Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What to Eat for Breakfast?

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So let’s take a quick look at our choices: cold cereal loaded with sugar, toast with chocolate spread or peanut butter (or both!), some fruit, maybe a glass of milk, pancakes or waffles with syrup on the weekend, occasionally an omelet. Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get the idea, right?

What’s wrong with this picture? Simple: we are often surrounded by foods with very low nutritional value, especially at breakfast time. Choices include an excessive amount of sugar in the form of starch (cereal, toast, etc.) and simple sugars (sugar in cereal, chocolate spread, maple syrup). The risk of having this type of meal is pumping your body with sugar, making your pancreas work extra hard, and then having your energy levels crash fairly quickly, which will make you crave more sugar afterwards. Here is a graph that shows how your blood sugar varies with different types of carbs. 

A Perfect Breakfast
Breakfast should include protein and nutritionally-significant starch (complex carbohydrates). Choosing high-fibre starches such as brown bread, high fiber cereal or oatmeal will bring more satiety, which will help you reduce constant cravings and snacking. Furthermore, we have a bad habit of eating very little protein in the morning and eating a lot of it later in the day. However, your body needs protein at fairly equal amounts throughout the day. Also, even if you load up with protein at night, it will not store the excess protein; it will simply get rid of it. Hence, you need to provide your body with a steady supply of protein. The general recommendation is to have 20-30g of protein per meal, but I suggest consulting a dietitian for individual recommendations based on your body’s needs.

In practice, this can mean switching to brown bread and peanut butter instead of white bread and a chocolate spread, making plain oatmeal with a small amount of syrup, honey or fruit added instead of the sugar-filled flavored instant oatmeal, choosing high fiber cereal with milk instead of sweet cereal, or making a delicious omelet with cheese and even veggies! It is also recommended to have a dairy product as a source of calcium to help maintain your bone health by having a glass of milk or some yogurt, and a fruit for extra energy, vitamins and minerals. Another option would be to have leftovers for breakfast! Who says we need to have breakfast food for breakfast? Healthy homemade pizza also sounds delicious in the morning!

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie
My personal favorite breakfast is a strawberry-banana smoothie I make. I love it because it takes me under 5 minutes to prepare and I can drink it calmly while sitting in traffic on my way to work if I run out of time in the morning. This smoothie gives me my protein (16g from protein powder + 9g from yogurt = 25g), calcium and fruit. I can also add some granola for high-fiber starch or have a slice of brown toast on the side. Here’s my recipe:

*I am not sponsored by Natural Factors. I’m just an honest person sharing my personal recipe.

Here is a link to a list of breakfast recipes in French, for those that want more ideas. They even have a recipe very similar to my smoothie, with a couple more ingredients to add in healthy fats! The list was created by ChiroHamel, my favorite Chiropractic clinic:

Breakfast, the Most Important Meal of the Day?
And while we’re at it, let’s demystify the whole idea of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Ever wondered why? Breakfast happens in the morning, yet we’re out and about using our fight or flight system, so why not wait until the end of the day when we’re in rest and digest mode, so that our body can truly focus on what we ate? Since we’re human, we get hungry. And when we’re hungry, we are not completely rational. The risk of skipping breakfast is that you’ll overeat later on, but more in forms of constant snacking, which is not a great idea. Therefore, it is recommended to have a balanced breakfast in the morning to be able to pace ourselves throughout the day and make better nutritional decisions at meal times. However, if you can assure me that skipping breakfast does not make you snack later in the day, even after supper when winding down by the TV, then don’t fret. Everybody is unique and works differently. The ultimate goal is to be in tune with our body and listen to its signals. You might even feel like having breakfast one day but not the next. Your body might not want to follow your daily routine, so just listen to what it is saying.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Balanced Plate: Your First Step to a Balanced Life

You come home, it’s supper time. You’re not too sure what to eat because who had time to meal prep on Sunday, honestly? Well, here is a nice tool to help you construct a hearty, healthy meal: the balanced plate

There are three main parts to a balanced plate, with three extras added on. Each part of the plate plays an important role, which will be discussed below. This tool is an easy guide that covers all the essential parts of a complete diet. Following the balanced plate at every lunch and supper is a HUGE step towards leading a healthier life, despite how simplistic it might seem.

