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The Daily Challenge of Breakfast

March 20, 2011

If all Americans ate a better breakfast, we could begin to fix what’s wrong with the way most of us eat—namely too much food but ironically not enough nutrients. In fact, I think that breakfast serves as a microcosm of how we eat in general. Most people don’t get enough protein in their diet to repair and build muscle; nor do we get enough fiber, and both are particularly true of breakfast. Instead we load up on empty carbs.

Unlike people in many other countries, Americans associate sweet and starchy foods rather than savory foods with the first meal of the day. Waffles, sweetened cereals, doughnuts, pancakes and the usual breakfast suspects are low in protein. Most are also low in fiber as well. Americans also eat far too few vegetables and that is especially true at breakfast. Next time you decide to scramble some eggs, how about having some sliced avocado with them or even sautéing some spinach and onions first to liven up those eggs? Either combo makes a meal that will keep you satisfied for hours. That said, I know that breakfast poses a challenge to many Atkins followers, particularly in the first few weeks.

Starting the Day Wrong

Think about it. For most people not following a low-carb lifestyle, a typical weekday breakfast is coffee, cereal with skim milk and OJ. (Or, it may consist of a bagel, a doughnut or a toaster pastry in place of the cereal.) Such a meal has one and only one advantage: speed. (Which is not to say that it hasn’t become a comfortable habit for many people.) But when it comes to nutrition and setting you up right for the long day ahead, this breakfast simply doesn’t pass muster. The cereal is almost surely made with highly refined grains so its fiber content is minimal. More than likely it’s sweetened with added sugar in one form or another. And of course, the OJ is the equivalent of liquid sugar. The hit on such a breakfast, assuming half a cup of cereal, half a cup of milk, and half a cup of OJ comes in at about 33 grams of Net Carbs—most of it in the form of one form sugar or another—all quickly burned for energy.

Missing is enough protein to make you feel full along with fiber, which performs a similar function. No wonder most people are ravenous by midmorning. Other people find they are tired just a few hours after awaking. In either case, they’re easily tempted by the sugary snacks in the vending machine. Eating this way sets up a vicious cycle of blood sugar highs and lows that leads to eating more and more high-carb foods.

Starting the Day Right

It’s not difficult to understand why we Americans have gotten in the habit of eating breakfasts high in refined grains and other sweet but ultimately unsatisfying foods. No one needs to tell you how hectic mornings can be when you have to get to work, catch a commuter train, get your kids to the school bus stop—or all three—all the while watching the clock. But when your last meal may have been 12 hours earlier, your body is crying out for real nutrition. What’s a body to do?
As an Atkins follower, you already know that skipping breakfast is not an option. Numerous studies reveal that kids who eat breakfast perform better in school than those who skip breakfast. The same goes to adults: family, household and work responsibilities are stressful enough without running on empty. I wonder if the road rage is caused in part by people who left home without having breakfast. Studies also show that people who skip breakfast are more likely to have problems with their weight. Research also shows that women who consume high glycemic (high in sugar and other quickly metabolized carbs) breakfasts burn fat less efficiently than other women who consume a low glycemic meal. (For more, see Your Breakfast and Your Weight.) While all meals are important, eating a filling, nutritious breakfast helps you start the day on the right foot.

A Proper Breakfast

Atkins guidelines call for you to have sufficient protein at every meal. So your challenge is to combine these two components at the first meal of the day. But how do you do this ASAP? One obvious solution is to have an Atkins Advantage™ shake and/or bar or a Day Break™ bar with some cheese or nuts (after the first two weeks on Induction). In OWL, you could break up a bar and mix it with half cup of plain whole-milk yogurt. Or mix nuts, yogurt and berries for a breakfast parfait. None of these breakfasts will take you any longer than pouring out cereal and milk does. Roll-ups of cheese, meat and vegetables are another quick protein-rich breakfast, as are hard-boiled eggs. Just make ‘em the night before. For more ideas, see Ten Breakfasts in 10 Minutes. Some of the ideas in What’s for Breakfast on Inductionand What’s for Breakfast in OWL? are quickies; others are more suited to weekends.

My Solution to Busy Mornings

I get up at about 5:00 a.m., in order to work out, take my dog for a walk, shower and drive to my office on schedule. Even so, I find it hard to find the time to make breakfast during the week. My solution is to have a mini-breakfast of an Atkins bar or shake and a cup of coffee at home and then another small meal at the office a couple of hours later. This could be berries and cottage cheese or a devilled egg or some almonds or walnuts. It gives me the energy I need, along with sufficient protein and fiber. On the other hand, I love nothing more than a “real” breakfast on the weekends of bacon and eggs—guilt free!

Share and Share Alike

How have you solved the breakfast dilemma? What are your favorite foods and timesaving tips? Please share with the Atkins Community and also let me know what you’d like me to discuss in this blog.

Register with Atkins today for additional tips, low carb recipes, and ideas on how to overcome your weight loss plateau.

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