Friday, March 23, 2012

Step 1: Start with a healthy breakfast

So the first step (and arguably the most important) in "Breaking the Food Seduction" is eating a healthy breakfast.  The right breakfast can set you up for success, or failure, so choose wisely.  So what constitutes a healthy breakfast?  The two key components are 1) lots of fiber and 2) healthy protein.

Fiber is essential to winning the battle against cravings.  Fiber not only fills you up, but it also fills you up for longer.  Fiber digests slowly, gradually releasing a steady stream of energy all morning.  Low fiber foods (white toast/bagels, sugary cereals) release their sugar too quickly, raising and then dropping your blood sugar, opening you up to mid-morning cravings.  These refined carbohydrates (which you might as well consider pure sugar, because it takes no time at all for them to break down into sugar) increase the serotonin in your brain.  Serotonin regulates sleep, and mood.  These serotonin spikes can leave you feeling sluggish and drained - and reaching for a sugary and/or caffeinated pick-me-up.

Enter protein.  Plant-based protein blocks that extra serotonin surge and prevents the ensuing sluggish feeling.  I say plant based protein because most animal based proteins are laden with fat and cholesterol, and that is  not how we want to start our day.  I'll discuss more on the effects of fat and cholesterol in a later post, for now, let's stick with breakfast.

So here's a breakfast I had on a successful day:

Cantaloupe, dark rye toast, and scrambled tofu.  Fruits have lots of great soluble fiber that will keep your GI tract healthy and happy, and they help bundle up all those fruit sugars and make sure they are released gradually throughout the morning to give you the energy you need to make it til lunch.  Hearty whole grains, in particular low Glycemic Index whole grains like rye and pumpernickel, are also rich in fiber, to keep you full and prevent a mid-morning sugar crash.  Scrambled tofu is a quick protein source that easily replaces scrambled eggs, without all of the cholesterol or moral dilemmas.

If you have never tried scrambled tofu before, don't be afraid, it's really quite tasty.  Simply crumble up a block of firm tofu into a skillet.  You can add in diced onions and peppers for added flavour.  Season it with onion powder, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, turmeric, salt and pepper.  Saute it up til it starts to brown.  Voila!  That's it.  Seriously tasty, hearty breakfast.  That day I didn't crave pastries at work at all!  It had lost its appeal.

Other mornings where I've just had a smoothie, my resolve has not been so great and I find my sweet tooth aching quite quickly.  I either need to improve my smoothie recipe by boosting the fiber and protein in it, or have it along side some other hearty options.  This is still a work in progress, but I'm sorting it out.

Another easy breakfast that satisfies the protein and fiber in one fell swoop is beans.  You may not consider beans traditional breakfast food, but many cultures around the world eat beans for breakfast, and for good reason.  They are cheap, easy, fill you up, keep you full, and are SO good for you.  The easiest way to enjoy them for breakfast is in breakfast burrito form.  Saute up some canned beans with onions, peppers, tomatoes and/or salsa, and season it up with some cumin and chili powder.  Wrap it up in a whole wheat tortilla and you now have a portable breakfast.  The other great thing about this is you can make a lot at once, save it in the fridge, and you have a week's worth of breakfasts at the touch of a microwave button.

I'll have more ideas to come, but I thought I'd better update to let you know how it's going!

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