Healthy Breakfast Breakdown What to put on your plat for a nutritious, health-promoting breakfast.

Last week I talked about the reasons that I think many people could benefit from eating breakfast. In post number two of my breakfast series, I want to dive into what you should be eating for breakfast – because not just anything will do!
For many people dealing with chronic disease, hormone imbalances, high nutrient needs (like athletes) or are working towards a fitness goal, breakfast is an important, if not crucial, opportunity to get in the protein, calories, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that their bodies need. But if you are one of these people and you’re eating a “typical” breakfast, you probably aren’t taking advantage of this opportunity and you may even be doing more harm than good.
When working with my clients on their breakfast choices, I give them a framework to guide them while allowing flexibility in the specific foods they choose. It has helped so many people drastically improve the nutrient quality of their breakfasts and their diets overall, so I want to share it with you today! The framework encourages you to build your breakfast by focusing on the nutrients that are most important to consume in the morning, and to distance your choices from arbitrary food trends and clever marketing from food companies. The framework looks like this:

Why it’s important
Protein is your number one priority, especially if you exercised the day before. Lean muscle mass is the foundation of a healthy metabolism, and muscle recovery after a workout continues for many hours and requires a steady source of amino acids from protein. Regardless of the specifics of your health and fitness goals, adequate protein and lean muscle mass is a very important part of general health. Protein in the morning is also important for maintaining healthy blood sugar control for the rest of the day.

What to eat
Meat and eggs will provide you with dense, complete, bioavailable protein. Try to get cage free, or even better, pasture-raised eggs, and grass-fed meats. Getting the highest quality animal products possible will ensure the best nutrient density. Eggs and meat are very good sources of vitamins and minerals, especially b-vitamins, when obtained from high quality sources. Fish like salmon is also a great option and will provide you with essential fatty acids. Meats and fish can be prepared any way you want them to be. Just because it is the morning does not mean you need to stick to bacon and breakfast sausages. Utilize leftovers from the day before, canned, dried, and smoked options. It might feel a little weird at first eating leftover steak or canned salmon at breakfast, but the amazing nutrition you’ll get is worth it! Protein powder is also a good option to have on-hand, but I would avoid relying on it as your protein source every day. Make sure you are getting a high quality protein. Grass-fed whey or beef protein,  collagen, and hemp are my favorites. Vital Proteins and PureWOD are brands that I highly recommend.

How much should I eat?
With all of the components of this framework, exact portion sizes will vary and I recommend you consult with someone if you are feeling unsure about your portion size choices. (to set up a free consultation with me, click here). With that being said about 2-4 oz. of meat, or 2 – 4 eggs (equalling about 20-30g) is a good place to start. Of course, everyone is going to be different, so pay attention to your appetite and how you feel and adjust your portions from there.

Why it’s important
Vegetables are one of the most important and one of the most under-eaten food groups across the population. Even the most health conscious individuals struggle to meet their ideal daily vegetable intake. Breakfast is an excellent opportunity to get another serving into your day! Vegetables are the best source of fiber (yes, and even better source than whole grains!), which is necessary for healthy digestions, and are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals which allow our bodies to function optimally. Leafy green vegetables in particular are very nutrient dense foods which almost everyone could benefit from eating more of.

What to eat
Just like at any other time of day, any vegetables will do! However, focusing on leafy greens will give you the most bang for your buck. Sautéed or steamed kale, spinach or other greens will give your breakfast a big nutrient boost. Other vegetables such as peppers, mushroom, and broccoli taste great with eggs, just make sure you are getting a hefty serving. This is another instance where leftovers can be your friend. Who says green beans and brussels sprouts can’t be for breakfast? Just keep in mind that this veggies category excludes starchy vegetables like potatoes, squash, and carrots. Those will count as carbohydrate foods.

How much should I eat?
Veggies at breakfast is new to a lot of people, so it can be hard sometimes to eat large portions, but I recommend trying to eat at least 1 cup of vegetables with your breakfast. If that feels to hard or you don’t have the appetite for it yet, start with ½ a cup and work your way up at a pace that feels comfortable.

