We used to think the best breakfast was a high fiber cereal with fruit and milk. Carbs, carbs and more carbs. Now the spotlight is on protein.
Have you ever woken up and had a big bowl of milk and cereal with bananas only to be very hungry a few hours later? When people start the day with a high carbohydrate breakfast, especially one that is low in fiber, they will typically have a blood sugar spike which feels like instant energy that is unfortunately followed by a blood sugar crash an hour or so afterwards. This can cause excessive hunger, carbohydrate or sugar cravings and fatigue.
The best way to start the day is with a balanced breakfast that is high in protein, contains some high fiber carbohydrate, and a small amount of healthy fat. This will keep your energy high and help you to avoid cravings. Protein is satisfying because it is digested much more slowly than carbohydrates so it will hold you over much longer. It also does not cause spikes and crashes in blood sugars like some carbohydrates do. High fiber carbohydrates are a much better choice than the white stuff and are not as likely to cause blood sugar highs and low. They are digested more slowly than processed, low fiber carbohydrates. Fiber fills you and it does not contribute to your calorie intake because it does not get absorbed by the body. It can also help with regularity, while protein alone may have the opposite effect. Fat is also digested slowly. Fat is very calorie dense though so if weigh loss is the goal stick to a small amount to help keep you satisfied longer. Put this all together and the combo is the perfect equation to keep you satisfied all morning long.
So what’s a cereal lover going to do? There are a couple of options. One thing you can do is swap the milk for high protein Greek yogurt and add a Tbsp of chopped nuts for sweetness and healthy fat. If you love your milk with your cereal, try a high protein cereal like Kashi Go Lean, or a whole grain low sugar cereal like Cheerios. Skip the high carbohydrate banana and instead add high fiber berries and a few Tbsp’s of nuts for extra staying power. If none of these options sound good, eat your cereal as your evening snack, dinner or a pre-workout snack, and change your breakfast to another high protein option. Carbs are the best choice before a workout because they are digested quickly so they can be used as fuel for your muscles. In the evening carbs aren’t a bad choice because you don’t need much staying power before bed. Studies show that people actually sleep better when they have carbohydrates in the evening because they get a blood sugar spike and then a crash just in time for bed!
So what is considered a high protein breakfast? There are a lot of options. A few lower calorie high protein breakfast ideas include an egg white omelet with 5 egg whites, vegetables, 1/4 avocado, and ½ ounce of shredded low fat cheese or 3/4 cup of low fat cottage cheese with a Tbsp of chopped nuts, and fruit, or a 6 ounce Greek yogurt with 2 Tbsp’s of nuts and berries. All of the above are considered high protein breakfasts. They contain over 15 grams of protein and are between 200 and 300 calories. Other balanced breakfasts include whole eggs with whole grain toast and fruit, or whole grain waffles topped with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with berries. The possibilities are endless.