Milk and Cereal

They say the most important meal of the day is breakfast.

I say the most important meal of the day is my office’s 3 p.m. champagne ration, but sure, breakfast is a close second.

(Just kidding. This is from that day we won a Pulitzer. Usually champagne’s at 4.)

I’ve been an advocate of breakfast for as long as I can remember, though it’s taken different forms with each passing decade. As a kid, breakfast meant the five of us squeezed around the kitchen table over Cap’n Crunch and the comics. As a college student, breakfast meant strawberry yogurt, Cracklin’ Oat Bran and the immediate dissipation of hangovers because 21-year-old bodies are resilient like that. When I moved to New York, breakfast meant bacon, egg & cheese sandwiches; homefries; bagels and – surprise surprise – what I like to refer to as the Manhattan 15.

Or the Manhattan 45. Semantics.

It was really only in January 2011 when I started to wise up to my unhealthy ways that I began to give some serious thought to my breakfast composition. I mean, I knew from body-conscious DJ Tanner I was supposed to eat breakfast every day, but I had never really stopped to think about whether a bowl of Fruit Loops was actually cutting it. As I began to learn more about energy, calories and the importance of nutrition, I swapped my kids cereals for what I was sure were more sensible varieties. You know, the brands with important things like fiber and fruits and whole grains and riboflavin. Mmm. Riboflavin.

I ate Special-K. I ate Kashi. I ate Bare Naked granola. I felt like a grown-up!

And then this winter, I decided to look at the nutrition label on my beloved granola.

granola

Adding a box of raisins and a cup of almond milk, and it brought me to a whopping 40 grams of sugar — or 74 percent of my daily intake — before 7 a.m. Eating granola every morning, I felt like a grown-up all right. One about to be diagnosed with diabetes.

With that realization, I decided this year to revamp my breakfast routine. After decades of carb-laden morning meals, I pledged at the ripe age of 29 to find creative ways to work more fruits, vegetables, legumes and protein into my a.m. routine., and I’ve (mostly) so far stuck with it. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not always easy to forgo free cereal at work, and I have been known to backslide into the delicious world of Basic 4 when the mood strikes. But planning ahead and packing my own nutrition-dense breakfast brings so many positives — from feeling fuller all morning long to giving my sore muscles the protein they need to recover — that I’ve mostly been able to justify the added prep work and planning it takes.

I’ve tried several morning combinations with a healthy make-up of protein, carbs and fat, and these are some of my favorites:

  • Half an avocado on whole wheat toast with two hard boiled eggs for 19 grams of protein and just 6 grams of sugar.

    photo 1 (71)

    Paas Easter egg dye optional.

  • A smoothie with peanut butter, banana, cashew milk and baby spinach for 7 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein and two servings of fruits/veggies before sun-up.
photo 2 (65)

Why cashew milk? Because the full-page ads in Runner’s World clearly worked for me.

  • Chia seed pudding (chia soaked in dark chocolate soy milk) with a sliced pear for 18 grams fiber, 13 grams protein and one delightful day of finding chia seeds hidden in your teeth for hours on end. I ate it before I remembered to take a picture, so here’s a photo of a wheaten terrier — not Keira — I dogsat last weekend instead. You’re welcome.
She prefers dining on duck.

She prefers dining on duck.

Are there still going to be days I choose the buttered bagel or bowl of French Toast Crunch over the healthier options? Absolutely. But if I can swap out my sugar-filled breakfasts for something more wholesome at least three days a week, I know I’m making strides toward health.

And that’s worth toasting with a bloody mary.

What’s your breakfast routine?

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2 Responses to Milk and Cereal

  1. Marie says:

    This post made me think about my own breakfast routine. I often have a low fat yogurt or hot oatmeal (tons of sugar and not very filling) and I’m always hungry for elevensies. I would love some tips on how to better start my day!

    • Isn’t it amazing how much sugar can sneak in? Oatmeal itself is great for you — just skip the pre-sweetened packs and add the flavors yourself. My favorites: a tablespoon peanut butter and a mashed banana or a half cup canned pumpkin (not canned pumpkin pie, alas), pumpkin pie spice and a drizzle maple syrup. That’s a serving of veggies before work! For yogurt, I have been trying to swap out sweetened flavors for plain greek, like fage total. Took a few days to get used to but now I can’t get enough. Good luck!

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