The Breakfast Dilemma

May 27, 2010 at 10:10 am 20 comments

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pretty big stickler for eating regular meals.  I like the traditional three-meal breakfast/lunch/dinner model, occasionally with a small snack between lunch and dinner if I’m feeling hungry.

I know others practice a variety of healthy ways to spread out their eating depending on their preferences and lifestyles, and I don’t think there is any one-size-fits-all pattern, but this is just the way that works for me.

Lunch and dinner, I think, are pretty straightforward.  Generally I’ll have a combination of grains, vegetables and a small amount of protein, nearly always followed by a piece of fruit and dessert.

Yes, dessert! Twice a day!  Usually this looks like a square or two of good dark chocolate, but can just as easily be a small piece of pie, a scoop of ice cream, or any number of other fresh and non-processed treats made with real ingredients.  One of my goals with this blog is to convince people that eating well does not mean depriving oneself of these kinds of pleasures (precisely the opposite, in fact!).  More on that later!

One meal that I often have trouble with, though, is breakfast.  I absolutely believe in breakfast, both in principle and in practice.  I’m the type of person that wakes up in the morning ravenous, so I need to consume something in order to get my day going.  But I have a hard time getting a feel for the “right” thing to eat in the morning.

First of all, there are logistical issues:  I actually like mornings, but I also like my bed. A lot.  And as much as I try to trick myself with fast clocks and multiple alarms, my snooze button addiction often gets the best of me.   So since I am usually already running behind in the morning, it’s easy to feel like I don’t have time to make myself a really good breakfast.

But wait a second.   You’ll hear me say in person and all over this blog that there are plenty of ways to work around the “I don’t have time to eat well” excuse.  So I’m not going to use that as a cop-out.  And generally, I don’t, since there are a lot of ways to eat good breakfast foods that are quick, portable, and don’t involve corn-syrup bound carbohydrates or chocolate-smeared bread.

Great! So onto my breakfast dilemma, time issues notwithstanding.  The issue is that I find it really hard to eat a breakfast that is simultaneously energizing, satisfying, and lasts me through to lunch, but doesn’t weigh me down or make me feel sleepy.

My usual breakfast consists of coffee with soy milk (I recently became mildly lactose intolerant, groan), a big piece of fruit or two, and a small handful of nuts.  Normally I’m pretty satisfied with this breakfast.  Eating fruit in the morning wakes me up and makes me feel like I’ve gotten a fresh and positive start to my day.  And it satisfies the fast, healthy, and portable test perfectly.

But it’s quite light and occasionally feels insufficient, especially on mornings when I wake up REALLY hungry.  Eating more fruit doesn’t really do the job because it just feels like a lot of sugar and water without satisfying heft.    Similarly with the nuts – even if I’m taking in enough calories and protein it doesn’t fulfill that need to feel, well, full.

Sometimes on these kinds of mornings I’ll make myself my favorite stovetop oatmeal, an almost obscenely delicious concoction simmered with dried fruit, cinnamon, cloves, and a teensy pinch of brown sugar.  This doesn’t take too long (say, 5 minutes total) and tastes really, really good.  Other times, I’ll have a Spanish style pan con tomate (tomato toast) drizzled with olive oil and topped with a nice piece of cheese or jamón.  And very occasionally, I do the egg thing (scrambled, omelet, sunny-side-up on toast…)

pan con tomate y jamón

On this particular morning, I was feeling a bit lazy, so I opted for hot muesli  (Wholegrain mix of oats and wheat flakes with raisins and banana; pour in bowl with water, microwave, chill), coffee and an orange.  Not bad.

But here’s the thing.  These are good balanced breakfasts and ones that I totally recommend.  But they usually don’t make me feel good.  They make me feel sluggish and tired.  So sleepy that it can be dangerous — and I probably shouldn’t be telling you this — but after today’s breakfast I actually gave into the craving to crawl back into bed and play snooze button roulette once again.  Ufff…

My fruity breakfasts don’t cause this kind of sleepiness effect and that’s why I generally prefer them.  But on my hungry mornings, feel like I have to choose between the better of two evils:  Stick with fruit, and feel hungry and unsatisfied?  Or eat a more substantial meal and feel satisfied but sluggish?

There must be a better way! I’m open to suggestions.

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The “I’m Not Hungry” Lunch Ridiculously Easy 15-Minute Two Course Lunch

20 Comments Add your own

  • [...] speaking of the whole “I don’t have time” to cook or eat well [...]

    Reply
  • 2. Tim  |  May 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Have you tried eating breakfast an hour or so later than usual? If you’re super sleepy after breakfast it sounds like you were not fully awake when eating it.

    I’d also consider a caffeine “detox”. I consume a ton of caffeine on a weekly basis and notice that if I do this for too long it stops having much of an impact. Go a few weeks without it and that coffee (or espresso if you want to upgrade) will have a much bigger impact.

    Reply
    • 3. Mariana  |  May 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm

      That’s a good point, but I actually feel like the caffeine aspect is unrelated in this situation. Let’s say there’s a difference between brain-tired and body-tired. Coffee wakes up my brain, but not my body. But eating the large meals makes me feel body tired, even if my mind is awake. Get what I mean?

