The most important question you can ask: What's for breakfast? Or rather what is a healthy breakfast?
Hello there, I've covered the basics of how I arrived at my nutritional beliefs in this article, and I covered a little selection of seriously healthy if boring foods in this one. However I'm still getting asked for some ideas about what to actually put on the plate.
I personally dislike overly specific diet plans and loath weights and measures. Unfortunatly most people didn't spend nearly a decade in kitchens learning to estimate weights and measures by eye and don't compulsively read every scrap of nutritional theory and science that they can find like myself. With the shortcomings of these people in mind I thought some specifics may be of use.
Eventually I'll expand this and link through to a recipes blog, but until then let's get going.
As I think exclusively in straight and occasionally wavey lines I guess I'll start at breakfast. Breakfast is always a touchy subject with clients. When you strip people of their toast and breakfast cereals they are often lost. When you multiply this by the fatigue and sleep deprivation most people exist inside the idea of a 'cooked' breakfast seems as much a morning fantasy as waking up with >insert gender and sexuality appropriate celebrity here<.
While I will attempt to suggest a good balance between cooked and cold breakfasts sometimes the answers is to stop making excuses go to bed a lot earlier and set the alarm a little earlier or to prepare something the day before.
The second issue that people have is the fantasy that there are certain breakfast foods and that other stuff cannot be eaten. I won't give in to my urge to suggest grilled salmon and broccoli for breakfast just to upset people, but let's be honest, food is either good for you or not. I'll try not to suggest anything too outlandish but if you have leftover roast beef in the fridge then if you choose to eat coco pops because there is 'nothing else to have' then it is your call and just another excuse to do exactly what you have been programmed to do regardless of its effect on your health.
Finally there is the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. From a purely physiological point of view this is wrong and frankly stupid. If you are not hungry and know where lunch is coming from then have a big glass of water, slam an espresso and get on with your life. If on the other had you struggle to make sensible food choices when you are out and about then make time to prepare something good, either to eat immediately or to have for when the mood strikes. As long as the calories add up properly by the end of the day there is nothing wrong with having your first meal of the day at lunch or even dinner. In fact spending a little time with intermittent fasting has a lot of health benefits that I will cover another day.
Bottom line is don't force yourself. Eat when hungry. And no a workout on an empty stomach won't hurt you unless you are training for an ultra marathon.
I have split my breakfast ideas into fat and carbohydrate days. Carbohydrate is essential if you want to reach your absolute peak of health and fitness but it is more important that your bodies first choice when it comes to providing energy is always fat. If the first meal of the day is always heavy in carbs them your body will be primed to burn them. In order to keep fat as your bodies primary fuel it is important to limit and structure carb intake somehow. Some people do better with their whole weeks carbs eaten all together on one or two days of the week. These people will want to look at the carbohydrate breakfast ideas on those couple days. The other five or six days they will want my fat based breakfast ideas.
Other people do better with a little bit of carbohydrate everyday. However that is best saved for the evening as carbohydrate relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system to allow better sleep. These people don't get carbs for breakfast. Sorry*.
No quantities are given for portion size, use myfitnesspal or whatever app you like and just make sure your days calories are where you want them. Eat more when hungry and less when not.
Carbohydrate Day Breakfasts
- Oatmeal with fruit.
I realise this is paleo heresy but I'm Scottish and refuse to turn my back on the humble oat. This is the one grain based breakfast you will find here. While oats are too high in carbohydrates for regular consumption they are many steps up from the wheat based breakfasts that most people consume. Even if it is carb day don't add sugar... In fact why is that stuff still in the house. Sweeten it with fruit, berries or honey on special occasions. Raisins are my favourite. Only make it with milk if you are looking to gain weight and only if you know you deal well with lactose.
- Coconut flour pancakes
These are awesome. Mash a big overripe banana in a bowl with about a tea spoon of bicarbonate of soda and baking powder as well as a sweetener or spice like cinnamon or allspice if you want. Stevia and xylitol both seem to be acceptable enough. Once it's smooth and near enough liquid add about 4 eggs. This seems like a lot but coconut flour doesn't bind like plain flour. Beat it back to being a smooth liquid. Add coconut flour in small amounts mixing each in fully. It will thicken up really quickly and you will use far less flour than you will think. Make it pretty thick. Slightly looser than good buttery mashed potato. Finally add anything else you like. Raisens, blueberrys or if you have been very good some dark chocolate chips.
Cook on a low heat on a nice non stick pan. They take a little while and want to be thick like American pancakes not thin and European. You have to give the first side a good long time before you will be able to turn it over. Use butter to cook it and add some on top after.
These are high fibre, high protein and although a bit carb heavy it is all from good sources. Defiantly a treat but one you don't need to feel bad about. Serve with whatever you would with pancakes. Fruit, bacon or whatever. Keep the maple syrup away though please.
- Yogurt with banana and berries
Not much to be said here. This is a nice light breakfast and contains lots of good stuff. The banana pushes the carbs to high for an everyday thing but it would make a nice fresh change if you have had cheesy eggs for the last week or so.
Alternativly ditch the banana and add it as a side to any other breakfast from either category for some extra good bacteria and antioxidants. Plain or Greek yogurt only. Muller corners don't count. If it tastes like cheesecake you shopped wrong.
