Breakfast Basics: Feelin’ Good in the Morning

Breakfast choices have been in the spotlight lately as food writer Mark Bittman recently called out McDonald’s on its not-so-healthy formula for “fresh” oatmeal. It’s gotten folks talking about what they use for jet fuel first thing in the morning, from their fave homemade oatmeal recipes to different choices altogether.

Breakfast is always a very important time for me. Back when I was still in school, like so many others at that age, it was a meal completely absent from my diet. If I could go a few extra hours without eating, then that’s a few calories I’ve saved for my daily intake, right? So wrong.

Now that I eat a daily breakfast, my days have benefited in a highly noticeable way. My mind is sharper, my body feels more robust, and my metabolism is actually stronger. Besides, why pass by any opportunity to eat if it’s good for you? Hello, common sense!

My personal breakfast choices vary from week to week, but they always have some basic denominators in common:

1) Breakfast is eaten at home. There’s something inherently special about taking the first meal at home, reflecting the intention to focus on yourself, to take the time for that first bite of daily nourishment. Like a morning stretch or a cup of coffee. I find taking the first meal at home helps me enjoy it slowly, focus my mind, and really relish the start of the day that’s only for me, without distraction from outside sources.
2)    Breakfast is wholesome, but not filling. Breakfast should be just enough food to satisfy the 8-hour hunger strike you’ve just endured, but not so much that you’ve stuffed yourself. Do this and the metabolism become overwhelmed and you’ll be sluggish all day. Whether it’s a few apples, a large bowl of oatmeal, a couple of eggs, or nut butter on toast, my breakfast is always just enough food to feel the food in my belly, but never more than that.
3)    Breakfast is quick quick quick. It actually takes less time to prepare my breakfasts than to brew the pot of warm coffee! For oatmeal, 3 minutes on the stovetop. For eggs, 5 minutes on a hot skillet (or boiled the night before). For yogurt and fresh fruit, immediate. And no Pop-Tarts or Hot Pockets were required for such a speedy execution.
4)    Breakfast foods are real, simple, and good. It’s rare that I go all out with a homemade breakfast platter of greens, omelets, breads, and the like, or the occasion that donuts and sugary foods occupy the breakfast table. Rather, foods are real. Like fresh fruit, whole grains, a bit of protein, and a cup of Joe. Simple, in all the same ways. Keep in mind that your stomach is sensitive first thing in the morning, and especially if you had a heavy dinner, drink, or dessert the night before, your stomach could use something soothing and easy to digest. Simple keeps things moving along without too much strain on the system. And good. Enjoy that breakfast, dammit. Meals that we enjoy fill us up longer and reduce cravings later in the day. Now, that doesn’t mean I splurge on Ho-Hos and jelly rolls for breakfast; rather, I put a drizzle of honey on my oatmeal if it makes me eat the whole thing, or a bit of butter on my toast if it satisfies me til lunch.

Get a little breakfast inspiration from the master himself, Mark Bittman. Here he talks about the glories of savory whole grain dishes for breakfast, such as polenta, congee, and chickpeas. Not feeling it? You will once you see his food photos.

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