March 8, 2014 8 minute read
My typical morning looks like this: wake up, roll out of bed, stuff face with oatmeal (and all only slightly less glamorously than Audrey Hepburn à la Breakfast at Tiffany’s). In the winter it’s hot porridge (whole oats, steel cut oats, oat bran); in the summer it’s overnight oats (whole oats). Only after I’ve eaten can I begin to function. I’ll put on a large pot of coffee, wash my face, and get ready for whatever I have in store for that day. But no matter what I always start with breakfast, because as cliché as it sounds: breakfast is the most important meal of the day! What’s astounding to me is that more people are cutting out breakfast now than they were 20 years ago. And what do you know, in the past 2 decades obesity and chronic disease rates have been on the rise. Come on people, we’re smarter than that! Eating breakfast will boost your metabolism, help with weight loss, give you energy, help you make smarter choices for the rest of the day, and add valuable macronutrients to your diet. Something is better than nothing, and I’m about to convince you why.
Nutrition and Weight Change Basics
Let’s go over the basics. Your body works in terms of energy in and energy out – calories are your energy in, basic body functions and any activities are energy out. If you eat less calories than you expend you will lose weight over time. If you eat more calories than you expend you will gain weight over time. It’s pretty simple right? Sure. But it’s actually a lot more complicated. What you eat matters and when you eat matters. I like to think of food as fuel, and live by that famous mantra “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” Because if we fuel ourselves the most at the end of the day, and that’s when we’re the least active, the energy we’re putting into our bodies isn’t used right away. This means our bodies will most likely store unburned calories as fat to be used later.
So you need to be smart about how you approach changing your current body weight. Your body will always adjust to where it has been most of your life. You can’t just cut out 1000 kcal and keep off the weight, your body immediately slows down your metabolism (if you starve yourself for long enough that change will become permanent) and you will only start to lose weight when your body starts looking to your muscle and fat for energy. But as soon as you eat even a little bit more the pounds will start to pile on. To maintain any changes you need to change slowly, and alter more than just how much you eat – your whole lifestyle has to change (Eat breakfast. Eat breakfast. Eat breakfast). To lose or gain weight healthily you can only safely do so by either adding or subtracting at most 500 kcal a day. This point is exceedingly important for weight loss, because if you start from a typical 2000 kcal diet and consume any less than 1500 kcal a day you will eliminate essential nutrients that your body needs to perform it’s most basic functions.
In high school I probably weighed about 20 pounds more than I do now. Today, my body is exactly where it should be – the change came when I traded in the chocolate chip muffin for breakfast, the greasy food cart chicken caesar wrap for lunch, and the sodium laden frozen ready made meals for dinner. Today I eat more and I weigh less. All because I adjusted when I ate my biggest meal and what my meals were. Eating a bigger and healthier breakfast changed my life. Seriously. But none of this means I am too skinny or unhealthy in any way. I consume an average of 2500 kcal to 3000 kcal a day – but those calories don’t come from me gorging on fast food, pizza and brownies 24/7. I eat to fuel my body and satisfy my nutrient requirements. I’m very aware of what I eat, what the foods I consume are composed of, and how much my body needs. That’s not to say that I don’t treat myself every now and then. I can’t remember where I heard this, but I thought it was very true to what I live by: I’m 80% healthy and 20% indulgent.
Breakfast: eating within 30 minutes of waking up. When you skip breakfast, your body is withheld food for a significant amount of time. Livestrong states that your body may “start taking energy stored as glucose from your tissues, which can cause you to feel tired and lethargic. If you skip breakfast, you are more likely to experience a mid-morning slump that can leave your thinking cloudy.” They go on to explain that the longer you let your hunger continue, the more likely you are to reach for unhealthy snack options to tide you over until your first meal. Unhealthy choices made over a long period of time will lead to weight gain, or at the very least chronic diseases associated with high fat/high sugar/high sodium diets. The American Dietetic Association reviewed 47 different studies on breakfast consumption. All of these studies confirmed that breakfast eaters: have superior nutritional profiles than breakfast skippers, consumed more daily calories yet were less likely to be overweight, and had better memory (also supported by this study). In addition to all of those benefits, eating a healthy breakfast will increase your metabolism by jumpstarting it after 12 hours without food, elevate your energy levels, and prevent surges in your blood glucose levels.
I leave you with 3 easy to make breakfasts loaded with super foods, essential nutrients and vitamins. Perfect for the girl on the go. Even if you don’t finish a full serving, eat something and your body will thank you. You can work your way up.
(Adapted from my favourite site Oh She Glows) You get your calcium, your vitamin D (with fortified dairy milk alternatives) and your 3 energy-yielding nutrients: complex carbs, protein and good fats.
- ⅓ cup regular oats (not quick oats – I like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats)
- 1 cup fortified almond milk (plain and unsweetened), and more if needed
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 ripe organic banana, peeled and smashed
- ¼ teaspoon pure organic vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Directions: In a bowl mash the banana first, then add the oats, add the chia seeds, add the almond milk, add the spices and add the vanilla extract. Mix well and place uncovered in the fridge overnight!
In the morning
Add your toppings! My favourite combinations are:
- ¼ cup mulberries and 2 tbsp almond butter
- ¼ cup goji berries and ½ cup fresh raspberries
- 2 tbsp almond butter and a handful of crushed 80% dark chocolate
- 1 tbsp cacao nibs and 1 tbsp ground flax seed
Steel Cut Oats
Since these take a while to cook, I like to make a big batch on a Sunday and place the extras in the fridge for the week. These are an awesome source of complex carbs, essential fats, iron, protein and fibre.
- 1 cup steel cut oats (Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Steel Cut Oats)
- 4 cups water
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
Directions: Bring the water to a boil and add the steel cut oats (in and 1:4 ratio). Immediately lower the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until thick! This usually takes about 30 minutes.
You can literally add ANYTHING to oatmeal; it’s what makes it so beautiful. As a base, I like to reheat the oats each day quickly on the stovetop with a tbsp of coconut oil. Here are my favourite add-ons:
- 2 tbsp chopped walnuts and 1 tbsp ground flax seed
- 2 tbsp chia seeds and a few pieces of organic candied ginger
- 1 shot Irish whiskey and half a sliced banana (this is kind of perfect for a Sunday morning after a late Saturday night if you know what I mean)
- 1 peeled and diced apple that’s been stewed with cinnamon and a dash of honey on the stovetop
Eggs on Toast
When I need a little break from oatmeal (it’s rare, but it happens) this is my go to breakfast. You get your complex carbs, your protein and your essential fat. Eggs on toast are pretty self explanatory, but just in case:
- 2 eggs
- 2 slices whole grain toast (my fave is Ezekiel Sprouted Whole Grain bread – no sugar!)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
Directions: Cook up your eggs however you like, you can hardboil them, put them in the frying pan with some coconut oil, or scramble them with a little unsweetened almond milk. Throw your bread in the toaster and then sprinkle the coconut oil on top. Add your eggs to the toast, sprinkle with pepper and voila!