What do you tend to eat for breakfast? Do you eat the same thing everyday? Or do you skip this meal all together?
It's important to eat breakfast, but it’s amazing how many of us tend to skip it. We have a ton of excuses, some of them valid, others not: we don’t have time, we’re not hungry, it’s too much trouble, or maybe we don’t have anything in the house to eat.
But we know that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day,” right? Our body is fasting through the night and needs to replenish its energy stores for the busy day ahead. Studies have shown that breakfasts high in protein and healthy fats keep you more satisfied throughout the day and help reduce snacking late at night. 1 By starting your day with a healthy meal, you are more likely to take in more of the nutrients your body needs, reducing cravings for "fattening" foods that are high in calories but low in nutritional value. Eating a healthy breakfast low in sugar, helps maintain consistent blood sugar levels throughout the day, which in turn helps weight management, improve your mood, and keep your energy levels up. 2
Even though we know these benefits of a good breakfast, many of us still don’t eat in the morning. And even when we do, we tend to fall back on the same foods such as cold cereal, oatmeal or eggs. We are stuck in a breakfast rut!
A quick history of the American breakfast
It wasn’t always that way. According to food historian Abigail Carroll in her book, Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal early colonial Americans generally ate one main mid-day meal. Only farmers and peasants who did manual labor, regularly ate an early morning meal. Even then, breakfast was more of a light snack than a full meal.
The Industrial Revolution changed all that. People now were working away from the home and couldn’t eat a large meal midday. Instead, dinner became the largest meal of the day. Breakfast and lunch were necessary meals to stave off hunger until dinnertime. Work was less physical. With this shift towards a more sedentary lifestyle, digestion problems started to develop, causing people to look for new foods to prevent these new health problems. In the mid 1800s, it was believed that eating bacon, eggs, pancakes and hot coffee was too indulgent for oneself. Wheat was considered a new healthier breakfast alternative. 3
And so, cold cereal was born. Companies such as Kellogg’s and Post began marketing the health benefits of this new breakfast food which was also quick and convenient to prepare. Pretty soon, cereal swimming in milk became synonymous with the American breakfast.
Breaking Out of the Cereal Box Rut
We have grown up having cold cereal, and maybe oatmeal or Cream of Wheat as breakfast staples. We were taught that these foods were a nutritious start to our day. They have become ingrained in the American culture. With time however, more and more ingredients have been added to the original cereal "healthy food" recipe. One of these ingredients is added sugar. We have come to expect, and our tastbuds demand, that high level of sugary flavor. Who doesn’t remember savorying that last bit of sugary milk (usually a bright pink or chocolate color) after all the cereal in the bowl was eaten? But high levels of sugar are not part of a healthy diet. Sugar tends to give us quick energy that is quickly followed by an energy crash and intense cravings for more sugary foods.
The original “health food” cereal, developed in the mid 1800s, was totally different from the cereals of today. “The cereal was tasteless and had to be soaked overnight in milk before eating.” 4 There were no added sugars, flavorings, or colors. In 1939, the first sweetened cereal Ranger Joe Popped Wheat Honnies hit the market. From that point forward, sweetened cereals grew in popularity, eventually becoming the norm. 4
Cold cereal has become the go-to quick breakfast staple for many Americans, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some of the excuses for not eating a healthy breakfast and ways to get around them:
Now that you know the importance of eating this meal, give yourself just 15 extra minutes in the morning by setting your alarm a little bit earlier. Your body will thank you.
2. “But I’m just not hungry.”
People who normally skip breakfast might be skeptical about consuming food in the morning, but experts say it only takes about three days for the body to adjust to eating early in the day.5
3. “I don’t know what to eat.”
Start by thinking outside the “cereal box.” Who says breakfast has to be a typical breakfast food? Afterall, if college students can eat leftover pizza for breakfast (a breakfast food I don’t recommend!) why can’t we all eat leftovers? Last night’s dinner or restaurant leftovers make great breakfast foods that are typically high in protein. Try a stir-fry or chicken with roasted vegetables. One of my favorite breakfasts includes leftover braised greens topped with a fried egg or mixed into a scrambled egg.
Eggs are an excellent breakfast food, high in protein and healthy fats that feed the brain. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, recently followed the lead of other major health groups like the American Heart Association that in recent years have backed away from dietary cholesterol restrictions and instead are urging people to cut back on added sugars. Remember all those sugars added to breakfast cereals? Turns out they are more detrimental to our hearts than the cholesterol in eggs.
Here are some other quick healthy breakfast ideas
- Smoothie made with greens, fruit and egg white protein powder
- Salmon with leftovers
- Leftover home-made soup is an excellent source of vitamins, fiber, protein and flavor. It will warm you up too!
- Leftover roasted chicken with hummus and veggie sticks
- Hard-boiled egg and a banana
- Leftover Chinese takeout.
- Leftover stir-fry or chicken pieces with roasted vegetables.
- Chili – chicken or beef . Try this White Chili with (or without) the Pesto Twist .
- Leftover chicken, spinach and/or avocado cooked in a scrambled egg. (Yes, you can cook avocados!) Of course, you can have the avocado raw with chicken salad too.
- Salad! Leftover salad is best if it is made with kale or other heartier lettuce like Romaine. These stay crispier in the refrigerator.
- Oatmeal made with non-dairy milk, raisins and nuts
- If you eat dairy, plain Greek yogurt flavored with fresh fruit
If you have a little bit more time, you might try a few of my favorite breakfast recipes below.
So, what's in your breakfast? Care to share? I would love to see what everyone is eating!
Yours in Health,
Fried Egg Over Braised Collard Greens
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 min
Total: 20 mins
Time saver: Make a double (or triple) batch of greens and refrigerate. You can heat up a serving of greens while making an egg. No time? Eat greens with a pre-made hard boiled egg for a quick breakfast.
Evey’s note: Substitute in any greens that are in season: spinach, Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, dandelions, etc.
One bunch collard greens or kale, washed, finely chopped
Optional: 6 radishes with green tops, washed, sliced; greens chopped
2 tbsp Olive oil or ghee, divided
1 yellow onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup chicken broth or water
salt and pepper to taste
optional: pinch red pepper flakes
optional: 1 tsp balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice, both add a little tartness, the balsamic will also add a bit of sweetness to the dish
- Heat a sauté pan with olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and red peppers allow to cook until onions are translucent, ~3 min.
- Add collard greens (or seasonal greens, see notes) and allow them to wilt, ~2 min.
- Add broth or water, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, if desired.
- Cover pan, reduce heat to low, and cook 4 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, heat cooking oil in separate sauté pan. When hot, break an egg and cook until whites are solid and the yolk is set but not cooked through.
- Remove lid from your greens. Add lemon or vinegar, if using. If there is a lot of liquid, allow this to cook off a couple of minutes.
- Place greens on a small breakfast plate. Top with fried egg. Add salt and pepper, if desired.
Serves: 1 Recipe for Evey's Breakfast Mix makes enough for 7 breakfasts.
Time saver: Mix all dry ingredients together over the weekend and store in the refrigerator for immediate use during the week.
½ cup almond milk or other nut milk
1/3-½ cup of fruit: berries or chopped apple are good options, fresh or frozen
3 tbsp Evey’s Breakfast Mix (see recipe below)
Toppings: coconut or almond milk, nuts, additional fresh fruit, almond yogurt
- Heat milk and fruit for 1 minute on high in the microwave until bubbly, fruit is softened and juices are released. Check that contents don’t boil over.
- Add 3 tbsp of Evey’s Breakfast Mix. Stir. Microwave 30 seconds more.
- Add toppings of your choice. I like almond yogurt and fresh fruit. Coconut milk or cream with additional cinnamon and nuts are nice too.
Evey’s Breakfast Mix
½ cup whole flaxseed
1/2 cup ground flax
½ cup almond flour (or crushed almonds)
¼ cup chia seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional, but I like it!)
3 T cinnamon
1 t salt
Mix dry ingredients together until well blended. Store in air-tight container in refrigerator. Keeps for several weeks.
Easy Poached Egg
This is a quick and easy way to make a poached egg in the microwave in about 2 minutes!
salt and pepper
- Fill a deep soup bowl about 3/4 of the way full with water.
- Place bowl in micorwave for 2 minutes on high power. Remove from microwave.
- Crack egg into hot water. Using a fork or large pin, prick the egg yolk (this will prevent the yolk from exploding and causing a mess in your microwave. I know this from experience!)
- Return bowl to microwave. Microwave for 30 seconds more.
- Check to see if egg is done to your likeness. If not return for another 30 seconds.
- Remove bowl. Pour out the water, being careful to retain as much of the eggwhite as possible. I find it helpful to use a strainer for this.
- Add salt and pepper and enjoy.