There’s a few old sayings that suggest many people over the years may have thought that breakfast was quite an important meal of the day* including:
Eat a hearty breakfast, a moderate lunch and a small supper
Breakfast like a king, lunch like a merchant and sup like a pauper
Eat your breakfast alone, share your lunch with a friend and give your supper to your enemy
So what are you eating for breakfast now that (in the southern hemisphere) we have hit winter?
Here are some important ideas to factor in when choosing your breakfast (like a monarch of course!):
- Does your breakfast nourish you and provide energy to start your day?
- Does your breakfast make you feel good? (Does your tummy like it?)
- Have you warmed your breakfast up for the cooler weather?
- Is it convenient for the time pressures you may have in the morning?
- Is it tasty? Do you like it?
Let’s start with 1. Does it nourish you and provide energy to start your day?
Think about the quality of the food here. Is it a highly processed cereal out of a box? Or white toast with jam/butter etc? For the calories you are eating you can probably do a lot better nutrient wise by eating whole foods – think of it as ‘bang’ (nutrients) for your ‘buck’ (calorie intake). Are you eating enough food? If you’re having a single slice of toast, just a piece of fruit or a cup of coffee, well you just might not be getting enough food in to start your day well. And for those dieting, a good rule of thumb is ‘eat to move‘ so it makes sense to eat more for breakfast as you’ll be on the move for the day and less later in the day when you’ve finished moving around.
2. Does your breakfast make you feel good? (Does your tummy like it?)
If you are eating food that leaves you feeling bloated, running to the loo or alternatively backed up, tired or with indigestion, then it may not be the right food for you, even if it is supposedly ‘healthy’! It may be that wheat/gluten/eggs/dairy/beans/dried fruit/excessive fruit doesn’t agree with you, or that you’re not eating enough fibre, or there’s too much sugar in it. Experiment with the types of foods you have for breakfast so your belly feels happy, leaving you with the energy and mind set you need to have a great start to the day.
3. Have you warmed your breakfast up for the cooler weather?
In Chinese Medicine it is almost non-negotiable to eat a cooked, warm breakfast in winter. And here in Tassie, well it wouldn’t hurt to eat a warm breakfast almost all year round. Why is it? Well in Chinese Medicine we consider that your digestive system works a bit like a cooking pot. You need a fire under the cooking pot to help break down the food and to pull out the nutrients (gu qi or food qi in our terms). Food that is already warm and cooked requires less from your body to provide the internal cooking fire and the warmth going in adds to keeping you warm too. Think of eating a warm pumpkin soup versus a watermelon. The pumpkin soup likely makes you feel warm from within, whereas the watermelon is refreshing and helps to cool you down – this is not what most of us need in winter, especially first thing in the morning.
So, ditch the smoothies, cold muesli, fruit salads and juices for breakfast especially in winter. Replace them with: porridges (made on any grain), eggs (any sort or even vegan alternatives) and baked beans (tinned or if you can, homemade baked beans are amazing).
To add additional warmth to your food you can add cinnamon, ginger or other spices (eggs go very well with any of the curry spices). Stew your fruit to make them warmer, stone fruit are naturally warmer so they are even better.
This point is really essential if you have a tendency to feel cold. Don’t even think about drinking the smoothie.
4. Is it convenient for the time pressures you may have in the morning?
All the above is great, but what if you just don’t have time in the morning to make much fuss? Well here are some time saver ideas I have personally used in the past:
- Soak your oats or muesli the night before so you can cook/warm them in the morning.
- Meal prep. Make your congee (rice porridge) or baked beans in a big batch and then freeze them in portion sizes so all you need to do is warm them up. Some people love a fritatta made in advance warmed up for a quick breakfast.
- Put on a rice cooker/saucepan while you’re doing something else in the morning.
- Scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, poached eggs and even omelettes (or vegan alternatives) don’t take that much longer than making toast so don’t rule them out either if you were already having toast for breakfast.
- Leftovers! Leftover bolognaise, curry, stew or dal could be delicious on wholemeal toast. And they’re quick to reheat. You can even plan to have leftovers.
When we’re time poor we just have to do the best we can. So if you can at least eat some whole foods, some fibre and it’s warm, then that’s a great start.
5. Is it tasty? Do you like it?
This one is key. Life is too short to eat food that you don’t like. Actually, make sure that you have taken the time to smell the food, chew it and taste it – have you thought if you like it? Put down the phone, turn off the telly, stop reading while you’re eating. Have you noticed the tastes, textures and aroma?
If you’re eating something because it’s ‘healthy’ but you just don’t like it that much, then change to something you do like, and really enjoy it each morning.
To stop you getting bored, rotate around a few different breakfasts or do something different on weekends. Take advantage of seasonal produce to vary your staple breakfast recipes.
Winter breakfast inspiration!
I hope that the following recipes give you some inspiration but feel to use it as just that and change the ingredients around to suit you.
- Cinnamon and walnut oat porridge
- Quinoa and brown rice porridge with stewed fruit
- Brown rice congee with shiitake mushrooms
- Baked beans
- Japanese rice bowl breakfast
- Spanish omelette
- Indian scrambled eggs
- Vegan tofu scramble
- And don’t forget eggs your favourite way (maybe on wholemeal toast with avocado) and muesli served warm that you have made yourself from whole foods (the ingredients are easily available at bulk food stores and good supermarkets).
*NOTE: Now, I’m not here to convince the intermittent fasters among you to eat breakfast (I know intermittent fasting suits many people and evidence supports it), although if you look at the above, combined with the Chinese Medicine idea of not eating a big dinner or eating dinner late, you can see that by following this advice the length of time you’re eating in a day is naturally reduced anyway – just from the end of the day, instead of the start.
To book an appointment at the Launceston acupuncture clinic or for further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture). Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), Chinese Medicine and natural health.