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Theresa Albert is a foodie who happens to be a nutritionist and not the other way around. She loves to explore food and the culture of food and all of the trends, news, and human love/hate rituals that surround it. She also communicates through her blog at www.myfriendinfood.com. Theresa is a regular on-camera national correspondent for CTV Newschannel making sense of health news. Named one of Canada's Top 25 Tweeters by Today's Parent Magazine and one of Savvymom.ca's 35 Favourite Bloggers. She is also the food, health, and cooking expert on Steven and Chris which airs internationally. Boundless energy and the ability to distill complex concepts into simple, savvy ways to make small changes in lifestyle choices are her key strengths. She factors in concern for the planet, the pocket, the clock, and the moment and stands just 5 feet tall but steadfastly points the way.
ACE OF SPADES
BREAKFAST: Where it all starts
Breakfast is the most important play that you can make. I know you have heard this from your grandma on down, but if you are still not convinced, here are some things you should know. Study after study from respected researchers worldwide show that skipping breakfast is the single largest predictor of becoming overweight in adolescence, and overweight teenagers tend to become overweight adults. But this isn’t the only reason you shouldn’t skip breakfast. Having a meal within one hour of waking up keeps you from becoming sluggish in the afternoon, thus preventing the need to drink coffee late in the day − the very same coffee that will make you sleep fitfully, if at all, at night. That vicious cycle will ensure that your next day is less productive than the one before.
Your body wakes up and looks for a signal of what kind of day it will have. It wants to know what kind of food it will need to digest today and it responds accordingly. Like a Paleolithic hunter-gatherer, your body wants to know, Was the hunt successful? Can I count on you for protein or will we be gathering berries all day? If we are picking berries, I am going to need a lot of insulin to digest them and to get the most out of the fuel they have to offer. If I have protein, I may not have to work as hard. Your body thinks, “As I begin, so I will go,” and behaves accordingly.
When your body gets lots of carbohydrates in the morning, it responds by giving you insulin to help with digestion. Sometimes your body will overshoot and create too much insulin, and the more often it does so, the more out of whack the process becomes. Too much insulin moves the fuel (in the form of glucose) from the blood to the cells, then stores it as fat! