In my fitness coaching programs, sooner or later the conversation always gets around to breakfast. What is it, when is it, how important is it?
As a matter of fact, because of the value of breakfast, aka a ‘gusto brekkie’, I always either structure it into the program itself or look closely for the details of breakfast when a client reports in with their food diary for insights, coaching, and direction on their way to more energy and less weight.
Here’s why. Well, first let me back up a bit.
“Not hungry” for breakfast? Elaine’s story
Elaine, a client who, in her own words, struggled with “not having any energy” and wanting to binge on sweets in the afternoon, had a terrible coca cola habit, and struggled to get anywhere with her weight loss. She had been to the doctor about her energy problems, and he was doing a whole hormonal profile workup to see if that might be where her problem might be.
I asked Elaine to describe what she had eaten and when during the previous day. She told me she had skipped breakfast because she said she’s “never hungry for breakfast”. Mid morning, when hunger hit, she decided to just wait until lunch because she was, after all, trying to lose weight. Hold off on those calories!
For lunch she had a salad and a sandwich. Sounded great, but it didn’t quite satisfy her. Still, she controlled her portions until mid-afternoon when she started in on her coca cola stash.
By dinner she was ravenous. Ate a complete dinner, but found herself eager for dessert and craving sweets. The munchies followed her all evening. In retrospect, she ended up eating the equivalent of another dinner through the course of the evening.
I asked Elaine if her doctor had asked her ANYthing about her diet when it came to analyzing her “energy” problem. She said, well, no. (What a novel idea!)
Quickly, we structured a new eating approach for the next week. It included breakfast, not forced first thing in the morning but as soon as she felt a dip in energy or any other signs of hunger. From our conversation, it appeared this happened for Elaine between 9 and 10 in the morning. From there, we built a sound eating plan through the rest of the day. She was to be prepared with quality food throughout the day so that when she was hungry again, she would eat.
Within 3 days, Elaine had eliminated her evening noshing and sweets craving. She cut her coke consumption in half within a week. And she started enjoying breakfast more, and earlier.
Here’s the lesson
The ‘not hungry for breakfast’ syndrome is often a function of eating too late. This diminishes morning hunger. It drives the destructive eating cycle Elaine experienced above. Changing this pattern to eating more earlier in the day is key to reversing runaway cravings later in the day.
When stored hunger hijacks our hormones and rears its urgent head, we might not be prepared with or motivated to make the best choices. By not eating late, we drive up morning hunger which puts us on a good pattern for the rest of the day.
So, when I recommend a “gusto brekkie” – a breakfast that gives you gusto for the day – what does that mean?
3 elements of the gusto brekkie: A good breakfast
1) It’s jammed with whole food fiber.
Satiety is a function of bulk and nutrition. (See The 3 Rules of Satiety: Becoming Naturally Thin).
- Whole grain cereal, rolled oats, rice cream, quinoa, whole brown rice, 9-grain cereal. Mix ’em up. Let your imagination go wild. Soak ’em the night before or cook them up faster in the micro. Eat ’em cold as leftovers. Heap fruit on top. Sprinkle on some flax seed or chopped walnuts.
- Breakfast burritos: Whole grain or sprouted tortilla shells or chapati jammed with beans, rice, salsa.
- Soup: vegetable soup with whole grains, pasta, and legumes. Lentil soup. Some people just don’t like “breakfast” foods. Foods don’t inherently have a time of day, it’s just what we’re used to. This is probably why I love pinto beans and tortillas for breakfast when traveling in Mexico, but just can’t pull it off once I’m back in the mountains in Northern California. Go figure.
- Wholegrain pancakes, waffles, and good grainy breads. Operative is whole grain, not partial whole grain or “wheat flour” which can be as processed and refined as they come. Use a little nut butter and jam. Have a bowl of fruit.
- Potatoes: hash browns or any other form you like!
- Green drink: Smoothies are best not for every day, as it can be easy to overdo the fruit and the fiber is disrupted, impacting satiety, yet they can be a great way to get in some good nutrition and a whollop of greens when you are in a rush.
2) It’s low in fat
Here’s the thing. All plant foods have fat in them, even though we may not think of it that way. As a matter of fact, even with NO added expelled oils and high fat foods through the day, we easily consume about 10% fat in our diets. Add in some high fat foods and that percentage can jump fast. As in all meals throughout the day, to stay slim and energized, we are looking for low calorie density. That means volumes of fibrous food with low calorie count per pound of same.
3) It’s got some color
This is a great time of the day for fruit. The whole kind, avoid juices which bump up the calorie density and have no impact, research shows, on satiety. You can do this with fruit on the top or side of whatever else you are having. Some thrive on a smoothie breakfast ( see Green Drink Resurrection) that allows them to grab and go. Though blending and whirring does disrupt the fiber in whole foods and have somewhat of a diminishing effect on satiety because of it, these can be a great way to get some gusto in easily. Blend the whole fruit and/or veggies so you get all the fibrous and other nutrition goodies.
