What to Eat, Part 1: Breakfast Recipes

July 16, 2019

"What you eat is as important as the fact that you do eat something for breakfast every morning."

By popular demand, today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD is the first episode in her 3-part series on delicious, healthy meals we can cook throughout the week. Today’s episode is about smart breakfast options, appropriately called the most important meal of the day. Learn why it’s so most important and pick up a few fun, easy — and healthy — recipes to try at home.

Video Highlights

  • 02:35: Introduction
    • 06:06: Interesting Breakfast Facts
    • 10:10: Health Benefits of Breakfast
    • 13:25: Breakfast Around the World
    • 20:36: Nutritional Balance
    • 21:47: Your Environment Affects Your Food Choices
    • 23:35: Coffee or Other Alternatives
    • 26:40: Breakfast Foods to Integrate Into Your Routine
    • 28:05: Egg and Spinach Breakfast
    • 31:37: Smoothie
    • 38:56: Breakfast bowl 
    • 42:47: Chia Bowl and Rice Porridge
    • 46:38: No-Bake Chocolate Chia Energy Bars
    • 51:33: Wrap Up

    Do you ever find the idea of meal planning, prep, and cooking to be completely daunting? You find yourself either skipping a meal, grabbing something fast but no healthy like a bowl of cereal for dinner, or ordering take-out because you just don’t feel like cooking? Well, never fear!

    Today is going to be the first episode in a 3-part series on quick, healthy meals you can cook throughout the week. Part 1 will focus on the most important meal of the day – breakfast. We’ll talk about why it’s the most important and give you a few awesome, easy – and healthy – recipes to try at home. 

    Why Breakfast is Important

    There’s a great quote that we think is an important rule of thumb when it comes to eating, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

    In our opinion, breakfast (or the first meal of the day, if you’re intermittent fasting) should be the biggest meal of the day. It’s safe to say that most of us have heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” right? However, a lot of people don’t eat any breakfast at all. 

    Up to 25% of your daily caloric intake should be consumed at breakfast. For men, that means you should aim for 375 - 625 calories, and for women that’s around 300 - 500 calories.  However, nearly 50% of American adults aren’t getting any of that because they are either not eating breakfast every day, or skipping breakfast altogether. Even worse, 36% of adolescents in America are skipping breakfast, too!

    Interesting breakfast facts:

    • The word breakfast literally refers to breaking the fasting period of the prior night.
    • February is National Hot Breakfast Month.
    • The average person sits down to breakfast at 7:30am during the week and 8.:30 am on the weekend.
    • The most popular place to eat breakfast is at home at the table, either alone or with other members of the household, with the couch coming in second.
    • The world’s first breakfast cereal was created in 1863 and needed soaking overnight to be chewable.
    • American’s favorite breakfast is cereal. Next is oatmeal, toast, and a cooked breakfast. The breakfast foods we are most likely to eat during the week are whole grain cereal (37%), toast (32%), and oatmeal (27%). 
    • 30% of the women who skip breakfast say it’s because they are too busy getting ready for work. 14% agree that they don’t eat breakfast because they are trying to lose weight.
    • In the U.S. breakfast is the most frequently skipped meal. About 50% of Americans do not eat breakfast every day. 
    • Nearly 45% of people who eat breakfast on the go, do so by going through the drive throughs like McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts — not the healthiest choices for the most important meal of the day.

    Health Benefits of Eating Breakfast

    Eating breakfast can help with:

    • Keeping your mind sharp
    • Giving you lasting energy throughout your day
    • Kickstarting your metabolism
    • Balancing your mood
    • Helping maintain the body’s natural circadian rhythms

    Eating breakfast also helps regulate hormones in the body, namely cortisol. Within the first hour of waking up, the cortisol awakening response, or CAR, occurs. This is when you get a surge of cortisol that helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar. CAR also contributes to maintaining healthy weight and cholesterol levels and keeping stress levels down. It also helps improve mood and energy levels, and ensures you get a good night’s sleep by regulating the body’s natural circadian rhythms. CAR can also influence fatigue and joint pain. This surge of cortisol in the morning really packs a punch!

    How does this tie into eating breakfast? Eating breakfast can facilitate the circulation of cortisol and can help give you sustained energy throughout the day. By helping cortisol circulate properly, so you’ll be better able to manage stress, you’ll be able to sleep better come bedtime, and you’ll experience other health benefits like lower cholesterol and maintaining a healthy weight. 

    Breakfast Around the World

    What you eat is as important as the fact that you do eat something for breakfast every morning. 

