Considering Breakfast

Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day. This may be because I love the warmth and comfort of breakfast foods and would happily eat them for lunch and dinner and never want for more. But it might also be because breakfast happens in the clean-slate portion of the day; it is a meal that, by association, suggests possibility. The mood of breakfast is a hopeful one.

I know that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. You might not want to climb out of bed and cook–or eat, for that matter. It could be that you tend to have dinner late and you are still digesting it in the morning. Or, maybe you are just not a morning person. Perhaps cutting out food before noon seems like a good way to reduce the calories you consume. Or it might be the pressure under which you start each day that pushes you to overlook this important meal.

Whatever the reason, breakfast remains a habit worth cultivating. It establishes a pattern at the start of each day of considering yourself and what you need in order to be well. Breakfast is about self-care and, imbued within it, is this message: “I matter.”

One of the best aspects to breakfast is that it’s a step toward health you can take each day without working up a sweat or leaving the house. It’s the way you break your evening fast and let your body know that you are not experiencing famine, that you will indeed eat again. If you start and stick with it, breakfast will bestow its gifts: increasing your energy, attention span and sense of well being, and helping you maintain a stable weight. It will lift your quality of life because starting the day around the kitchen table, alone or with those you love, is beautiful and civilized, and worth making room for. Most importantly, a wholesome breakfast will set your blood sugar for the day, establishing a pattern of moderate climbs and moderate falls, a pattern of steady concentration and stable energy.

Here is a basic truth: we must eat to live. It’s not a matter of if we eat, but of when and how. When you skip breakfast, no matter the reason, you may not realize there’s a consequence. You may not have considered the pattern of snacking that often follows a missed breakfast. When your energy and concentration begin to wane, do you ever reach for white foods, the refined carbohydrates that comprise most packaged and store-bought quick “meals?” These send your blood sugar spiking upward in quick relief, but then, of course, there is the downward free-fall that follows and a reaching out once again. Or have you noticed a pattern of depriving yourself all day because you are too busy to eat or watching your weight, and then binging at night on the first foods you see, usually simple sugars that send your blood sugar sky high? This pattern of rapidly rising and falling blood sugar puts you at risk. It’s a pattern that promotes inflammation and is said to stimulate tumor growth.

For all these reasons, it is worth finding a strategy for working breakfast into your morning. It doesn’t have to be time consuming and, in fact, it doesn’t even need to consist of traditional breakfast foods. The goal is to make breakfast out of fresh, wholesome ingredients, but you can expand your ideas about what your list might include. Breakfast can consist of a bowl of leftover soup, warm rice, fish, olives, hummus, whole grains, or a smoothie. Breakfast can be a piece of delicious whole-grain bread and a slice of good quality cheese. All of these can be reheated, if they need to be heated at all. In fact, you can make a large pot of oatmeal on Monday and heat up a portion for several days afterward. Once you begin to consider them, you may see that the options go on and on.

While a simple breakfast requires no recipe, here are two for special mornings when you want something more. The first you can make ahead so that it’s ready when you want it; the second is for cooking up in the moment: Maple-Nut Granola and Wild Salmon Scrambled Eggs

Copyright Ellen Arian, Ellen’s Food & Soul