I’m sure you’ve often heard that your body is like a car and food is like fuel. One of my personal favorite sayings is that you are what you eat. So if you are a car, what should you be made of?

Half a Plate of Veggies
The first part of your plate is vegetables, which should cover half your plate or represent two large handfuls. This includes carrots, broccoli, peas, green beans, bell pepper, lettuce, mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant and many more. Vegetables are excessively important, which is why it should cover most of your plate. If vegetables are not the main part of your meal, it isn’t quite balanced. Veggies are renown for being low in calories, but they are also filled with vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants, which act like a rust treatment for your body. Vegetables also have lots of fiber. Fiber has four roles: it brings satiety (making you feel full for longer), stabilizes your blood sugar, helps reduce cholesterol levels and regulates your bowel movements. Plus, veggies add color to your plate!

A Quarter Plate of Meat and Alt.
Next, a quarter of your plate should have meat or alternatives. This includes poultry, pork, red meat, fish, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, cheese and eggs. Your serving of meat should be the size of the palm of your hand. Meats and alternatives are essential for your body as they are your primary source of protein. Protein acts as extra parts for your car, rebuilding your muscles after having used them, and it is also useful for satiety. It’s important to have protein throughout the whole day. We currently have a nasty habit of having very low protein for breakfast and lunch and fill up on protein for supper, but your body will be lacking its building blocks earlier in the day.

A Quarter Plate of Starch
The last quarter of your plate should be starch. This includes bread, pasta, potatoes, sweet potato, corn and legumes (yes, they count as starch AND protein!). This serving should be the size of your fist. They are your main source of energy, turning into glucose (sugar) in your body. In simple terms, it is like fuel for your car. Carbs are important to have daily, but we have a choice to make. We can either choose poorly-nutritious carbs with white sugar quickly absorbed and quickly utilized, which will leave you craving sugar shortly after your meal, or you can feed your body supreme gas: sources of carbs with fibre, once again acting as a satiety enhancer. This can be achieved by opting for whole grains: brown bread, brown rice, keeping the peels on your potatoes, eating lots of legumes, etc.

Fruit, Dairy and Fat
Now for the extras: fruit, dairy and fat.

Your balanced plate should have a whole fruit, a serving the size of a tennis ball. Fruit are a good source of energy (fuel), vitamins and minerals, antioxidants (anti-rust) as well as fiber when eating a whole fruit. Unlike what Canada’s Food Guide suggests, juice does not count. Why? Because juice includes A LOT of sugar and no fiber, even in the “No Sugar Added” kinds. Think of it this way: it might take me four oranges to get enough juice to fill one cup, which I will drink easily. However, I would have a lot of difficulty eating four oranges! I would be stuffed! This is because all the fiber is left behind while making juice, and then you get four oranges worth of sugar in that one cup.

It is recommended to have a dairy product with your meal, which could be milk, yogurt or an alternative. Dairy products are a good source of energy (fuel), protein (extra parts) and calcium, acting as the body of your car. Calcium is used by your bones to rebuild themselves.

Finally, your plate should also include some good sources of fat. Fat is beneficial for your brain development as well as being a compact source of energy (fuel). Refer to my upcoming article on good sources of fat for more detail!

How About My Meal Tonight?
In a nutshell, next time you want to have a whole bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce, try adding some meat to your sauce, reduce the portion of pasta to a quarter of your plate, add a salad or other vegetable of your choice, and have yogurt and a fruit for dessert!

Now that you know what to have for lunch and supper, what’s for breakfast? Stay tuned for my next article in two weeks, where you’ll learn how to make a delicious, healthy breakfast!


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