    Around the world, breakfast traditions are very different. For example:

    • A typical breakfast in Morocco includes eggs, and a lot of cheeses, breads, and olives
    • In Mexico, it’s more likely to include tortillas, beans, cheese, salsa, fresh fruit, and avocado
    • In France it might include some fresh fruit alongside various breads, croissants, butters, jams, and coffee
    • In Sweden, it might include deviled eggs, and crackers topped with various items like cheese, peppers, smoked salmon, or cucumber
    • A Chinese breakfast might include egg pancakes, dumplings, fried dough sticks, tea, and porridge
    • Coffee, rolls, exotic fruits like papaya and bananas, ham, cheese, and jam might be served in Brazil
    • In Russia you might sit down to thin pancakes called Blinis, cold cuts, porridge, cottage cheese with berries, fresh fruit, and pancakes
    • And we’re all familiar with the American breakfast of pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, and hash browns

    Nutritional Balance

    What you want to aim for is a breakfast that is nutritionally balanced. You don’t want to grab a protein bar, a donut, or a bagel on your way out the door, simply settle for a cup of coffee and call that breakfast, or wolf down a bowl of sugary cereal. Not only are these options not nutritionally balanced, but they’re full of processed ingredients or full of ingredients that can lead to health issues like heart disease, which I just mentioned, or things like chronic inflammation and diabetes. Plus, eating breakfast is important and it can help you feel fuller, which can prevent overeating throughout the day and combat obesity, too, as a result! 

    Your Environment Affects Your Food Choices

    Here’s a really interesting, fun fact for you. Did you know that there is a correlation between what people choose to eat and the amount of light in the sky? There’s also a direct link with the type of light in the sky. For instance, when the color of the sky has that lovely warm orange and pink glow to it at the end of the day, people don’t necessarily feel like eating or drinking something that will keep you awake and alert. That’s the time when people will likely grab for something warm, soothing, and comforting. Additionally, people tend to make better food choices when the temperature is higher and the sky is brighter longer, and they tend to make more emotional choices when the days are shorter and the climate is colder. Think about it – a lot of us probably eat better in summer and eat foods that are heavier and bring more joy and comfort in winter. 

    Coffee or Other Alternatives

    In keeping with eating or drinking something to promote alertness when it’s extremely bright out, a lot of us might sip a big mug of coffee first thing in the a.m. and call that breakfast. While studies have shown that coffee may improve mental alertness, as well as improve mood, when consumed first thing in the morning, there may be quite a few health disadvantages to drinking coffee. 

    Instead of coffee, try drinking some warm lemon water first thing in the morning! Coconut water or kombucha are also good options.  

    A healthy alternative to coffee would be green tea. Green tea contains a very specific antioxidant called EGCG that can help protect your heart, brain, and nervous system. It can also improve metabolism, mood, make you feel more alert, and combat diabetes. Plus, it usually contains about half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. So, for all you hard-core coffee addicts out there, green tea might be a healthy alternative to consider switching to – you'll still be getting your caffeine fix but with you’ll also be getting a lot of health benefits you won’t get with coffee. 

    Another great coffee alternative is a cold, crisp apple. The crunch will stimulate the brain and other senses, and help wake you up. It includes fiber, and has a nice sweet taste. Or, click here for even more coffee alternatives.

    Breakfast Foods to Integrate Into Your Routine

    Some great foods to integrate into your breakfast meals as much as possible include:

    • Eggs
    • Dark leafy greens
    • Green tea
    • Ginger
    • Nuts like almonds, pecans, pistachios, or walnuts 
    • Chia seeds
    • Flaxseeds
    • Fruits like pineapple, grapefruit, and berries
    • Avocados

    Egg and Spinach Breakfast

    One quick and healthy option for a nutritious breakfast is to saute some kale or spinach in some olive or avocado oil with whatever spices you would like and top with two eggs cooked to your liking. Accompany this with half of a grapefruit to kick start your metabolism and enjoy with a cup of herbal or green tea Wait 20 minutes after you eat your protein to eat your fruit to make your digestive enzymes super efficient. Voila! Easy peasy, and loaded with delicious foods, all from Dr. Nancy’s Anti-inflammatory Food List!

    Another great way to use these same ingredients for a super convenient breakfast is to make Egg Bites. Simply whisk eggs and kale or spinach and other vegetables in a bowl, then spray a muffin pan with olive oil and pour the mixture in. Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, and you have some delicious, super portable, gluten-free, protein-packed egg bites.

    Smoothies

    Another great breakfast option is a smoothie. You want to make sure, though, that you have a balance of nutrition in your smoothie — you don’t want to have all fruits and no protein or greens. That can cause your blood sugar to spike and can result in an energy crash by mid-morning, which can lead to you reaching for a quick fix that might not be so healthy. Try an...

