So what am I talking about when I say "Essentials"? I mean those things that no matter what breakfast I have, I typically have these around. This isn't simply a list, but I'll include reasoning behind each item listed. Some of these are generalizations that you'll see pop up in the others.
- Water is absolutely essential to any meal. I think it helps you digest, and you should be consuming at least 8 glasses of water per day (64 oz). I can't start my breakfast without chugging down a whole bottle of H2O.
- Whole grain foods. The fiber found in whole grains such as whole wheat or buckwheat pancakes and waffles, whole grain breads, oats, and puffed grain cereals make your meal filling and nutritious.
- Proteins in the early part of the day are a great way to have your body stack amino acids for the remainder of the day. This is more important for body builders than most, but holds weight if you're trying to lose weight and put on some muscle mass. I encourage the average person to intake at least 15-20g protein for breakfast, and if you're athletic, upwards of 30g.
So what do I tend to do with proteins? There's a few options that I can suggest for both meat eaters and non. For vegans, this is difficult and don't know how to answer it, but I can certainly say for vegetarians there's a few.
- Eggs are an obvious choice when discussing breakfast proteins. A single egg has 6g protein, and most omelets are made with 2-3 eggs. That said, if you're concerned about cholesterol, but want the protein, you'll need to double your eggs, as an egg white has half the protein, but none of the cholesterol. Last night for dinner I had a 6-egg omelet with some skim milk cheese. It was amazing.
- Meat-Eaters: Sausages win over bacon. Despite the bacon fad that we're going through at this day in age, don't believe the hype. Sausages are amazing for you, and I've read a few articles over the last year that would advocate them over bacon.
- Buckwheat pancakes are a godsend for proteins. You might not expect this carb-heavy meal to pack a lot of protein, but you can check out Bob's Red Mill mix and you'll see that you can get a decent amount of protein from these delicious and hearty pancakes.
- Yogurt and Greek Yogurt give you the probiotics, calcium, and proteins to help get your morning going. They're amazing, just watch the sugar content.
- Leftovers are perfect additions to oatmeal, and the absolute perfect one: Quinoa. Quinoa is a neat little grain that if you make it the night before for dinner, throw it in your oats for breakfast. Don't make the mistake I did at first though. 5:30 AM, I didn't remember / realize that the quinoa salad I made with olive oil wouldn't be great in my oats!
Carbs were once given a bad name by all those people that said they make you fat. That said, they don't. They help keep your body going throughout the day, so long as you have the right ones.
- Oatmeal can help you by packing your body with both soluble and insoluble fiber, which promotes heart health and the digestive system. The whole grains help with maintaining weight. They're quick and easy to make as well. Just make sure with the flavored ones, you're not packing in sugars. BTW - there's no per-weight difference between steel cut, rolled, or quick oats. For more information about what fiber does, check this article. As for the oats themselves, I fancy them up with nuts, berries, honey, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, almond milk, unsweetened coconut, Greek yogurt, or scrambled egg whites depending on my mood.
- Fruit is amazing. It's best that fruit be eaten on an empty stomach, as fruit digests quickly and is mostly water, fiber, and natural sugars, rather than the complex carbs and proteins found in other foods. Other than that, fruit is one of the best sources of natural sugars, contains antioxidants and micronutrients, and a large amount of water and fiber as previously mentioned. Fruit sugar differs from refined sugar in that they're not empty calories. They're packed with nutrients! They also differ from starchy sugars like potatoes and corn in that your body doesn't need to break these sugars down. I basically live by the Apple-a-day rule.
- Buckwheat pancakes, obviously are here. They're excellent for both protein and carbs. See more above.
- Whole grain cereals provide similar benefits to oatmeal, though I find the oats do it the best. Some alternatives that I do are shredded wheat, puffed grains, Fiber One, and Cheerios. Mixed with almond milk and berries, I'm in heaven.
Indulgences. My favorite. :-D
We all get bored once in a while of eating purely healthy, so here's some "indulgences" that I run with every so often, typically once or twice per month.
- Sweet cereals get a bad rap for being loaded with refined sugars. I'm not saying to go eat a massive bowl of Fruity Pebbles, oh no - but I do dig some "healthier" alternatives. Particularly Special K with strawberries or any other with dried fruits, Chex and its varieties, and Honey Nut Cheerios. All aren't too sinful, but they're nice and sweet. Don't fret though - I eat Oreo O's and Cocoa Puffs every once in a while too. It might take me a year to finish a box of either, but I do eat those.
- White flour pancakes. Sure, the buckwheat and whole grain ones are excellent and yummy, but there's something about white flour pancakes with syrup that just makes you feel good. Be VERY cautious with this though, as the heavy load of carbs in the morning will cause you to be hungrier throughout the day.
- Fried ANYTHING is just generally bad for you. If you have to fry, use canola or olive oil. They have higher burn temps, and less likely to infuse your meal with trans fats.
- Granola adds fat and sugar to your otherwise healthy breakfast. Add a bit to your oatmeal or yogurt if you get boring, but just make sure you don't go crazy.