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Rethinking Breakfast

For better energy, even mood and less sugar cravings.

The idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is in decline. Intermittent fasting (an umbrella term for eating plans that cycle between periods of fasting and periods of eating) has become popular and seems to work well for some people.

Those who practice intermittent fasting will often skip breakfast or consume it later in order to shorten the period of the day that they are eating. While I am less concerned about when it is eaten, I would argue that breakfast (ie. the meal in which you break-your-fast) is still the most important meal of the day. Whether you eat your first meal at 7am or noon, it's not when you eat, but what you eat, that's most important.

In my practice, I have found that changing what's on the breakfast menu can be a game changer. We can affect our energy, hunger and what we eat for the rest of the day by what we start our day with.

So what should you eat for breakfast? First, put down that bowl of cereal or slice of toast and jam!

Focus on protein for your first meal of the day (think eggs, nuts and seeds, meat, fish, legumes). Include good fat and fibre and consider adding some vegetables. Try to avoid processed grain products such as cereals and foods made with flour. Instead consume whole, unprocessed foods.

Focusing on protein, as well as good fat, fibre and veggies helps to regulate blood sugar. If we start our day with a meal that helps to attain steady blood sugar we won't experience the spikes and drops that can leave us feeling cranky, anxious and hungry for sugar. This will lead to better food choices throughout the rest of the day.

Having more protein for breakfast will also influence our hunger hormones positively. For example, a high protein breakfast may help to decrease the hormone ghrelin, a chemical that is correlated with appetite.

An example of such a breakfast might be an egg omelette with sauteed greens and some avocado. For many people this feels great.

What about carbs you ask? Assuming you are not on a keto diet, the brain does use glucose (sugar) as its primary fuel source. So I usually suggest if you have a lot of brain work ahead of you that day, add a little complex carbohydrate from a whole (unprocessed) source. A little roast yam with your eggs for example.

Oats are a wonderful whole carbohydrate but for many people, a bowl of oatmeal does not satisfy their protein requirement. If you're an oats-for-breakfast kind of person, try using a smaller portion of whole grain oats and add more protein. Recently, I've discovered a recipe for an oat-nut-seed loaf that I am loving (try googling “the life changing loaf of bread” and it should pop right up). A slice of that loaf with a little avocado and hummus would make an excellent vegan breakfast.

Open your mind and expand your idea of what constitutes breakfast food. Consider a savoury breakfast; it's easier to include veggies and is lower in sugar (many of us are basically eating dessert for breakfast and it's not helping our health). For example, I know salad for breakfast sounds weird but I've found it to be a great way to start my work day, and I've grown accustomed to it. Just Google “breakfast salad” and you'll find that I am not the first person to try this!

I usually bring my breakfast to work and I have found it easy to bring some of last night's salad (dressing on the side so it doesn't get soggy) and a couple of hard boiled eggs (which I make ahead of time). I've also enjoyed leftovers for breakfast...even soup!

I encourage you to start exploring new breakfast options. Play with it, listen to your body and see what feels right for you.

Dr. Alexis Blanks is a naturopathic doctor. She is co-owner of Flourish Naturopathic at Moss Healthcare. She would be happy to see you in her office to help you better understand your health and take it to the next level.