- Nut butter and sliced apple
Again a cold breakfast that can be pulled out in an emergency. Nuts are a really excellent and healthy choice. Unfortunately usually about 20g fat per 12g carbs. This means that you couldn't build a meal around them without the carbs creeping up pretty high. As I said before about priming the body to burn fat by avoiding carbs at breakfast I have no problem with this as a light lunch or snack for anyone AFTER a higher fat lower carbohydrate breakfast.
Almond butter is best. Macadamia is better but super rare. Peanut is not a nut so nothing like as healthy. If it agrees with you then go for it though.
Another simple trick is to soften some good quality grass fed butter and mix it with your nut butter about 40:60 butter to nuts. Now it's higher fat and proportionally lower carbs. I recommend unsalted butter.
Fat Fuel Day Breakfasts
- Bulletproof your coffee
Okay time to freak people out. Make some good fresh coffee from beans. Drop about 25-50g UNSALTED grass fed butter into something and if available add either coconut oil or MCT oil. No more than about 10ml MCT or a heaped teaspoon of coconut oil but less is fine and for the love of God use unsalted butter.
Mix the coffee into the fats either in a protein shake blender cup or with a hand blender. It should be smooth and emulsified not an oil slick. If you don't like it you made it wrong. You probably used salted butter.
The 'bulletproof' bit comes from a guy called Dave Asprey who sells super high quality beans and MCT oil. His diet book is called the Bulletproof Diet and the name has pretty much stuck now whether it's made using his products or not.
While this sounds unusual the theory is solid. The easily digested short chain and medium chain fats on an empty stomach will absolutely prime the body to burn fat all day and will totally suppress hunger without stressing the digestive system. Many people then leave a good gap between lunch allowing for a long 'fast' from a solid dinner to a solid late lunch.
One good way to use this idea is to have your bulletproof coffee as well as a little of something more nutritious. Berries and yogurt or the fruit and nut butter above won't tip the balance towards a glucose burning metabolism after a cup of this. Alternativly add some protein powder to make an surprisingly nice coffee milkshake.
Great for supporting a fast or for getting the calories up for more active individuals. Everyone should give this a shot, it makes you feel great.
For questions regarded fat making you fat and dietary cholesterol mattering in any way please check some post 1940s science. While we are on cholesterol.
- The almighty eggs and...
Eggs and. Whatever comes next is going to be a good breakfast. Other than toast obviously. Just throw something together. Check out Mexican cookbooks for breakfast ideas. Best breakfast foods on earth. Always try and sneak some vegetables into breakfast. Spinach is good with eggs as are tomatoes and mushrooms.
Butter in the pan, sizzle, eggs in the pan, wait. Either cook low for sunny side up or give them a quick stir if runny yolk offends you. Easy as that.
Alternitivly beat them in a bowl and melt a good whack of butter in a saucepan but not to the point where it sizzles. Add the beaten eggs and stir continuously on a low heat. Gradually it will thicken and then scramble. Don't rush it.
Any cured meat with eggs is a win. Bacon is obvious, sausage is cool if they are good quality, any Spanish ham is delicious. Scrambled with some cheese is quick and good.
Or for a pre prepared idea throw some eggs in deep salted water and put on a medium heat. Once they boil start a timer. Five minutes for soft yolks. Drop them straight into very cold water or under a running tap when the timer goes. Obviously this could be done the day before. A few peeled boiled eggs with some other cold meats and cheeses would be a solid breakfast on the run.
Technically this is eggs and 'other' again but if you have the time to prepare something more elaborate then an omelette can be incredibly versatile. Simple cheese omelettes should be quicker to prepare than just about any other type of egg.
Get the pan HOT and the eggs beaten in a bowl. Drop the eggs in the pan and keep them moving about as they cook. When it looks nearly done stop stirring so the bottom can set up a bit.
Add something to make it more exciting and fold it over onto a waiting plate. A good way to use up leftovers is just to chop them up and throw them into an omelette.
Don't get too precious, I'm sure a Thai red curry omelette would be delicious.
- Breakfast meats
I know I said I wouldn't put anything too weird but I am going to maintain that this is acceptable on the 'continent' according to the continental buffets I've seen in cheap hotels. From a nutritional point of view a few slices of various meats and cheeses with a little low GI fruit represents a fairly solid breakfast. It's light it's quick and it travels well.
- Grilled salmon and broccoli
I lied. Have salmon and broccoli. It's a good meal. It's good for you. Have it whenever. First thing, last thing and anywhere In between. The very bottom line is that food can't always be solely about enjoyment and pleasure. It really really hurts me to say that. I was an overweight fine dining chef for a long time.
Sometimes you need to eat the right fuel for your body, if something is good fuel it is good fuel all the time. Have a steak for breakfast, have oatmeal with your dinner, have whatever best suits your health and fitness goals without obsessing on it being the exact food you feel like eating in that moment.
I hope some of these idea help you out. Please post any high fat low carb ideas I missed in the comments section. Please don't hesitate to ask any questions through the site or through my Facebook page. As a special incentive if anyone can make and take a decent photo of any of my ideas I will extend the cliche offer of a first training session free to anyone who can get to my gym or within striking distance of where I live.
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*I'm not that sorry.