Why it’s important
Even though dairy fat and egg yolks have been demonized for decades for their supposed detrimental effects on health, fat is actually an extremely important nutrient, especially from high quality animal sources. Fat, like protein, will help with blood sugar regulation when eaten in the morning. Fat is also necessary for proper hormone production and the absorption of key nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K. And, although you are probably starting to hear this more and more, I will say it anyway: FAT WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT! This is a myth that has been perpetuated by food companies, government agencies, and well-meaning health professionals for a while, but it is simply not true. While overeating in general can lead to fat gain, it is a very important nutrient that can contribute to healthy weight maintenance and is crucial for overall health.

What to eat
Now, the types of fat we choose to eat is extremely important. Refined industrial seed oils like canola, sunflower, safflower, soy, and peanut oil are very high in omega-6 fatty acids, and other compounds that promote inflammation in the body. These inflammatory compounds are an unavoidable result of the damaging process the oils must undergo in order to be non-toxic and palatable. Consuming too much of them leads to increased inflammation in the body, which contributes to almost every nutrition-related and chronic disease. These oils should be avoided as much as possible. When cooking, opt for a stable, less processed oil like coconut, olive, or a high quality animal fat. You can also get fat into your breakfast with the egg yolks and animal fat that come along with your protein sources, full fat dairy products if you can tolerate them, or high fat plants like avocado, coconut, and nuts and seeds.

How much should I eat?
When it comes to fat, my rule of thumb is to eat the fat that comes with your meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy, and cook your food in about a teaspoon of healthy cooking fat. Just like with protein, everybody’s needs are going to be different, but this is just a good place to start. Pay attention to how you feel and increase or decrease your intake accordingly by using more or less cooking fat.


Why it’s important:
Carbohydrates are an important nutrient, especially in people dealing with certain health conditions. They provide an easy source of energy to the brain, muscles, and tissues that require healing. While there is a lot of debate on the importance of carbohydrates in the diet, when eaten from a good source, carbohydrate foods can be important for energy, healthy hormones, and a healthy stress response.

What to eat:
Like I mentioned before, the recommended whole grains, low-fat dairy, and fruit juices are not going to be your best choices when it comes to carbs. Grains and fruit juice contain many refined carbohydrates, which are not well tolerated by the human body and can contribute to blood sugar disregulation. Grains are also often high in gluten and anti-nutrients that disrupt digestion and interfere with nutrient absorption. These foods are usually fortified with synthetic vitamins that they no longer contain naturally because of processing. We do not absorb and utilize synthetic vitamins as readily as we do natural vitamins from whole food sources. When adding carbohydrate foods to your plate, stick with the types that you know your body tolerates well. Start with fruit and starchy vegetables like potatoes, squash, and beets. If you know your body can tolerate some grains like oats, quinoa, and rice, feel free to add those as well!

How much should I eat?
People with underlying health conditions related to stress or hormone disregulation can often benefit from including carbs in the morning. People who are otherwise healthy but are trying to lose body fat could benefit from a low-carb breakfast if they are eating first thing in the morning. Anyone eating breakfast after working out should include some carbohydrates in their meal. The amount you should eat is highly individual. Start with a moderate portion such as a piece of fruit, or a half cup of potatoes or grains. Decrease if it feels like too much, and increase if it doesn’t feel like enough. Again, this is just where I recommend you start. It is not a rule. So, get one-on-one guidance if you are struggling to find the amount of morning carbohydrates that works best for you.

To recap:

No matter who you are, proteins and veggies should make up the base of your breakfast, and fat is important for everyone to include in adequate amounts. Carbohydrate needs are highly variable between individuals, so depending on underlying health conditions and exercise intensity and timing, a lower or higher carb breakfast may work better for you.
The goal of breakfast should be to eat a meal that is nutrient dense and fuels your body the way you need it to. While the portion sizes will look different from person to person, the overall structure of the meal should look the same. Make your breakfast out of your favorite grass-fed animal products, leafy green vegetables, high quality fats, and nutrient dense carbohydrates. By sticking to these foods and avoiding the highly processed breakfast foods that litter our shelves and restaurants, you are already making great strides to improving your health and reaching your wellness goals!
Here are some examples of delicious, nutrient dense breakfasts that fit into this framework:

Some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links. This means I make a small commission on purchases made through these links. But don’t worry! I only establish affiliate relationships with companies I trust who make products I would recommend anyway. 

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