The Anatomy of a Healthy Breakfast
Ever wondered what makes a healthy breakfast? As the first meal of the day (assuming you’re not fasting), breakfast truly has the power to make or break your morning. When done right, breakfast should send you off to a strong start, delivering long-lasting stable energy and focus for the day ahead!
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that a healthy breakfast starts with whole, natural foods. So if you’re still eating cereal for breakfast – hold up!
With all the clever marketing out there, you could easily be forgiven for believing that you’re doing your body a favour as you tuck into a bowl of cornflakes. We did too! But the truth is even so called ‘healthy’ cereals are FAR from optimal fuel. As a general rule, true health rarely (read: never) comes from a box!
So what do we look for in a healthy breakfast? In addition to focusing on whole, nutrient dense foods, we structure our brekkie based on our activity levels and the day ahead. On less-active mornings, we fuel our bodies with quality protein and healthy fat. If we’re working out, we make sure to bump up the carbs. Over time you’ll become more attuned to your body’s needs and develop a feel for what works for you – but getting started with this basic template will send you in the right direction!
For a step-by-step breakdown of our perfect breakfast, keep reading!
Step #1: Protein
On most mornings, we try to include a source of protein in our meal. Protein is known to be very satiating (moreso than fat or carbs!) as it suppresses our hunger hormones, namely ghrelin. By keeping you feeling full for a long time, you’re less likely to graze mindlessly throughout the morning…meaning you can spend more time being productive!
For a woman, around 20g or more of protein at breakfast is a good benchmark to shoot for – though your individual needs may be higher or lower depending on your activity, height and weight (bear in mind for a woman, the RDI for protein is 0.75g per kg). To put that into perspective, consider that 2 large eggs provide about 12g of protein, or 6g per egg. For this reason, we often like to supplement our meal with some high quality animal protein or an additional egg to hit 18g. If you’re concerned about the cholesterol – don’t be! We’ll touch on that shortly 😉
Protein powders are another great option for those mornings where you’re time poor. Though some may argue that protein powders are refined, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks… especially if you’re alternative is a bowl of cereal!
FYI – if you’re on the hunt for a paleo protein powder we would recommend hydrolysed beef protein OR for a less-paleo option, grass-fed whey or pea protein.
Step #2: Fat
Repeat after me: fat does not make you fat! In fact, the right kinds of fats are incredibly healthy and essential to our health – serving as a source of fuel and helping the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients (such as vitamins A, D, K & E).
In addition to protein, including healthy fat at breakfast time can help support satiety and fullness. On days when our breakfast is on the low-protein side we’ll always be sure to supplement it with healthy fats. Our go-to sources of fat include egg yolks, avocado, coconut or olive oil and grass-fed butter (if you do well with dairy). Bear in mind also that it may take some time initially to adapt to a higher-fat diet… especially if you’ve been burning sugar as your primary fuel for a long time!
Worried about eating the yolks? If you’re still living under the belief that dietary cholesterol will ‘clog your arteries’ and cause heart disease, think again! This theory is terribly out-dated (and oversimplified!) and doesn’t take into account our more recent understanding of the role of inflammation in atherosclerosis. You wouldn’t blame the ambulance driver for appearing at the scene of an accident – and the same goes for cholesterol. In short, dietary cholesterol will not ‘clog your arteries’ and this is largely a consequence of chronic inflammation, in part thanks to excess sugar. The takeaway: eat your egg yolks folks! ?
Step #3: Carbs
By now I can already hear you asking ‘where’s the carbs?!’. Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten! When it comes to carbs, we generally try to match our intake to our activity levels. On mornings when we’re not working out we may choose to eat a low-carb breakfast, as we find this provides more stable energy and focus through the morning. However, if we have done a morning workout we will include a good portion of carbs in our breakfast to restore glycogen and support muscle growth. On these days we opt for sweet potato (full of complex carbs) or fruits such as banana (for an anabolic sugar hit!).
That being said, if you’re under stress or suffer from adrenal fatigue you may want to consider bumping up your carbs in the morning (workout or not!).
Step #4: Boost Your Breakfast with Greens
If you’re of the opinion that eating vegetables at breakfast is strange, it’s time to turn that belief on its head!
Adding a side of greens is a great way to up the volume and fiber content of your meal, while delivering a good dose of micronutrients. Once again, fiber is known to improve satiety and help us to feel fuller for longer. The list of health benefits of eating more fiber is long – from aiding regularity, to helping our gut bacteria produce anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids… there’s really no downside to eating more greens!
Boost your breakfast by wilting some kale and spinach with your eggs, or sneak some zucchini into your morning smoothie!
Step #5: Give Your Gut Some Love!
To really take your breakfast to the next level, don’t forget to give your gut some love by adding in one (or all!) of our gut healing foods!
We won’t ask you to trade in your coffee right away – but sipping on a mug of bone broth can go a long way in soothing and maintaining a healthy gut. In addition to tasting great, broth is extremely nourishing and rich in the gut-repairing amino acids glutamine, glycine and proline. Keep plenty of bone broth on hand by freezing your batches and transferring them to the fridge ready for the morning!
As well as broth, we also like to treat our gut to some natural probiotics. Fermented foods and drinks such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir are full of thriving, healthy bacteria that help to restore and maintain the balance of our gut flora, improving overall digestion and health. A forkful of kraut or a shot of kefir is all you’ll need to cap off your perfect breakfast!
Makeover Your Breakfast
Need some fresh, healthy breakfast ideas to makeover your breakfast routine? We’re super excited to announce that our new breakfast recipe ebook RISE + SHINE is now available!
In this ebook, we share 20 of our favourite breakfast recipes – all paleo, gluten and dairy free!