It is often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and couldn't agree more. I remember when I used to experience the mid-afternoon crash a few hours after lunch, with my brain so foggy that all I wanted to do was take a nap. I would have a chocolate stash in my desk just so I could keep myself going. I thought this was normal, or at least it seemed pretty common.
Breakfast is particularly important in terms of blood sugar regulation and stimulating metabolism. High carbohydrate breakfast foods like waffles, pancakes, french toast, pastries, breakfast cereal, and bagels might be delicious, but they are better viewed as desserts than as breakfast food, and are not an ideal way to start the day. When we eat foods that are high in refined sugar and carbohydrates, they are broken down and absorbed as glucose, which sends our blood sugar soaring. This then triggers the release of insulin, a hormone that moves glucose into storage as fat or into muscle tissue for later use. Because our blood sugar was abnormally high, it will now dip much lower once the insulin has completed its job. This is why we feel hungry, maybe even "hangry" or shaky within two hours of eating breakfast, and we crave what.... more carbs! So we reach for a mid-morning bagel, a granola bar, or some other high carbohydrate snack, and thus the cycle of dysregulated blood sugar continues. The other consequence of this unhealthy cycle is excess weight as our bodies becomes dependent on glucose for fuel rather than burning fat.
A question I frequently get from my clients when discussing this topic is "So, what do you eat for breakfast?" It varies, but I might make pasture raised organic eggs with avocado and salsa or basil pesto; an egg scramble with sweet potato, spinach, and preservative-free chicken sausage; or a protein smoothie. Like I tell my clients, it's great if you can get leafy greens into every meal, including breakfast. I vary my meals based on the seasons and what I feel my body needs, but I always make sure to start the day with healthy fats and protein. I do this to boost my fat metabolism, versus eating something that's going to spike my blood sugar and increase fat storage. I tailor dietary recommendations to each individual client based on their lifestyle and their body's unique needs, which means the foods that's best for you might be different than what's best for me.
Check out my Pumpkin Spice Protein Smoothie recipe below-- it's low in sugar and high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. It's also DE-licious (no, you can't taste the spinach) and keeps me full for hours. Definitely a fall favorite!
Pumpkin Spice Protein Smoothie
(Makes 1 serving)
· ½ cup Organic pureed pumpkin
· 1 Scoop chocolate protein powder (I use Garden of Life brand Organic Plant Protein)
· 1 Tbsp. Almond butter
· 3 Walnuts
· Handful of fresh spinach
· Pumpkin pie spice to taste
· 2 Ice cubes
· Optional: 1 Scoop Collagen Peptides (by Vital Proteins). Collagen promotes good digestive health, joint health, and strengthens hair and nails.
Blend all well and serve immediately.
*Nutritionist Tip: For a smoothie or other liquid food like soup, be sure to "chew" your liquids well and allow your food to spend some time in your mouth where digestive enzymes in your saliva can begin the breakdown process for better nutrient absorption and digestion.
By Kristy Malone, MS, NTP
Editors: Dr. Nikodemas McNulty, ND and Verena Eckstein