can really help stave off the desire for sweets. I find that if I start the day with pancakes and syrup or a fruit smoothie, I keep looking for sweet foods all day long. The opposite is true when I start the day with something savory like eggs or soup.
I definitely think outside the box when it comes to breakfast. We’re so accustomed to thinking we can only eat “breakfast” foods in the morning, but who says you can’t give your child a turkey sandwich on wheat or a chicken leg from last night’s dinner? They sure beat sugared breakfast cereals! The key here is balance and listening to your body’s cues to what feels right for you. I love starting the day with a cup of warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice. Some people find their digestion is better off eating fruit on an empty stomach and then waiting an hour to eat something more substantial. I prefer to have some fruit in the late afternoon, but my kids eat fresh fruit at the same time as their breakfast. Here are a few of our favorite breakfasts:
Eggs — scrambled, hard-boiled, frittatas with leftover vegetables, Joe’s special (eggs scrambled with grass-fed ground beef, spinach and onions) with or without a side of whole grain toast.
Yogurt Parfait — whole yogurt layered with granola and fruit or a mix of nuts, fruit and coconut
Whole Grain Pancakes served with or without a side of nitrate-free turkey bacon or chopped nuts
Quinoa Porridge — made with raw milk or almond milk, fresh fruit
Whole Grain French Toast made with eggs
Yogurt or Kefir Smoothies
Whole Grain or Sprouted Toast with Almond Butter and Sliced Bananas
Roasted Sweet Potato with Whole Yogurt
Toasted Millet Bread with Sliced Smoked Wild Salmon and Avocado
Do you have trouble getting the kids to eat breakfast in the morning? What are some of your favorite breakfast foods??