By Cathy Cochrane NA-2716
Naturotherapiste, Holistic Nutrition
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Here’s why.
The way you start your day sets the stage for the rest of it.
Think about it:
How does your energy improve when you go for a run first thing?
How does your focus shift when you wake up with a few sun salutations?
How are your moods when you’ve meditated in the morning?
What happens on the days when you don’t feel like it, when you “don’t have time”?
What you eat at that time of day makes a difference as well.
Consider the client who came to see me about energy levels and about getting enough food to help her sustain her rigorous physical routine – she runs, skis and does zumba. One of the first things she said to me was that breakfast is her favourite meal. She LOVES a full breakfast (eggs, sausage, toast or potatoes). Then she proceeded to tell me that she works out, then has a green drink “because it’s healthier”. I don’t know how that’s healthier if she can’t focus on work by 11, and she’s ready to eat her agenda by 3.
We have a tendency – because of time, health, lack of a.m. hunger – to skimp when it comes to breakfast. Sure a coffee and a bowl of cereal will get you out the door and through traffic to work. Once you get there, the small burst of energy will be done (and your blood sugar will drop) so you’ll need the next cup of coffee and/or muffin to keep you going.
Then, for the sake of your health – or let’s be honest, your waistline – you have “just a soup or a salad” for lunch, maybe with a bit of tuna or turkey. Come 3:00, you got it, the blood sugar takes another dive (naptime anyone?).
(Let alone the meltdown you have when that thing you’ve been working on for weeks hits a major roadblock or your computer dies in the middle of a launch.)
And then you beat yourself up for eating too much supper. Or, you start grazing the minute you walk in the door (I used to start with the lunchbox leftovers) and keep going all the way through supper prep, sometimes not stopping until you hit the sack. Feeling like crap and resolved to “eat less” tomorrow.
Yes, it has to do with healthwise choices (which I’ll get to shortly), but it also has to do with the mindset that goes into the planning and preparation of a decent breakfast. I make it pretty clear to my clients and readers that nourishment involves much more than nutrition.
There’s more to your breakfast than a collection of nutrients.
For one thing, have you ever noticed that breakfast food tends to be pretty beige – cereal, toast, etc. The green drink craze has at least introduced a level of vibrancy to the morning. Nourishing your body with a variety of colours awakens you at a different level. As I tell 5-year-olds, when you eat more colours your cells will be as happy as you are when you see a rainbow. To put it in more adult language, the colour of the food you eat will resonate with the energy of your chakras (the body’s internal rainbow and emotional barometer)
And that’s just one part of the sensual enjoyment you can get out of a meal. We tend to be one-hit wonders in terms of morning flavour as well: sweet. It’s quite stimulating to experience a bit of salty, a burst of sour, a hint of bitter, maybe even a touch of spice.
When was the last time you took a bite of your breakfast and thought, “Delicious!”?
Taking the time to prepare and eat an adequate meal in the morning sends the message to your entire being that you’re worth the effort. Breakfast is an act of self-love.
And I’ll bet if you’ve taken the 15-20 minutes to cook a beautiful breakfast, you’ll want to sit down and enjoy it fully.
Providing your body with the food it needs to efficiently get through your morning sets you up for success.
Since making the decision to eat well in the morning, I can put my head down and work at my desk without visions of sugary snacks distracting my writing. I can be present for several clients or teach a whole class (often talking about food) without my stomach rumbling from any lack.
Without the requisite blood sugar drop that comes with the standard muffin or green smoothie, your moods stay on an even keel. You can now cope with whatever the day brings with grace.
I recently recognized that my own morning choice – usually the unconscious bowl of cereal (granted organic, gluten-free and bulked up with seeds and dried fruit) – wasn’t cutting it when it came to getting me through the day.
Synchronicity brought my attention to an online breakfast challenge. I’ll admit, it took a few days of resistance to get me through the initial commitment, but the difference it made to my day was instantly remarkable.
Imagine: no embarrassing rumbling, no slump, no need for a cookie (or 3) mid-afternoon, a good night’s sleep and enough energy to get up in the morning.
Sure, I’ve adapted what I learned to suit me more fully, but the basics have been established in my mind as the way to go.
I can hear the objections already!
“I’m not that hungry when I get up!”
Sometimes, this is a matter of having eaten too much, or too late, the night before (you’re digestive system’s still working on it). It may be your stomach’s not awake quite as early as the rest of you.
My remedy for that is simple: a glass of (warm) water with a squeeze of lemon or a splash of (true) apple cider vinegar. Stimulates your digestive system to get moving... at both ends.
“I don't have enough time for breakfast!”
That's like when my son doesn't have time to wash the dishes because he's got a paper to write. Never mind the fact that he had time to play 2 hours of Minecraft before dinner.
To introduce a new habit into your day, you need to take the time, make the time for it. Yes, you may have to get up 15 minutes earlier.
“But I like my morning bagel/ bowl of cereal/ oatmeal muffin.”
Yes, there may be sadness to release around the shift: a particular food, the sweetness, your daily stop at Starbuck's. I thought that was a far-fetched idea when it was pointed out as a possibility during the challenge. But it's true.
When I traded in my usual for a plate of albeit yummy food, I found myself forlornly staring at the old cereal box, missing the slightly sweet crunch of the clusters mixed with coconut and pumpkin seeds. I literally had to let myself feel sad about it and let it go. (I'll confess, it's not entirely gone. It's become my go-to snack or whenever I indulge in something to munch in front of the TV.)
1. A full, colourful, warm, delicious meal. (Click on this link to receive more details and a handy PDF to pin to your fridge: http://eepurl.com/V7_HH )
In nitty-gritty terms, you want to make sure that your morning meal makes up 25% of your daily calorie intake. Include protein, complex carbohydrates and a fermented food for ease of digestion.
If you’re limiting your intake of animal protein, this is the meal to eat it!
2. Play with your food.
OK, you know I don't mean finger-painting in your porridge.
I mean play around with different foods, new ways of preparing old favourites. What happens in your day if you have an egg along with your smoothie? What happens if you have a sweet potato instead of toast? How would you feel after eating another helping of last night’s casserole or a bowl of the lentil soup you just warmed up for your son’s thermos?
My friend Sue Ann runs an online community called Chocolate for Breakfast. Whether you literally eat chocolate for breakfast or not (she does!), it engenders the idea that all of our meals need to be infused with pleasure.
What works for YOU?
You should have seen the look of relief on my client’s face when I gave her “permission” to eat a full breakfast again.