So, where are the bacon, the eggs, the cottage cheese? Won’t find ’em on my menu. They are too high in calorie density, fat, and protein. Will a few bites kill you? Probably not. But not every day, and not in huge quantities. As decoration and condiment at best, if your weight and health allow it. Their regular presence on your own menu may well be part of your weight problem.
Tell us about YOUR gusto brekkie solutions in comments below.
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Again, Lani!! Thank you – I certianly had gusto breakie this morning – pumped up my ommy with 1/2 green pepper, 2 slices red onion, and topped it off with a wonderful piece of WW bread with nutella!! sooo yummy!! I make my own fruit/grain bars and sometimes use the Nutella as a spread in those!! yummsville!
Hey Lani, thanks once again for cutting through the confusion to some simple explanations. This gives me a good guide for putting together a meal. I’d love to be able to eat according to appetite as you do. Reading about this inspires me.
Lani, great article! Thank you so much!!!!
I start the day with cooked oatmeal (either rolled oats or steel cut) with 1 TB natural peanut butter. Sometimes I add banana or another fruit. I’m good until lunch.
In the summer, I like oats soaked overnight in plain yogurt. Then I add summer fruits and a little sliced almonds.
FitKneww, man, oatmeal with pb is like eating cookie dough – don’t you love it?
I’m glad you posted this to give TH participants a clear explanation of what you consider to be a “gusto brekkie.”
Lately I’ve been making green smoothies for brekkie. They are awesome! Another favorite is crustless quiche with tons of veggies. I love getting in 2 servings of veggies before 10am!
What are your thoughts on fat free Greek yogurt? It has really high protein content.
Your pumpkin and greens smoothie recipe has definitely been a hi. Mind if I post it here?
Greek yogurt I’ve always found to be delicious! But that was in my dairy days and you asked for my thoughts. Here’s a post – with video – that I know your inquiring mind will enjoy: http://www.lanimuelrath.com/workoutroutinesforwomen/2010/perils-of-dairy-why-dairy-may-not-do-your-body-good-and-in-fact-be-just-plain-bad-for-you/
Thanks for popping in and let me know about the smoothie!
oh no…i love my eggies…i really have to make a plan for next week *hiding head in bag*
I love your avatar, by the way. Charming!
Don’t hide your head in a bag, please. It’s hard to eat in there! 😉
So glad you’re on the team!
I do enjoy my eggs & Morning Star “bacon” and homemade turkey Mexican chorizo, too.
I won’t have them everyday. I know you are a vegetarian, so that is another reason for your choice.
For me, having a healthy breakfast everyday will be a step up!
Your breakfast pictures look so wonderful! I’ll have to make some pancakes ahead of time and maybe even some home made waffles to have them ready.
Thanks for all you are doing for us through Tappy Holidays!
Piglet2u, it doesn’t matter what your dietary persuasion – I’m here to get everyone to UP their plant content! Maximize fiber and minimize calorie density.
I like looking at the pictures too – glad you likey!
BTW, working on the “5 food colors” you sent as a post – should be up soon! Thanks!
I have to say that I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to eat over the T’appy Holidays, full stop!
Breakfast for me is usually bread and cheese, sometimes oatmeal, with pumpkin, which I guess I’ll have to get into more (it is tasty though so no hardship there!).
Fruit doesn’t count on the servings quota though, does it?
What about the rest of the veggie servings that I need?
Lani, do you have any tips as to how I can get those into my day? Please, I’d love any ideas you have! 🙂
Now, you’ve got to share that oatmeal with pumpkin recipe. Sounds like it must taste like pie! Do tell!
Fruits are in addition to the veggie count, you’re right. Too easy to just eat a pile of fruit and miss out on those veggie power gems! Slimming, and they make your body glow and your skin luscious!
I’ve got TONS of ideas for upping the veggie count. Must put together a blog fer ya! For now, here’s something to get you started:
6 Ways To Jack Up Your Veggie Count:
Here’s the link for the oatmeal. I have to say that it’s not my own recipe, it’s one I found. However, it is really tasty and quick and easy!!
What more could you ask for? =:D
Thanks for the link on ways to jack up my veggie count!!
My ‘go to’ breakfast is old fashioned oats or oat bran, sprinkled with cinnamon, with a whole apple chopped up in it. I don’t like oatmeal plain, but the chopped up tart apple adds a tangy sweetness and texture that I really enjoy.
Kim, sounds a lot like my brekkie today! Just posted on it facebook here:
I often do old fashioned or steel oats with fruit and maybe a touch of sweetener &/or made with some milk substitute (soy, almond, rice, etc). I also just made up a batch of Yum Universe’s Protein Pumpkin Pancakes, which are delicious. I was hoping that I wouldn’t need extra oil if I cooked them on a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, but they stick like crazy. I’m thinking of attempting to bake them on parchment paper instead of stove top. Regardless, they are tasty and filling! http://www.yumuniverse.com/2010/02/06/vegan-pumpkin-protein-pancakes/
(I cooked the quinoa because I didn’t want to wait around to sprout it! Also interpreted 1 can of pumpkin as 15 oz. size, which seemed to work fine.)
Joy, you sound so doggone creative in the kitchen. I can tell you’ll be able to provide lots of inspiration! Sprouted quinoa? Man, you are one step ahead!