Clean Up Your (First) Act — Breakfast!

Because I’m really enjoying this one-step-at-a-time philosophy I’ve been allowing myself to bask in lately (instead of my usual “everything, now, fast”-type approach), instead of forcing myself to cut out things like sugar, my half-cup of coffee, a small dessert once or twice a day and junky crackers as an occasional snack (really, that about sums up my devilish daily diet fails, which isn’t that bad, right?) all at the same time, I’m slowly trying to improve upon one meal at a time, once choice at a time, swapping in one healthy alternative for something less virtuous each day. So why not start with the most important meal of the day (arguably only because it’s the first one, in my opinion), breakfast?

To me, breakfast comes in two categories: Sweet or savoury. Being the sweets person that I am AND being with child, it’s pretty hard for me to not just want cookies and a fake mocha every morning. So although that does happen from time to time, usually what I actually have is a piece of 5-ingredient honey whole-wheat toast and a cup of tea. I’m sure to use 5-ingredient (or less) jam sweetened only with fruit juice and/or almond butter or regular butter, but clearly my breakfast is still lacking — um, fruit, anyone? I don’t like to cook so early in the morning (baby sleeping, hungry dog wandering the house, not to mention my strange pregnancy appetite issues), so eggs are pretty much out of the question for me right now, unless I get creative. Here are some ways YOU can get creative (and HEALTHY!) with your breakfasts, quickly and easily.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.

If you are a waffle or pancake kind of person, try this whole-wheat recipe that you can make a big batch of and freeze/heat up during the week. Be sure to use only real maple syrup, and top them with fruit — strawberries, blueberries and/or bananas are some of my favourites to combine with waffles — and a pat of real butter if necessary.

If you’re not a breakfast eater at all, definitely try starting with something simple, like me — a piece of toast, preferably with some sort of protein like cheese or a nut butter, and an easy fruit if you need to take it to go — a washed apple or a banana. Once you get used to eating something in the morning, you may find you can work your way up to bigger and better things, like eggs, yogurt or the waffles mentioned above.

Savoury breakfast eaters, hopefully you’re already on the right path — a couple of eggs, egg whites or even some sort of breakfast sandwich would be great, but make it yourself. Don’t fall prey to the boxed “light” breakfast sandwiches with tons of ingredients, half of which you can’t even pronounce. I’m the first to admit I was pretty addicted to one of the frozen kinds at the beginning of my pregnancy, but I’ve opted out of the processed-food group and I feel much better about it. Even if a 5-ingredient English muffin doesn’t exist, you can still pile some scrambled eggs and Parmesan cheese on whole-wheat toast — cut the bread with a biscuit cutter if you really need that fast-food feel!

If you usually just walk out the door with a cup of coffee, I’m assuming it’s not decaf — and if it is, switch to regular. Please. Most decaf coffee has the caffeine removed using methylene chloride, which is also used in paint stripping and polyurethane foam manufacturing. Workers exposed to this chemical are at a greater risk for developing cancer. Great. Add some milk for protein, and if you’re up for it try the mocha drink I mentioned above and see if you’re not totally shocked you’re drinking coffee without refined sugar, which I was when I first tried it. Next to this concoction I think tea with honey is probably your best bet if you need something hot to wake you up in the morning (avoid decaf here also), or just try hot water with lemon — it is said to have amazing cleansing properties if taken first thing in the morning.

If you’re a cereal person, try switching to oatmeal — old-fashioned rolled oats or steel cut, not the pre-packaged kind with fruity flavours. It’s really a blank canvas for any (healthy) flavours you want to add to it, like non-dairy milks, maple syrup, chopped fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts or all of the above — if you add enough fun stuff in there I’m telling you it will keep you full for hours. I once ordered oatmeal at a restaurant with all of their offerings “minus the walnuts” because of my allergies, and although I got a strange look from the cashier it was SUPER delicious and I’d order it a million times over if we frequented the place more often. Whole grains are your best bet, and oatmeal is much better than sugar-laden, processed, boxed cereals.

So tomorrow morning I am going to incorporate fruit into my morning routine. Cutting it out of even just one meal or snack ensures you’re NOT going to get enough throughout your day, so it’s important to include some sort of fruit or vegetable (if you’re a savoury breakfast eater) as often as you can. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer AND keep tabs on your appetite and hunger levels – all significant ways you can try to outweigh some of the negative effects modern life has on our bodies, like stress, chemicals and not enough sleep. Start out with something you know you like, be it turnips, apples or pear juice, and work your way out, trying new things and experimenting with new preparations. You’ve got nothing to lose and better health to gain.

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