How to break away from traditional "breakfast foods" and give your morning meal some nutritional clout.
I've probably mentioned before that my partner and I run a gym. One of the habits we teach our adult clients, whether their goal is fat loss, muscle gain or just general health, is to try to branch out from traditional "breakfast foods" for breakfast.
So instead of the usual:
We encourage them to try something like:
Meat or fish with vegetables
There are so many benefits to starting your day with the kind of foods in the second list…
They're lower in sugar: Cereal, bread, bagels, pancakes and all the toppings (jam, chocolate spread, syrups etc) are all packed with sugar or sweeteners. The "energy hit" you might get from these kinds of breakfasts is often short-lived as comes from a spike in blood sugar that quickly crashes again.
They're lower in salt: Traditional breakfast meats and fish, such as bacon, sausages and smoked salmon, are all quite high in salt so they're not recommended for babies under 1. Unprocessed meat and fish such as roast chicken, beef stew or baked cod contains far less sodium.
They're higher in protein: So you and your kids stay fuller for longer and are less likely to get cranky and need snacks in between meals.
It’s just WAY more nutritious: As lovely (and easy) as a bowl of cereal may be, it just doesn’t deliver much in the way of nutrients. Even the “healthier” cereals that boast about containing essential nutrients such as Vitamin D, B Vitamins and Iron, only contain them because they've been “fortified”. That basically means those nutrients been sprinkled on in the factory, either because they were lost in production or didn’t exist naturally in the ingredients in the first place. These nutrients are all available naturally in oily fish, meat, eggs and vegetables - so why not get them straight from the source?
I don't wish to demonise traditional breakfast foods at all, I merely wish to highlight that we can do so much better. Swapping out some of the less nutritious foods such as toast, butter and jam (fat + sugar) with something highly nutritious, like a meat and vegetable stew (protein + fat + vitamins & minerals) will be so beneficial for the health of both you and your children.
If your immediate reaction to the idea of stew or salad for breakfast is “Bleugh!” I’m not surprised!
It’s very difficult for us adults (especially in the UK and USA) to get our head around this concept, because we’ve been brought up on the sweet or salty foods mentioned in the first list, and changing habits that were ingrained in childhood can be really challenging.
It isn’t actually that strange though. It’s the way we would have eaten for tens of thousands of years before cereal was invented, and many countries still enjoy savoury dinner-type foods for breakfast…
Miso soup, grilled fish, pickles and salad are common on Asian menus.
A typical Indian breakfast might include roti, dosas, spiced potatoes and different dips and chutneys.
Hearty vegetable-based dishes such as huevos rancheros or egg shakshuka are common in South America, North Africa and the Middle East.
In Northern Europe, cold meats, cheese and salad is normal for breakfast.
The Greeks love a feta and spinach concoction in the morning, from pies to savoury porridge.
Imagine if you could have a do-over...
If you could turn back time and ask your parents to give you nutrient-packed, savoury foods in the morning, instead of frosted cereals and pop tarts, wouldn't you do it?
Wouldn't you love that concept to feel completely normal for you now so you don't face a mental battle to change your habits?
The pay-offs to your health would be plentiful. You’d most likely have more energy, fewer issues with weight, healthier skin, hair and nails, a stronger immune system and possibly even enjoy a longer, healthier life.
So why not give this gift to your children?
Instead of leading your children down the same path down which you were led as a child, expand their breakfast palate! Allow them to become accustomed to the taste of vegetables, meats, fish, pulses and healthy grains in the morning so that they come to expect it instead of craving something sweet and processed that comes out of a box.
Yes, making savoury meals in the morning is always going to take a little more effort than pouring a bowl of cereal or popping some bread in the toaster, but it's SO worth it, and it doesn’t need to take hours. If you're organised with your meal planning, you can make the morning routine as easy as toasting a bagel.
Here are some ideas that may help...
Make a big batch of chunky meat and vegetable soup at the weekend. It’s super easy to heat and serve in the mornings when you’re in a rush and if you’re really running late, you can stick some in a flask and have it "to go".
Do your prep when you’re making dinner. Lula and I had the chicken stir fry in the photo this morning. I roasted the chicken and chopped & blanched the veg when I was making our roast dinner on Sunday, so all it needed on Monday morning was a 5 minute blast in the wok.
You can just serve leftover dinner for breakfast. If you did a stew for example, just make a little extra, then it’s ready to re-heat in the morning.
Start small, with a simple challenge
Switch just one of your breakfasts this week to a dish that you’d normally eat for lunch or dinner and see how it goes down, with both the kids and yourself!
I often find myself thinking, “ooh no I don’t fancy this” right up to the moment that I actually put the first forkful in my mouth, at which point I think “mmm, that’s lovely!” By the time you've finished eating, you feel great and wondered why you'd ever been dreaming of Frosties.
Give it a go and let me know how you get on - send me a DM at www.instagram.com/feedingtheirfutures