Breakfast really is the most important meal, as cliché as that sounds. You might be wondering why? Well, one of the biggest factors is that what you eat for breakfast sets your metabolism for the day.
Have you ever started your morning with pancakes (even Paleo, or AIP versions!) smothered with maple syrup, and wonder why you feel hungry every couple of hours for the rest of the day? Your body got a big helping of starch and sugar first thing, setting you up for a wild blood sugar roller-coaster ride as time goes on. Even when you decide you are done with the sweet stuff and try to get off that ride, it is still likely you’ll experience continued cravings and it will be difficult for you to make the right food choices. This is not a good way to set yourself up for success!
What is an alternative? Eating a big, nourishing breakfast including good amounts of fat and protein, and dense with nutrients is the best way to set up your blood sugar regulation up for success. Although we know which foods to eat and avoid during the elimination phase, a less-often-tackled issue is the balance of macronutrients (that is the proportions of fat, carbohydrates, and protein) that help you achieve your goals. While I don’t make specific macronutrient recommendations for everyone, since goals and stages of illness are all unique, I can tell you that starting to focus on a nutrient-dense breakfast with adequate fat and protein, and lower in carbs will help anyone start to see improvement in this area.
What is so hard about eating a great breakfast?
Well, a lot of people (myself included) experience a few barriers to getting a good breakfast on the table. Some aren’t hungry in the morning, others have aversions to certain foods (like proteins) in the morning, and many others have their schedules so packed that they opt for easier and more convenient options. While the first two sometimes need some troubleshooting in the realm of digestion or habit formation, the last one is by far the most common: convenience.
While quick and easy meals (like smoothies) are convenient in the morning, when time is at a premium, I would argue that convenience comes back to haunt most folks during the afternoon sugar crash. Even though we can AIP-ify common quick meals like smoothies, n’oatmeal, granola, and pancakes, I’d argue these aren’t the most ideal options for long-term healing, and many of us who have had long-term success at both lowering inflammation and balancing our blood sugar don’t rely on them to start our day off.
So, what are we looking for in an ideal AIP breakfast?
- Most of us will want to opt for a macronutrient ratio that trends more towards fat and protein than heavy on carbohydrate and starch. This is going to help satiate us as well as fuel our metabolisms with healthy fat that will keep us going longer than than sweet stuff. You’ll notice I don’t give firm ratios here – some folks do best on a very low-carb approach, others do better with some starchy carbs in as long as they have some protein and fat to blunt the effect. The trick is to experiment to find out what works best for your metabolism, starting on the lower-carb end of the spectrum.
- Meals that are easily cooked from scratch or prepped ahead for a quick re-heat. Like I said above, the biggest barrier with breakfast is usually timing, which can always be circumvented by planning ahead (you guys are probably so sick of this by now, but set yourself up for success!).
- Meals that contain the highest amount of nutrient density. This is often lost out on breakfast! It is great to set a habit of adding some “extra” nutrient density at breakfast as a matter of routine. Maybe you add a scoop of fermented vegetables, drink some kombucha or bone broth on the side, or sneak some organ meats into your breakfast patties. Getting some of those “wins” in earlier in the day is likely to help you continue to make nutrient-dense food choices throughout the rest of your day, or as a secondary effect, blunt any less-than-ideal food choices you might make later.
What do I do to plan a “fail-safe” breakfast routine?
- I always keep backup meals in the freezer for breakfast “emergencies” (they come particularly in handy when returning late from the airport or when I have unexpected dinner guests who eat up any leftovers planned for the next morning). I keep a few single-servings of chicken soup as well as some meat patties frozen at all times, and replenish as soon as I run out.
- Every weekend, I cook one soup or stew and save it as my “breakfast bowl.” I could eat through this in a matter of days, but I choose to leave it for breakfast and allow time to cook or assemble my other meals, as I often have more time later in my day. This is the easiest and quickest breakfast option in my house – just heat and serve!
- When I don’t have a premade breakfast soup or stew, I cook a protein and assemble it with some leftover vegetables, ferments, and some fruit. I usually do this in the summer when soup isn’t appealing. I’ll rotate between breakfast patties, a whole roast chicken, a pot roast, and sometimes salmon.
Using these three strategies, I am never faced with the option of not having a nutrient-dense breakfast ready in a short amount of time. Having my breakfast options set means that I am able to start my day eating the way that I know gives me the highest amounts of energy and leaves me able to make less decisions and experience less stress in the mornings.
Looking for recipes to include in your routine? Here are some of my favorite recipes that I’ve published on the site:
- Moroccan Breakfast Skillet
- Three-Herb Breakfast Patties
- Italian-Spiced 50/50 Sausages
- Butternut Breakfast Soup
- Maple-Sage Breakfast Patties
I’d encourage you to consider if you are making a good enough effort to set yourself up for success in the breakfast department. Have you found any tips or tricks to setting up your own “fail-safe” breakfast routine?