What’s for Breakfast?

Readers have been asking: “What’s the best way to start the day nutritionally?”
I’ve been having many conversations about breakfast with clients.
It’s time I wrote about the most important meal of the day.

It really is. Here’s why.

The way you start your day sets the stage for the rest of it.

Think about it:

How does your energy improve when you go for a run first thing?
How does your focus shift when you wake up with a few sun salutations?
How are your moods when you’ve meditated in the morning?

What happens on the days when you don’t feel like it, when you don’t have time?

What you eat at that time of day makes a difference as well.

Consider the client who came to see me about energy levels and about getting enough food to help her sustain a rigorous physical routine – she runs, does Pilates and martial arts. One of the first things she said to me was that breakfast is her favourite meal. She LOVES a full breakfast (eggs, sausage, toast or potatoes). She proceeded to tell me that she works out, then has a green drink “because it’s healthier”. I don’t know how it’s healthier if she can’t focus on work by 11, and she’s ready to eat her agenda by 3.

We have a tendency – because of time, health, lack of a.m. hunger – to skimp when it comes to breakfast. Sure a coffee and a bowl of cereal will get you out the door and through traffic to work. Once you get there, the small burst of energy will be done (and your blood sugar will drop) so you’ll need the next cup of coffee and/or muffin to keep you going.

Then, for the sake of your health – or let’s be honest, your waistline – you have “just a soup or a salad” for lunch, maybe with a bit of tuna or turkey. Come 3:00, you got it, the blood sugar takes another dive (naptime anyone?).

Let alone the meltdown you have when that thing you’ve been working on for weeks hits a major roadblock or your computer dies in the middle of a launch.

Then you start grazing the minute you walk in the door (I used to start with the lunchbox leftovers) and keep going all the way through supper prep, sometimes not stopping until you hit the sack. Feeling like shit and resolved to “eat less” tomorrow.

Yes, it has to do with healthwise choices (which I’ll get to shortly), but it also has to do with the mindset that goes into the planning and preparation of a decent breakfast. I make it pretty clear around here that nourishment involves much more than nutrition.

There’s more to your breakfast than a collection of nutrients.

For one thing, have you ever noticed that breakfast food tends to be pretty beige – cereal, toast, etc. The green drink craze has at least introduced a level of vibrancy to the morning.

Nourishing your body with a variety of colours awakens you at a different level. As I tell 5-year-olds, when you eat more colours your cells will be as happy as when you see a rainbow. To put it in more adult language, the colour of the food you eat will resonate with your chakras (the body’s energetic “rainbow” and emotional centres).

And that’s just one sort of sensual enjoyment you can get out of a meal. We tend to be one-hit wonders in terms of morning flavour as well: sweet. It’s quite stimulating to experience a bit of salty, a burst of sour, a hint of bitter, maybe even a touch of spice. When was the last time you took a bite of your breakfast and thought, “Delicious!”?

Taking the time to prepare and eat an adequate meal in the morning sends the message to your entire being that you’re worth the effort. Breakfast is an act of self-love.

And I’ll bet if you’ve taken the 15-20 minutes to cook a beautiful breakfast, you’ll want to sit down and enjoy it fully.

When you provide your body with the food it needs to efficiently get through the morning, you’ve set yourself up for success.

I had recently recognized that my own morning choice – usually the unconscious bowl of cereal (granted organic, gluten-free and bulked up with seeds and dried fruit) – wasn’t cutting it when it came to getting me through the day. I often ate lunch at 10, then needed a 2nd one at 2. I knew I had to make a change.

Synchronicity brought my attention to an online breakfast challenge (Laura Hames Franklin’s Superhuman Breakfast). I’ll admit, it took a few days of resistance to get me through the initial commitment, but the difference it made to my day was instantly remarkable.

Since making the commitment to eat well in the morning, I can sit down and work at my desk without visions of sugary snacks distracting my writing. I can be present for several clients or teach a whole class (often talking about food) without my stomach rumbling from any lack.

Without the requisite blood sugar drop that comes with the standard muffin or green smoothie, your moods stay on an even keel. You can now cope with whatever the day brings with grace.

Imagine: no embarrassing rumbling, no slump, no need for a cookie (or 3) mid-afternoon, a good night’s sleep and enough energy to get up in the morning.

Sure, I’ve adapted what I learned to suit me more fully, but the basics have been established in my mind as the way to go.

The recipe:

  1. A full, colourful, warm, delicious meal.

In nitty-gritty terms, you want to make sure that your morning meal makes up 25% of your daily calorie intake. Include protein, complex carbohydrates and a fermented food for ease of digestion.

If you’re trying to cut down on animal protein, this is the meal to eat it!

(Enter your email in the blue & orange box below to receive more details, the reason each part is so important and a handy PDF to pin to your fridge.)

  1. Play with your food.

OK, you know I don’t mean finger-painting in your porridge.

I mean play around with different foods, new ways of preparing old favourites. What happens in your day if you have an egg along with your green drink? What happens if you have a sweet potato instead of toast? How would you feel after eating another helping of last night’s casserole or a bowl of the lentil soup you just warmed up for your kid’s thermos?

My friend Sue Ann runs an online community called Chocolate for Breakfast. Whether you literally eat chocolate for breakfast or not (she does!), it engenders the idea that all of our meals need to be infused with pleasure.

What works for YOU?

You should have seen the look of relief on my client’s face when I gave her “permission” to eat a full breakfast again.

Bon Appétit!

Now I’ve got a challenge for you:

In the comments, share your fave breakfast & whether it works for you. THEN, spend a few days playing around with different options and let us know what you’ve discovered. When you share your thoughts, you open the possibilities for others.

Give your friends the chance to improve their day too: share this post by clicking any (or all!) of these buttons.