      Reply
  • 4. Maya  |  May 28, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Did you try to cook buckwheat for breakfast? Try.
    You can cook it with water, with milk, or just add a little butter.
    Takes about 30 minutes, and, if you don’t have time in the morning, cook it at night and use it for a few days. Worm it up in the morning and add some milk.

    Reply
  • 5. Gymhopper  |  May 29, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I am SO with you on the fruit preference. If I have anything more than fruit or yogurt in the morning, I feel sleepy and sluggish. If I have bread of any kind – forget it, I’ll eat 500 more calories and crawl back into bed.
    I usually stick with a huge granny smith apple. I need something that takes a while to eat and that you actually have to work to chew – that way I feel fuller. I can scarf down a banana in 30 seconds and not feel full, because there was no chewing involved.

    Reply
  • 6. mrna1  |  May 30, 2010 at 12:29 am

    Coffee and egg white omelette with veggies are my fav combo.

    Reply
    • 7. Mariana  |  May 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm

      I looove veggie omelets! But again, it’s the same situation: either too little (unsatisfying) or too much (sleep-inducing). I am actually thinking of experimenting with veggie-heavy breakfast salads, middle-eastern style, to see if that works out. Takes a bit longer and not portable though :(

      Reply
  • 8. Experimenting with Breakfast Salads « epicuriosa  |  June 3, 2010 at 8:44 am

    [...] I’m having trouble figuring out what to eat for breakfast that will make me feel satisfied but not sluggish, I’m experimenting with breakfast salads [...]

    Reply
  • [...] healthier than steak.  We all know dessert with every meal is probably not the best plan (I know Epicuriosa disagrees, but she also considers a block of good dark chocolate to be dessert, and I lack such portion control).  So then why do we make it a habit of going out for lunch, [...]

    Reply
  • 10. Michaele Maurer  |  June 3, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    When I needed a healthy, substantial, but light breakfast on workday mornings, I used to make a breakfast bento the night before. Usually an egg, some kind of bread product, and a vegetable dish. I would also take a midmorning snack, small enough to fit inside a pretty lidded soap dish. Pictures here (http://is.gd/cBnvb – breakfasts) and here (http://is.gd/cBnC9 – snacks).

    Reply
    • 11. Mariana  |  June 3, 2010 at 8:11 pm

      Wow Michaele, those are truly impressive (and beautiful)! Great idea for portable lunches, and much more appetizing than eating out of flimsy gladd tupperware.

      Reply
  • 12. Paula  |  June 4, 2010 at 2:19 am

    My favorite is yogurt and berries but sometimes when I’m craving something a little more substantial without going overboard, I’ll have an English muffin, each half topped with a bit of natural peanut butter, sliced banana or strawberries and a drizzle of honey. For some reason, the peanut butter is satisfying and I don’t get hungry so quickly.

    Reply
  • 13. Jesse  |  June 4, 2010 at 5:38 am

    My favorite (common) breakfast items:
    - greek/icelandic yogurt with maple syrup
    - cheese and bread
    - fruit and cheese
    - veggie omelet
    And on some rare occasions
    - pancakes
    - popovers
    - plantains and rice

    However, especially on weekday mornings, I often struggle to find the time and inspiration for breakfast.

    Reply
  • 14. Katie  |  June 4, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    I second the greek yogurt with berries and a smattering of nuts. Very filling, lots of protein and doesn’t go with bread in my mind which keeps me away from the muffins on the way to work!

    Reply
  • 15. cookingwithkait  |  June 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Mariana,

    You should try some organic peanut butter in oatmeal. The protein from the peanut butter should last you until lunch and it shouldn’t make you tired to sluggish. Hope that helps. :) I should do a post about my peanut butter oatmeal.

    Kait

    Reply
  • 16. Breakfast Salad Fail « epicuriosa  |  June 8, 2010 at 9:51 am

    [...] The Breakfast Dilemma [...]

    Reply
  • [...] back the stress with my favorite comfort food.  Remember back in May when I was going on about my breakfast dilemma, and offhandedly mentioned my spectacular oatmeal?  [...]

    Reply
  • [...] wrote nearly a year ago about my breakfast dilemma:  the struggle to eat a breakfast that is nutritious and satisfying, but not heavy or [...]

    Reply
  • [...] you may recall, I have had my struggles with breakfast.  It’s such an important meal, yet one that is hugely challenging to do well [...]

    Reply
  • 20. dizmkrljhwe@gmail.com  |  February 13, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Do this by including a link to your Twitter account at the bottom of the guest post. They could be simple tricks you’ve discovered or they could be about products you use and the unique ways you use them.

    Reply

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Foodbuzz

Who is Epicuriosa?

Mariana Cotlear is a foodie and advocate for issues related to food, nutrition, and public health. She hopes to change the nutritional landscape in the U.S. and beyond via public policy and communications campaigns to influence the way people eat and encourage them to establish healthier relationships with food.

All photography is by Mariana, except where otherwise noted.

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