We’ve all heard the old adage: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I love getting all of these good ingredients in me first thing in the morning because I feel like I satisfy so many nutritional requirements right out the gate and then lunch and dinner are a whole lot less stressful to plan.
So…how much effort do you put into planning this allegedly most important of meals? Many of us find ourselves rushing around in the morning, trying to get everything together so we can start our day. Maybe you hit the snooze too many times, maybe you forgot to finalize details for a presentation you’re giving at work, or maybe our 3-year old is having a temper tantrum. Regardless how our morning goes, we know it’s best to start off the day with good nutrition and sometimes that’s not really an easy feat. Here are some ideas for making your breakfast ritual easy, tasty and packed with the nutrients you need to live your superhero life.
PLANNING IN ADVANCE
1. Pick your meals and schedule it so you know what breakfast you will have every day
2. Always have a grocery list, keep it updated and take it with you to the store
3. Schedule time to go to the grocery store regularly, and don’t put it off!
4. Have the cooking materials and to-go containers you need to make your meals
Good nutrition doesn’t happen by accident. It takes research, thought, organization, planning and discipline. The first step in starting your day with an excellent breakfast is planning out what it’s going to be in advance. At first this might feel like a time-consuming exercise but soon (I promise!) it’ll become habit and you won’t feel like you are putting a ton of effort into it.
When you know which meals you want, you can make a list of ingredients. You’ll run out of these regularly, so keep an updated grocery list with you at all times in the kitchen and be sure to take it with you to the store.
In order to have a well-stocked kitchen, you’ll need to visit the grocery store regularly. How often you need to go depends on a variety of factors…How large is your family? What’s the size of your fridge and freezer? Do you go to multiple stores/markets? Do you have a car?
Once you stock your kitchen, you’ll need to have the proper materials to make your food, and you’ll need the containers to store it in or take it to go. Be sure you have a good blender (such a rewarding investment!), a sauté pan, a spatula (preferably NOT metal or plastic—I recommend silicone or wood), a 1-2 quart pot, an oven-safe pan or casserole dish, a good cutting knife, and of course a cutting board—or three.
Choose a breakfast that is suitable for your lifestyle. I wake up about an hour before I begin my first workout…and it lasts anywhere between 2-3.5 hours. My breakfast is HUGE, and I want it to have the protein, vitamins and antioxidants to make me function optimally. I also like a breakfast that’s fast because I like to sleep as long as I can. And generally I like to take my first meal to-go and consume it slowly as I go through my morning workout. Thus for me, a smoothie has been the best option during my workweek.
Below are a host of breakfast ideas. I encourage you to pick 2-3 options that sound good and make sure you have the ingredients in your home and you know which you’ll be making on which days.
NUTRITIONAL BREAKFAST IDEAS
The Breakfast Smoothie
This is my go-to 5-6 days a week. I absolutely love this option, and I like that I can do the same thing but slightly change the flavors with different ingredients. It’s also potentially (depending on how you make it) the most nutrient-dense of all breakfast options. You can also include seasonal veggies and fruits in your smoothie—making it nutritional and environmentally friendly.
In a smoothie, you can pack a ton of veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, healthy fats and protein options. BE CAREFUL what you throw in there, though! Read labels of everything you put in there first (REJECT anything with sugar or sugar substitutes!) There are wonderful protein powders and other supplements out there, but they can be diluted with ingredients you don’t want. I’d suggest using a pure protein source, like hemp, pea, or whey protein isolate. Some frozen fruit has sugar added, so be careful when you’re shopping.
So…what to put in your smoothie?
3. Nuts & Seeds
4. Healthy Fats
5. Milk or water
7. Additional flavorings
I like to start with a vegetable base, and in fact 75-80% of the smoothie is vegetable, so that the smoothie has tons of fiber, vitamins, minerals and less sugar. Some veggies have a strong flavor (celery), while others hide really well (spinach, cucumber.) Experiment with what you like, but for ONE serving I’ll put a combo of several of these in:
· ¼ to ½ cucumber
· 3-4 kale and/or chard leaves (de-stem them if you don’t like the taste of grass)
· ½ tomato
· 1 medium to large carrot
· 1 chopped celery stick
· 1 cup spinach
· ¼-½ cup water cress
· ¼ cup broccoli sprouts (easy to make & sprout at home)
For sweetness, you can add a little fruit. Berries have less sugar and many have wonderful antioxidants. Some fruits are much higher in sugar (bananas, mango, pineapple) so be sure you limit much of these you’re putting in. To make your smoothie a little thicker (and when these fruits are not in season) you can use frozen fruit. For ONE smoothie I’ll put up to three of these in each smoothie:
· ½ cup strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, mango, cranberries (they’re tart!) or açai
· ½ banana, apple, pear
· 1 orange or 2 mandarines
Nuts and seeds contain fiber and healthy fats that help sustain you throughout the first half of your day. For one serving I will add up to two of these options:
· 2 tbsp. chia, flax or hemp seeds
· ¼ cup raw nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans (Brazil nuts are great, but because of their high selenium content, use only 2-3 max per day)
· 1 Tbsp. raw nut butter
· 1 scoop peanut butter powder
Although nuts and seeds have healthy fats, additional other healthy fats will help keep you feeling full and are great for your brain. For one serving I add one of the following:
· ¼ to ½ avocado
· 1 Tbsp. coconut or MTC
Your smoothie will need some liquid to mix well (I recommend pre-blending the leaves or anything tough to blend) so for one serving add one of the following:
· ½ cup unsweetened almond, flax or hemp milk
· ½ cup organic goat or cow’s milk
· ½ cup water if you like it plain!
Depending on your needs, you can add lots of extras for more nutritional punch. Some of these are great for their micronutrient and antioxidant benefits; others are for pre-workout fuel. Here are a few supplements I’ll add in depending on my workout or daily needs (check the package for serving size, and remember just one serving of protein!):
· Unsweetened plant based protein powder (check the ingredients for sugar, dyes, scary sugar substitutes, etc!)
· Whey protein isolate (that’s the only ingredient!)
· Collagen protein powder
· Maca powder (gives a butterscotch-like flavor)
· Raw cacao powder (great flavor and anti-oxidants)
· Spirulina tablets (micronutrients & antioxidants)
· Creatine (pre-workout fuel)
· L-Glutamine or other amino acids (pre-workout)
With all the stuff you have in your smoothie—you might not want or need extra flavorings, but if you are looking for a few fun flavors to work with, here’s a few combos I like… Experiment with a few simple recipes then jazz it up for more nutritional punch and more fun flavor combos:
· 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon (great with cacao and maca)
· 1 small slice ginger in a berry smoothie
· 1 Tbsp. turmeric, 1 Tbsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ginger (or small slice of fresh ginger), dash of cardamom and pinch of cloves or nutmeg for a chai-like spicing with the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric!
· Juice of ½ lemon (also great with ginger)
· Juice of 1 lime plus about 10 mint leaves for a mojito smoothie!
With all of these options, it’s hard to get bored! This is a protein-packed, micronutrient-dense, satisfying, antioxidant-filled heavy-hitting nutritional breakfast that’s fast, easy, and ready to go on the road with you to start your day.
Of course, smoothies won’t cut it every day of the week. Many people will want something else some mornings. For mornings where you have NO TIME have a frittata, quiche or a chia seed pudding ready. For mornings when you can stay at home and cook a little longer, try an omelet (use tofu if you’re vegan) with lots of veggies and avocado, or a nice hot whole-grain cereal with added berries, nuts and seeds.
So have fun, be creative, plan ahead and enjoy your morning!!