What’s on your breakfast table this morning?
For me it was a 1/3 of a an apple diced up with about 1/3 cup of Friendship 1 % whipped cottage cheese. (If you’re not a fan of cottage cheese, try this kind. Its smooth and fluffy, more like whipped cream cheese. I used to be a cottage cheese hater, but now I go to multiple stores looking for this when my local grocery is out. And it is PACKED with protein!) 1 cup is 180 cals and has 32 grams of protein! So for my serving I got 10 grams of protein for 60 cals. And some calcium too, with almost no fat.
I sprinkled it all with some good ceylon cinnamon. Yummy and satisfying.
Growing up I was not a breakfast eater. I would actually wake up with a sort of sick, sort of acidy stomach. No one ever really diagnosed it definitively; it was either because my body was already messed up and I was still digesting what I’d eaten the night before, or it was the physical manifestation of extreme stress, or both. Either way, it was enough of a struggle most days just to get out of the door to go to school, much less choke down any food.
The sad thing is if I had forced myself, and eaten the right things, I might have corrected some things that were broken, digestively and hormonally speaking.
Like most Americans, when I did eat breakfast, it was almost always a nightmarish volume of carbohydrates. Breakfast cereals (most of which were no better nutritionally than broken up cookies with milk poured over them. In fact I think one of them actually was called “Cookie Crisp” or something to that effect.) Donuts. Bagels. Toast. Waffles. My best friend’s family had the same breakfast every day, (and I slept over there often) a frozen english muffin with jelly and grape juice. These are all pretty easy to get, store, and eat while standing or commuting.
The problem is they are terrible foods. Packed with carbs, stripped of any kind of nutrition, and likely to cause the intricate system of digestion to run amok. There’s a bagel shop near me that has the BEST bagels; delicious, hot, fresh and huge – they are about 700 calories. And that’s before you smear them with butter or a slab of cream cheese; or add taylor ham, egg, and cheese.
So I felt full and happy and satisfied after breakfasts like that. Meanwhile my blood sugar is skyrocketing to Mars. An hour and a half later, its plummeting back down to earth. I would feel hungry again mid-morning, and that confounded me. But if my head said: “Hey stomach, we just ate an enormous high calorie breakfast. Chill!” a couple of times and I was able to avoid getting more food for a little while, eventually I would HAVE to eat again. It wasn’t me making a poor choice or being weak or gluttonous; it was the crashing blood sugar activating my body’s emergency alert system. Sometimes I would shake until I ate another portion of something, and then I felt better. Of course the “remedy food” was usually something else carby/starchy, so it would start the cycle all over again.
I will talk a lot more in my next post about Fat Chance, by Dr. Robert Lustig. But for now let me just share in a very casual way what the good doctor has to say about skipping breakfast: don’t.
Your body wakes up needing fuel, even if you’re not hungry (our signals for hunger and satiety are pretty much shot anyway.) After a little wakefulness, the body kicks in and says: “Hey wait a second, you’re running me on empty here.” And there’s evidence that it literally spends the rest of the day trying to compensate for the missed meal. So getting something at coffee break or having lunch and then dinner isn’t good enough. You are likely to not only consume more during a day without breakfast, but you are likely to store more of the calories consumed because you’re body is protecting you against further deprivation by “saving up” what you do give it.
Research even shows that while your endocrine system is busy trying to figure out how to run with no fuel, it is diminishing other functions to conserve the energy you’ve got stored. Like clear and focused thinking, for example. And it slows down the process of metabolizing fat stores for energy, leaving you foggy and sluggish. You’ve heard many analogies about running your car with no gas in it and there’s a reason for that. The human body is an intricate machine that in its healthiest state performs feats nothing short of miraculous. You are a miracle that is so complex – brilliant – ingenious. “What a piece of work is man…” and all that.
And you need to give that machine the best quality of nutrition possible so it can do its thing.
Here are a few good breakfast ideas: they are not fancy – I’ll get into that more in another post. They are quick, high in protein, and low in carb.
1. 0% unflavored greek yogurt (my favorite) mixed with just about anything. I take a handful of fresh or frozen berries and half a sliced banana and mix it in to about 1/2 cup of yogurt for breakfast. This is my go-to breakfast and I wake up sometimes excited about getting to it. You can even mix this up the night before and have it ready to go (although banana does go brown. Save adding that til morning). Do not chose the flavored yogurts, they are loaded with sugar and that is unnecessary for flavor and satisfaction when it is so easy to add delicious things to it. Mango. Strawberries. Bananas. The options are limited only by imagination. You can also use it for savory meals, but we’ll talk more about that in another post.
2. Cottage cheese (see above); again if you don’t like cottage cheese, try the Friendship Whipped. It will make a believer out of you.
3. Eggs any way you like ’em. If you’re concerned about cholesterol, mix one whole egg with two whites. I eat a lot of eggs and without the “bad” fats and all the carbs in my diet, my cholesterol is beautiful and has been for years. (Also as a post-surg RNY patient, I find egg whites rubbery. The texture makes me gag and they are hard to digest. But that’s just ME.) My cholesterol is always under 130 and my HDL/LDL ratio is perfect.
There are some great recipes out there for crustless mini quiches that you can mix up in a second, cook, and freeze. This is one of my favorites: Crustless mini-quiche. They are a little bland for me so I pump them up with a lot of seasonings and spices. (I am a chipotle Tabasco devotee!) Freeze individually and then pop in the microwave for a few seconds or thaw on the counter.
Chop up anything and add to eggs. If you make steamed, roasted or stir-fried vegetables for dinner, save a 1/2 cup and chop up when you’re clearing at night. Then throw into your morning eggs.
I like adding salsa to eggs. (Just look for one made without sugar, or if you’re really inspired, make your own!) And cheese.
4. Cheese sticks made with 2% milk. Great grab-n-go snack!
A high protein breakfast will stabilize your blood sugar and keep you more even throughout the day.
Food that has its fiber stripped away causes your body to treat it as pure sugar. If you eat an orange, the fiber (cell walls) of the fruit help your body break it down and metabolize it. If you send it into the GI without the fiber (i.e. juice) it dumps directly into your system and is stored as fat before your digestive system can catch up and start processing it. Do you see where I’m going with this? Fruit – good; juice – bad!