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Tuesday, July 07 2009

Cereal with milk. That's been the breakfast of choice for most people since they were kids. The dairy industry has been telling us that 'Milk does a body good' for years, and cereal boxes have messages claiming that what's inside is 'fortified' with vitamins and minerals. It seems like a logical option, if you buy into all that.

Well I don't. I avoid dairy products because I think they're meant for baby cows. I also avoid eating anything from a cardboard box, can or wrapper because those processed foods are loaded with additives and preservatives. So since cereal with milk is out of the question, it's no wonder I get asked about breakfast ideas all the time.

Before I get into ideas for the first meal of the day I thought I'd be honest about my opinion on breakfast in general: I don't think it's absolutely necessary. You might think that this is crazy advice considering we've been told time and time again that breakfast is absolutely essential, but hear me out on this one.

I live in a culture where late night eating is practically the norm, sometimes as late as 11:00pm. This has the effect of delaying my hunger the next day, so I don't eat right after rising because I'm not hungry. For those who read my blog and articles they know my first piece of advice on dieting: 'Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full, and the rest will fall into place'. I personally think its crazy to ignore the signals our body gives and burden our digestive system when it's not ready to accept more food.

To further illustrate my point, I let you in on my own personal experience with this. After hitting a plateau sometime ago, I made a decision to ignore all the dogma about eating breakfast, and started having my first meal around 2-3 pm. This had the effect of allowing my digestive system to clear out of all previous meals and allowed for a small period of detox every day. My skin cleared a great deal, my thinking was sharper, and I lost a lot of water and fat in the process. So for me, it's a natural choice to avoid breakfast because of all the benefits I experienced.

I don't think it's the act of avoiding breakfast that brought all these benefits, but the fact that I allowed a 14-16 hour period of fasting to pass between the previous and current day's mealtimes. This is called 'Intermittent Fasting', and is a new style of eating currently being embraced by bodybuilders and athletes. There is information on the internet on all kinds of fasting,and I'll definitely be expanding on this topic in the future.

Let's get back to the original point of this article. Say you eat dinner at 6pm everyday...logically you would wake up hungry every morning so you should eat something. It shouldn't be too heavy, and should contain some good carbohydrates for energy, and protein to slow down their absorption. The following are three lists of foods to pick from:

Protein: eggs, almonds (+ almond butter), tahini, walnuts
Complex carbs: whole wheat pitas, rye crackers, oatmeal, whole wheat breads
Fruits/Vegetables: tomatoes, spinach, blueberries, grapefruit, oranges, cantaloupe, apples, grapes, strawberries, watermelon, pears

A good breakfast would include a fist-sized portion of one food from each list, or enough to make you full without putting a lot of pressure on your stomach. Some good ideas include:

(a) Spinach omelet with cantaloupe
(b) Almonds, oatmeal and strawberries
(c) Hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, olives and whole wheat bread
(d) Chopped walnuts, apples and oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon
(e) Chopped pears topped with tahini and rye crisps
(f) Sliced apples topped with almond butter and whole-wheat toast
(g) Omelet, blueberries, strawberries and whole-wheat toast

For those who can't live without dairy products you can add yogurt to the protein list for more combinations. Note that these lists are not exhaustive, so as a guide you should choose foods that are grown locally and are fresh, buying organic wherever possible.

If you find that you're getting hungry soon after eating, adjust your portions so that you have more from the protein list. Likewise, if you find that you don't have a lot of energy you can add some more fruit.

Before concluding though, I thought to make a point about that 'ravenous' feeling you might get when you waking up. If you finish your meal the night before with something that is very sweet (like an ice cream sundae) your insulin levels will rise and drop while sleeping leading to an abnormally hungry feeling upon waking up that might also be a result of dehydration. You may find that your hunger is more manageable if you avoid such foods, leaving them for special occasions.

Regulating blood sugar is the key to managing your hunger and eating when your body truly needs nourishment. That, however, is another topic for another day, so stay tuned.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 11:06 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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