NEW YORK (CNN) – If you tackle your morning to-do list successfully, it may start with the first thing you put in your mouth.
If you feel like a zombie in the morning, an unbalanced breakfast consisting mostly of simple sugars could be to blame, said Nancy Z. Farrell Allen, a registered nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“Carbohydrates – whether from fruits and vegetables or from sweets and biscuits – break down in the body into sugar, also known as glucose,” said McKel Kooienga, a registered nutritionist, founder of the Nutrition Stripped blog and inventor of the Mindful Nutrition Method via email. “Think of glucose (or sugar) as energy in the body.”
After we eat carbohydrates, the pancreas produces the insulin hormone to remove the sugar from the bloodstream, Kooienga explained. The type, timing and amount of carbohydrates consumed determine how much sugar is released into the bloodstream at one time. Simpler or processed carbohydrates – like muffins or maple syrup – get sugar into the blood faster if they’re not consumed with other macronutrients like protein and crashing fat.
Instead, think of hearty filling eggs, beans, and browned halloumi cheese for protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Or raspberries, oats, and coconut for the same benefits.
“A balanced breakfast sets the pace and the tone for the day. It provides nutrition that nourishes our brains and bodies so we can be sane and productive the first time,” said Farrell Allen.
Low blood sugar levels from not having breakfast regularly can lead people to constantly reaching for sugary and processed foods, which “can lead you down a path with foods that can also affect your mental health,” Kooienga said. This can lead to a higher risk of turning to restrictive or disrupted eating habits so as not to overeat, she added, a habit that can lead to binge eating.
The concept of balance, Kooienga said, involves a combination of complex, high fiber sources of carbohydrates; Protein; and healthy fats, which release sugar into the blood more slowly and thus support longer-lasting energy.
“There are so many wonderful breakfast options that offer the opportunity to discover cultural, hearty, healthy, and mindful eating,” said Farrell Allen.
Here are two recipes to help you start your day and incorporate whatever it takes to make things happen.
Overnight Chia Oat Bowl
Kooienga’s Overnight Chia Oat Bowl is rich in whole foods that can reward long-lasting energy. (Photo: McKel Kooienga)
Kooienga’s oat-based recipe is packed with high-fiber complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and muscle-building protein. It’s convenient as you can prepare breakfast the night before and pick it up on the way to the door the next morning.
Makes 1 serving
- 1/2 cup dried oats (like oatmeal)
- 3 tablespoons of chia seeds
- 1 cup of almond milk
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Ground cinnamon to taste
- Optional additives for different flavor combinations are 1/4 cup pumpkin puree, a dash of coconut yoghurt without dairy products, berries of your choice (blueberries, strawberries or raspberries), nut butter (almond, peanut or sunflower) and nuts or seeds
- Mix the oats, chia seeds, almond milk, maple syrup and cinnamon in a bowl.
- Store in the refrigerator overnight.
- Stir again before serving. Serve with the add-ons you want from the ingredients list.
Basic five eggs, beans and vegetables nourish meal
Kooienga’s Foundational Five Eggs, Beans and Greens Nourish Meal is a hearty option for a balanced breakfast. (Photo: McKel Kooienga)
In order to eat mindfully, Kooienga aims to include two to five specific elements – protein, fat, carbohydrates, carbohydrates with no taste or taste – in every meal, including breakfast. These additives can help support your energy levels, digestion and long-term satiety, she added, and the “Nourish Meal” recipe checks most of these boxes.
Makes 1 serving
- 1 cup cooked beans (such as black beans, kidney beans, or pinto beans; if canned, rinse well)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 large eggs, fried or boiled however you like them
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup of steamed broccoli
- 2 cups of dark leafy greens or lettuce (such as kale, spinach, or rocket)
- 2 tablespoons of dressing of your choice (Kooienga recommends her Cilantro Lime Dressing or Creamy Zesty Shallot Dressing)
- 1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
- 1/2 cup sprouts (like alfalfa or broccoli sprouts)
- Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- If you are using pre-cooked canned beans, rinse them thoroughly. Otherwise, prepare dried beans a day in advance according to a traditional recipe, as dried beans take hours to cook completely.
- Heat olive oil in a pan and then cook the eggs to the desired consistency (too light, medium or hard). Season with sea salt and black pepper. While the eggs are boiling, lightly steam the broccoli.
- Use the vegetables or the salad as a base for your dish. Add dressing, boiled beans, steamed broccoli, sliced avocado, sprouts, and season with more black pepper and red pepper flakes if you’d like.
These recipes are from Kooienga’s Nutrition Stripped blog.
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