One of the things I love about intermittent fasting (i.e., not eating for 12+ hours overnight) is that when breakfast finally comes, I really appreciate my food!
So much so that, after waiting to eat for many hours, I don’t want to just chug a boring old smoothie or throw a protein bar down the hatch (which I used to do when breakfast felt like a tedious chore). Instead, I now revel in preparing and savoring delicious breakfasts.
And so, over time breakfast has become a beloved ritual. Like a kid in a candy store, I carefully consider my breakfast options: “What do I feel like eating today? Eggs? If so, poached, scrambled or fried? Or something fresh and fruity, like Bircher muesli (overnight oats) with berries? Many tuna melt (when I have tuna salad in my fridge)? Or (when I don’t have much time) dinner leftovers with an egg on top or Greek yogurt with my favorite grain-free granola and fresh berries?”
Just thinking about this smorgasbord of options makes my mouth water. Minutes later, I sit down to a delicious, sustaining dish that satisfies my hunger and my taste buds.
Breakfast doesn’t have to happen at the crack of dawn
By the way — and I’ll blog about this on my nutrition website soon — breakfast literally means “breaking fast,” i.e., eating for the first time after the night. There’s no hard and fast rule as to when fast-breaking has to happen, though breakfast cereal manufacturers would like us to think that breakfast should be eaten at 7 am and involve sugar-laden, processed grain products. But many people don’t actually feel hungry until 10 or 10.30, and when you practice intermittent fasting, you may even go for longer than that. And that’s just fine — you won’t starve if you don’t eat at the crack of dawn.
Only you can tell what’s the best time for you to have breakfast. Try a few different time slots and see what works best for your body and your schedule.
Work routines often force people to eat breakfast before they feel hungry, but could experiment with drinking just a cup of coffee or tea with cream (no sugar) before you head out and eating breakfast at work — ideally something homemade like Bircher muesli (overnight oats) or my Mediterranean smoothie, both of which can be prepared the night before and are easy to transport. If you eat at work, try not to work while eating; either eat in the break room or cafeteria, or, if eating at your desk, shut off your phone and close your laptop for the 5-10 minutes it takes to have your breakfast.
Breakfast doesn’t have to be a carb-fest
Another misconception I’d like to debunk is that breakfast has to be sweet or starchy. Even if you don’t eat breakfast cereal, many folks think breakfast should contain a lot of carbs like bread, toast, bagels or croissants, bread casseroles, waffles, pancakes, jam, orange juice, sugar-sweetened yogurts, fruits, etc. However, until about 50 years ago, no one ate that stuff first thing in the morning; this style of eating is a regrettable hold-over from the low-fat era when eggs, bacon and sausages were shunned in favor of low-far, sugary foods. (And now we have a diabesity epidemic. Hmmm — maybe there’s a connection?)
That’s not to say you should never eat pancakes or waffles — but when you do, avoid the processed ones (and the syrups they swim in); make your own with eggs and milk and top them with yogurt and berries, for instance. (OK, and perhaps a smidgen of maple syrup if the yogurt & berries are too tart for you.)
You see, the problem with a carbohydrate-rich breakfast is that it sets you up for a blood-sugar roller coaster ride of spikes and crashes, cravings and binges that can last all day and can lead to mood swings, weight gain and, over the long term, cardio-metabolic health problems. On the other hand, a breakfast that’s packed with protein, fat, fiber and deliciousness will keep you satisfied and clear-headed for hours.
So go ahead and embrace hearty, savory breakfasts that brim with nutrients and provide deep satisfaction. These should be a must on weekends, when we have time to make slightly more elaborate breakfasts. But even on weekdays there are many quick and easy ways to enjoy a savory breakfast. Like these spinach and Parmesan scrambled eggs, which took me all of 7 minutes to make!
Spinach and Parmesan scrambled eggs
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 3 oz baby spinach, washed
- 2 eggs Ideally, pastured or omega-3 enriched.
- 1 egg white Optional; a great way to increase protein and use up leftover eggs whites that might be sitting in your fridge.
- 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
- In a small skillet on medium heat, warm the olive oil until it's hot. Fry garlic for 30 seconds, stirring to prevent browning.
- Add spinach leaves and a pinch of salt to the skillet. At first it will seem like there's far too much spinach, but fear not -- within seconds of jabbing and stirring the spinach with a cooking spoon the leaves will wilt in the heat and you'll be left with a tiny amount.
- While the spinach is cooking, crack eggs into a small bowl (add egg white(s) if using). Add 2 tbsp Parmesan and black pepper and combine all the ingredients with a wire whisk.
- Pour eggs over the spinach in the skillet and stir gently for 30-40 seconds until the egg is mostly set. (Don't overcook or it will be dry and crumbly; the egg will continue cooking once you remove it form the heat.)
- Scatter with the rest of the Parmesan and serve immediately, accompanied, if you like, by a slice of wholegrain sourdough toast. (Trader Joe's sprouted sourdough bread is my current favorite. )