    Anti-Inflammatory Blueberry Smoothie 

    This smoothie contains a great balance of nutritious, anti-inflammatory food choices that will give you sustained energy and help you feel full.

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk like almond, coconut, or hemp
    • 1 frozen banana (optional)
    • ⅔ to 1 cup frozen blueberries
    • 2 handfuls kale or spinach
    • 2 tablespoons almond butter
    • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
    • ⅛ - ¼ teaspoon turmeric

    To make, simply combine all the ingredients in a blender until smooth and enjoy!

    Anti-Inflammatory Pineapple Smoothie 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • 3 to 4 kale leaves with stems removed
    • 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
    • ½ banana
    • 1 cup coconut water
    • A dash of turmeric
    • Protein powder (optional) — whatever kind you like!

    Combine in a blender, and enjoy!

    Breakfast Bowl 

    Breakfast bowls are so versatile and easy to make, plus they’re hearty, healthy, and satisfying! You can make a breakfast bowl using ancient grains like quinoa or amaranth, or make them with brown rice or even sweet potato. Then add some eggs on top, throw in some vegetables like kale, walnuts if you want, and anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and clove, and you’ll be starting your day off right with a nutritious, delicious, inflammation-reducing, energy boosting breakfast! 

    Chia Bowl and Rice Porridge

    For something on the sweeter side, try a Chia Breakfast Bowl. Start with chia pudding, which is easy to make by soaking chia seeds in almond or coconut milk overnight. For increased energy, add some matcha powder! Using chia pudding as the base, add some gluten-free granola, dried or fresh berries, some nuts and shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, or whatever delicious anti-inflammatory toppings sound good to you! 

    Maple-baked Rice Porridge

    A variation on the breakfast bowl is porridge. Porridges are a great breakfast option in the colder months because they can give you a warm feeling of comfort without the excess sugar and calories comfort food can sometimes bring. Now, porridge is typically made with oats, but today, I want to show you how to make Maple-baked Rice Porridge using brown rice.

    Here's what you’ll need:

    • ½ cup brown rice
    • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • Pinch of cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
    • Fruit of your choice – blueberries, cherries, pears, apricots, apples
    • Pinch of salt (optional)

    To make this recipe, first preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    While the oven is preheating, place the rice and 1 cup of water in a pot on medium-high heat. Once the water reaches a boil, add the vanilla and the cinnamon. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low or low. Let cook for about 10 to 15 minutes or according to the directions on the package of rice that you’re using. 

    When the rice is done, spoon it into two oven-safe bowls and drizzle each with a tablespoon of maple syrup, as well as the fruit of your choice. Sprinkle with salt if you’d like. 

    Bake the porridge mixture for 10 to 15 minutes until the maple syrup is bubbling and the fruit starts to caramelize. Serve immediately!

    Most porridge recipes involve a bit more prep and cooking times so that might be one that’s good for a weekend meal rather than on a work or school-day. 

    No-Bake Chocolate Chia Energy Bars 

    These are fun and easy to make! Use the recipe in the link above, or the alternate recipe below:

    Here’s what you need:

    • ¼ cup of honey 
    • ½ cup almond butter or peanut butter
    • A dash of cinnamon 
    • A dash of salt
    • 1 ½ cups gluten-free oats
    • Chia or flax seeds
    • Chocolate chips (optional)
    • Pitted medjool dates

    Stir everything together in a bowl, and using a small ice cream scoop, create little balls, then coat them in coconut. If you want to make this same recipe as bars, line a baking pan with parchment paper and press the mixture into it, then put it in the freezer for 20 minutes.

    A few other ideas:

    I’ll be sure to include the links to some of these recipes for you all. 

    Wrap-Up

    This episode is the first in a 3-part series, and today, We talked all about breakfast. Up to 25% of adults in the U.S. and 36% of adolescents are skipping the most important meal of the day, which breakfast truly is. Eating a balanced, healthy breakfast that includes some combination of:

    • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, or buckwheat
    • Fruits like berries, pears, apples, or grapefruit
    • Dark leafy greens like spinach or kale
    • Seeds like chia, flax, or pumpkin
    • Nuts like almonds, walnuts, or cashews
    • Organic eggs

    Eating a nutritious breakfast will help:

    • Give you sustained energy throughout the day
    • Regulate hormone levels in the body, especially cortisol
    • Help you feel fuller so you snack less
    • Combat greater health issues like heart disease, obesity, and chronic inflammation

    The moral of the story today is: don’t skip breakfast! Make a smoothie or a breakfast bowl, or maybe try an all-natural homemade energy bar or some chia pudding. If you do, please let us know how eating breakfast has improved your day or even your overall quality of life!

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