The Breakfast Dilemma
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…)
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.