To help you get going, I’ve made a PDF to post on your fridge: the basic recipe (and why each element is important) + suggestions and room for you to add a few ideas of your own.

24 thoughts on “What’s for Breakfast?

  1. Pingback: Why Do I Need a Nap? - Whole HealthWhole Health

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  3. I have a green smoothie… I know, not ideal, especially that it’s getting very cold here. I put flax seeds, a touch of miso, some sprouts, ginger, turmeric, and veggies according to the seasons. I make it room temperature and thick enough so that I can savor it like a soup, with a spoon, with some coconut butter or almond butter. I do feel though, that maybe a cooked breakfast would help me keep warm, since I’m always cold. I just so much love my smoothie :)).

  4. I eat different breakfasts at different times depending in what is going in in my life. I actually love scrambled eggs, with spinach or some salmon, mushrooms and little tomatoes but that is not something I do every day.

  5. I’m kind of addicted to a green smoothie in which I throw any flaxseeds, ginger, a touch of miso and curcuma, lemon, and any veggie from my local farmer. I need to add some protein powder to it to make it more consistent, and eat it with a spoon with a little coconut or almond butter. I love the complexity of taste. Yet, I know, it’s raw (even though I make it room temperature, not cold)… and it’s getting freakin’ cold here… so might not be the best thing…

    • Staying in tune with the temperature is an important consideration for all your meal choices. Well done, Mahité.

  6. As a fellow nutritionist the two biggest excuses I get is “I don’t have time” and “I’m not hungry in the morning” and which I say to them” If you have time to brush your teeth you have time to eat breakfast” or “if you last ate dinner at 6pm your brain is now starving” – it is habit, and one of the best habits to get into. When my clients change this it turns around their energy levels, weight, etc. Good post!

  7. Hey Cathy, What a fab idea for a post!! I find sometimes it depends which country I am in and when I get up!! Though I love green smoothies, I’m just not inspired by them first thing in the cold grey UK months, I have to say. Hot water and lemon is a must, though I’m now back on good coffee (with blended coconut oil – don’t knock it til you have tried it! ) which tends to do me these days, and a piece of soft fruit, light a satsuma, or some strawberries. I do love a bit of last nights left overs too, just to get the taste buds going! So a bit of a mix mash…!

    • Well done, Farah – taking in the season and the locale into consideration is an important way of making a meal work for you. Variety is the spice of life!

  8. i’m one of those “can’t eat first thing in the morning” people. i’ve tried, but i am always starving in two hours (why do you think this is, cathy?). fortunately, i work at home and can ease into my day, just the way my body prefers it. i love eggs the best, but don’t eat them very often (since everyone else in my family is allergic to them).

      • not super late. we eat dinner about 7:30, and i may or may not have a snack afterwards (no later than 9:00). i stay up until about 1:30/2:00 a.m. (we’re a “night owl” family!)

        • The late bedtime might be it, April. Your internal organs do particular jobs during sleep that they don’t get a chance to do during waking hours. If you’re up late, the liver in particular won’t get a chance to do some of its recharging until later, so it’s not quite ready to resume digestive duties when you wake up.

  9. So here’s my favorite breakfast that I eat once or twice a week… boiled egg, bacon, a small crisp raspberry danish.

    My second fav… green smoothie.

    My usual when I don’t have much time or are not that hungry… a Zone protein bar and a little fruit.

    • Kathleen, do you notice if one type of breakfast “sticks to your ribs” more than another?

  10. I love this line “As I tell 5-year-olds, when you eat more colours your cells will be as happy as when you see a rainbow.” That just feels delicious on so many levels. xx

  11. My “defaults” for breakfast are:

    1. Ezekiel english muffin with Natural Balance spread and organic strawberry preserves (Italian, so not over-processed like the Italian kind. 🙂 )

    2. GREEN SMOOTHIE!!! 🙂 Cathy, tell me if this one works for breakfast. I don’t add any sugar, and it’s heavily greens with a bit of protein from the nuts or seeds.
    makes 2 servings:
    2 cups coconut water
    half a head of romaine
    generous handfuls of spinach and/or kale
    1.5 stalks celery
    half an apple
    half a pear
    half a frozen banana
    1 tablespoon coconut oil
    a couple tablespoons of flax seeds or a handful of almonds
    a dash of homemade vanilla

    • How does this work for you, Michelle? Part of the problem with the smoothie is the coldness, like pouring frozen veg into your boiling pot. If you eat animal protein, get some into your morning and you’re golden. If not, try some lentils.

  12. I usually run out the door after 2 cups of coffee, but before I go I make my son a big breakfast….usually some version of eggs and cheese on toast or a spinach omelet. I don’t make anything for myself because I don’t like to eat that early, so I eat something similar around 9, after walking the dogs for an hour.

    Recently I have been craving what the Russians often feed their kids for breakfast: a bit of dark bread with butter and salmon caviar. I like Angela’s idea above, and I love smoked salmon so that would be an excellent addition.

    I am grateful to have more ideas!

  13. My go to breakfast for years has been cottage cheese, blueberries and a little jam with 2 cups of coffee. I recently started switching in gluten free oatmeal but I always find I’m hungrier at work when I do.

  14. My comfort breakfast is a cuppa tea and a lovely thick piece of granary bread toasted with butter!! And a piece of fruit!! 🙂

    My compromise breakfast – which I’m coming to love just as much is a (thinner) slice of toasted granary bread with a slice of smoked salmon (I buy something called sandwhich salmon which is cut so delicately thin that the smoked part isn’t too overwhelming) and a poached egg on top. It feels like a Sunday morning breakfast (kind of a healthy version of eggs ben) but it hardly takes time to prepare at all. Of course i still get my cuppa tea and piece of fruit!!! 🙂

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