Would you say you ate a good breakfast? What about your family? We’re so used to hearing how breakfast is the most important meal of the day that most of us make some sort of effort to eat something, however short on time we are and often despite not being especially hungry. Whether you’re a quick piece of toast and coffee person or prefer a ‘healthier’ option like cereal with fruit and yogurt, chances are you could be getting a better start to the day.
Let’s start with protein
Carbohydrate-loaded breakfast cereals have now become standard morning fare in most parts of the world, especially the United States. It can seem strange to think that people in many other countries eat things like soup with tofu (Japan), legume-based salads (Israel) and smoked fish (Scandinavia), just to name a few examples. What do these breakfast items have in common? They contain plenty of protein. Perhaps we should think about following their example. Researchers in Columbia, USA, recently found that people who ate a generous portion of protein first thing, as opposed to carb-rich breakfast cereals, felt fuller for longer and had improved hormone levels. Their levels of leptin increased, and their levels of ghrelin decreased, so they felt more satisfied, less hungry and had fewer food cravings. As a result, they snacked less, consumed less calories throughout the day and lost weight.
Scientifically, this all makes perfect sense. Like fat, protein is broken down slowly by our body and therefore takes longer to digest. The food we eat stays in our system longer and keeps us feeling satisfied for a longer period. Did you ever wonder why two hours after eating a bowl of breakfast cereal you’re hungry again and can’t resist the temptations of sugary mid-morning snacks? This one of the reasons I always recommend aiming for balanced meals and snacks – a combination of complex carbs, healthy fats and protein. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Yogurt with blueberries or a banana with a handful of nuts are just a couple of good examples.
Opt for healthy protein
When it comes to protecting your health, it’s important to remember that not all protein is equal. The above research was funded by the Beef Checkoff, Egg Nutrition Center and American Egg Board, so it’s hardly surprising that study participants were consuming copious amounts of protein in the form of sausages, egg waffles and beef burritos. Not exactly the foods that comes to mind when considering the constituents of a healthy breakfast! The long-term negative effects of eating exclusively animal-based protein, loaded in saturated fats, are well-documented and ultimately outweigh any short-term positive effects on your appetite. But of course, there is no mention of that, nor of alternate sources of protein, such as lean meats and plant-based protein, which are healthier and more sustainable.
But let’s be practical. Unless you eat breakfast out every day and aside from perhaps the weekend, most of us don’t have the time to prepare heavy breakfasts like these, let alone digest them. For most people, mornings are a frenzy of activity and a mad rush to get out of the house and begin a busy day. In this context, producing the ideal healthy breakfast can seem an impossible challenge, and sitting down to enjoy it an unrealistic luxury. Poor food choices and lack of time interfere with your digestive function, reduce your body’s ability to absorb the necessary nutrients from your food and can result in chronic indigestion, bloating and more serious health issues in the long run.
The smoothie solution
Before you throw your hands in the air and reach for the Nutella, consider one of my favourite breakfast options. Smoothies. Forget anything you’ve heard about them being complicated, messy or the domain of health-freaks. Smoothies are an easy, convenient and kid-friendly way for you and your family to get all the breakfast protein you need to keep you going strong throughout the morning, along with a vast array of other essential nutrients. Plant protein (such as hemp powder, wheatgrass and spirulina) can be used to provide a healthier, ecologically and cruelty-free alternative to animal protein. All easy to find at most health food stores or online.
Super, simple, smart
The liquid consistency of smoothies also allows you to absorb all available nutrients more effectively. You can add multivitamins and other supplements that perhaps you sometimes forget to take. Texture, taste and colour can be varied to appeal to all ages and taste buds. Buying your own produce puts you in charge of the quality of base ingredients and allows you to control the degree of sweetness. Simple to prepare and consume, you might be surprised how quickly whizzing up a family size batch of smoothies becomes part of your new breakfast routine!
Susan Tomassini, is a licensed Nutritionist BSc (Hons) specializing in a wide range of health issues. Follow @foodwise.life on Instagram or visit www.foodwise.life for your personalized nutritional program
Try this for the perfect way to get your healthy breakfast protein fix!
Super Clean Green Smoothie
2 cups coconut water
½ cup frozen spinach
Juice of 1 lime
¼ of an avocado
1 Tbsp. wheatgrass powder, hemp powder, spirulina or other protein powder.
2 pitted dates (optional- for a sweeter version)
Small slice of ginger (optional)
Put all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and whizz to a smooth consistency. Pour into a glass, and decorate with a strawberry on the side of the glass if you like!