M: “What have we always said is the most important thing?”
GM: “Family. Right. I thought you meant out of the things you eat”
500 points if you got that reference.
Anyway, we all grew up being told that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. But how many of us grew up on sugary cereal, Pop-Tarts, and doughy bagels? How many of us skip breakfast now, or run out the door with a sugary granola bar masquerading as something "wholesome"? Have you ever had the “Continental Breakfast” at a hotel? Its all pastries, donuts, and maybe an English muffin. You may get some peanut butter for that muffin if you’re lucky.
The quick and easy American breakfast is heavy in one major food group: carbohydrates. No no, carbs are not evil. Well, not all of them at least. But when carbs come in the form of sugar, or of highly processed white flour, they can be bad news. When these “highly processed carbs” hit your digestive system, they get to work immediately. Perfect for an early morning pick me up, right? Well you won’t be thinking the same thing an hour later, when you’ve quickly worked through all those simple carbs, and are now running on empty.
We need carbs, they’re brain food. We need them to keep our glycogen levels up, which is especially important for athletes, or any fitness enthusiast. But we want complex carbohydrates. This means whole grains; whole oats, whole wheat, whole barley, brown rice, buckwheat, spelt berries, bulgar wheat, etc. This stuff still has its fiber content. While it will still give you the energy you need, it comes along with fiber, that will keep digestion at a slow burn to keep you feeling strong, longer. Fruits and veggies are a carbs too, but they’re not as complicated. I feel perfectly fine eating anything that comes from nature. Fruit does have a lot of sugar, but it also has vitamins and fiber. Most veggies are super good for you, but the poor potato has gotten a bad rap, since it is a simple carb. In general, I get as many veggies as possible, and just stay aware that while fruits mean great nutrients and fiber, it does come with calories.
Okay, so we know what kind of carbs we need, but what about ALL the other food items out there. Surely if just carbs were enough, they wouldn’t add “part of a complete breakfast” at the end of cereal commercials, would they? The other two macronutrient groups, protein and fat, are an integral part of breakfast.
First, fat. Oh poor fat and its misconceptions. Fat is just another type of food. It isn’t, nutritionally, going to make you fat. The reason why fat is synonymous with “being fat” or weight gain, is because one gram of fat has more calories then protein and carbs.
1g fat = 9 calories
1g protein = 4 calories
1 g protein = 4 calories
So, its easy to see how, if you eat too much fat, you do, in fact, gain weight. Guess what though? You gain weight if you eat too much of anything. Because fat has more calories, it fills you up more. Just like carbs though, fat can be good or bad. I think everyone knows by now that trans fats are bad. I’ll actually be talking about trans fats with my students this week. No, I’m not a health teacher, but trans fats are principle of organic chemistry, which we’re starting this week. If anyone wants to know about the chemical basis behind trans fats, let me know! Anyway, good vs. bad fats is pretty easy once you think about it. Fats that are from nature are good: Avocados, olive oil, peanut butter, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, etc. For me, fats are one of the most important parts of breakfast. I’ve mentioned before, and have posted recipes for, my breakfast cookies, my personal weekday portable breakfast of choice. They’re full of good fats, with ground flax seeds, coconut oil, and sometimes other nuts and seeds, depending on the recipe. Stay tuned for a Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookie recipe later this week.
I think the macronutrient that most vegans and vegetarians are most aware of, is protein. If you are any sort of vegetarian and have never been asked where you get your protein, congratulations. But its still good to know the answer, right? Protein is everywhere, tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, whole grains, seitan, beans, etc. As far as I am concerned, when it comes to vegetarian sources, there is no unhealthy, or “bad”, protein. Supposedly protein fills you up too, but I’ve never felt that way; I attribute the full feeling more to fat and fiber, than to protein. Regardless, it is important to have protein at all your meals, and as long as you are conscientious of the vegetarian sources, you should be getting more than enough. Some of us want more protein. Muscles are made of protein, and if you are consistently breaking them down, you’re going to need protein to build them back up. I am always pushing my muscles pretty hard, through weight training, yoga, and running, and to facilitate that repair, I turn to protein. The amount of protein we need is debatable, but as a general rule, your body can only absorb so much at once. This is why its a good idea to have some at every meal, so your body can make use of it all.
So much to take in before breakfast! You want the first meal to count though, right? So you need protein, good fat, complex carbohydrates, and nutrients you get from fruits and veggies. It can all sound complicated, but its not so daunting a task.
I have breakfast every morning, but I especially love my weekend breakfast, when I have time before yoga to cook up something different, and relax while I eat. Today I had my ideal breakfast.
It started last night with setting aside some oat groats for a raw “oatmeal”, inspired again by Ani's Raw Food Kitchen.
1/4 cup raw oat groats, soaked overnight, and rinsed
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp water
1. Blend the oats, water, and nectarine in a food processor until it is "oatmealy".
2. Drizzle with maple syrup
This was my first time having the raw oats, and I was so pleasantly surprised. First off, I couldn't believe how much it smelled like oatmeal just after being rinsed. And it was so chewy and fruity, it was really a really tasty alternative to a bowl of cooked oats.
Now, my weekend scrambles may be old news, but they are seriously my most favorite breakfast. The key ingredient, for me, is the vegan cream cheese. It makes it so nice and creamy. If you can't find the trans fat free version of Tofutti near you, there are a few other vegan cream cheese options, like Vegan Gourmet, and Soya Kass. They're both good, but the Tofutti tastes the best if you are using it as a condiment.
3.5 oz Extra-firm Tofu
1/2 red pepper
1/4 cup scallions
1/2 tsp Bragg's/soy sauce/tamari
1 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1 tbsp vegan cream cheese
1/2 ripe avocado
I've posted my method before. This isn't too different from my regular scramble, except I added the scallions at the end instead of cooking them with the pepper, like I do when I use yellow onion.
Stats for the ideal breakfast?
Nutrition Information: 516.7 Calories; 22.0g Total Fat; 3.8g Saturated Fat; 0.0mg Cholesterol; 60.9g Carbohydrates; 15.0g Fiber; 24.8g Protein
Vitamin Information: 83.1% Vitamin A; 66.5% Vitamin B-12; 259.5% Vitamin B-6; 213.1% Vitamin C; 9.9% Vitamin E; 4.9% Calcium; 15.2% Copper; 53.6% Folate; 9.8% Iron; 12.3% Magnesium; 31.9% Manganese; 152.8% Niacin; 16.2% Phosphorous; 850.3mg Potassium; 291.9% Riboflavin; 17.0% Selenium; 328.7% Thiamin; 18.4% Zinc
Breakfast of champions, indeed. I absolutely believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If I screw up breakfast, the rest of my day is just off. What do you consider to be your ideal breakfast? I'm always up for new breakfast ideas!
I'm off to finish my lessons for my two weeks of Organic Chem (it ends with something fun)! I know it has a terrible rap, but at the High School level, I really like it (not so much at the college level, I almost failed my second semester...stupid mechanisms).
Oh, and let me know if you won my 500 point prize...no Googling!! I'll think up something good to send ya :)
You get an extra 250 points if you can tell me the chemical process that creates trans fats.
If you really want to be a show-off I'll give you 100 points for the chemical formula for sucrose (table sugar). My teacher made us memorize it in 5th grade, the things that stick with you are funny!