I don’t mean to get personal, but what did you eat for breakfast today? I’ll bet some of you can’t remember, some would rather not say and some may have skipped this all-important meal altogether. The reason I ask is because what you eat for breakfast is critical to jump-starting your metabolism, boosting your energy and staving off cravings for what I call the “quick-fix” foods–doughnuts, candy bars, bagels, muffins, etc.
I like to give my clients a breakfast experiment that I learned at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City a few years ago. Every day for a week they try a different kind of breakfast and note how they feel and when they get hungry again. By the end of the week, they have gained a new awareness of which foods support their energy and which foods make them crash and burn.
It’s the sugar highs and lows that seem to cause problems for most of us, though. If we start our day with a cup of coffee and boxed cereal, for example, that caffeine and sugar combination sends us out the door full of energy. On a typical work day at about 10 a.m. we find our energy lagging and start seeking our first pick-me-up. It’s usually another cup of coffee and something sweet to get that blood sugar rising fast, since it just dipped into the danger zone.
We get the boost we needed from that quick-fix and do all right until lunch. The taste for sugar is going strong at this point, so it doesn’t take much to be persuaded to go to a fast-food restaurant for a heavy dose of more fat, salt and sugar in the way of chicken nuggets, fries or a burger. We may even have decided to be “good” and opted for the salad–if only the dressing weren’t loaded with fat, salt and sugar, too!
All’s well in our body’s energy department until around 3 p.m., when we need another quick-fix food. This time a candy bar is in order. Since there are all sorts of “healthy” bars available today, we can convince ourselves that the raisins, nuts and seeds make all that sugar, salt and fat okay. Up goes the blood sugar again–just in time to keep us out of the danger zone.
Dinner may be a bit late, since we have an extra report to get out or the kids to pick up at soccer practice or just need a little R & R with some cheese and crackers and a glass of wine. In any case, we feel rushed when we do start cooking and rely on whatever short-cuts we can use to get the meal together fast. A box of pasta with cheese sauce or frozen veggies in their own special sauce make the fast food tastier. (They threw more fat, salt and sugar in the sauce, so we wouldn’t notice that it otherwise tastes like cardboard). We defrost some chicken breasts in the microwave and voila! Dinner is served.
The cravings are in full force a couple of hours later when the TV is blaring and every few minutes we see a food or pharmaceutical commercial. We just can’t resist a few cookies from the cookie jar or that pint of ice cream in the freezer. We guiltily slink off to bed, thinking we’ll do better tomorrow.
I know once you’re on this blood sugar roller coaster it’s not easy to get off. That’s where a healthy breakfast comes in. Starting your day with a low-glycemic/high fiber smoothie is a great place to begin. Blend fresh or frozen berries, maca, ground flaxseed and protein powder, plus a little agave nectar or yacon syrup if you need it for sweetness, water and add some ice to make it thick and rich. (I throw in a fresh-from-the-farm egg every now and then for protein). It keeps me energized and satisfied all morning; plus, without the caffeine, there is no drop in energy to drive me toward the mid-morning muffins.
It’s one meal and one change that can make all the difference if you want to feel and look better. The rewards are great, too. No more mood swings, fatigue, extra pounds, acne, or a host of other symptoms and conditions brought on by the sweet stuff. Besides, when the new you starts getting compliments, success never tasted so sweet!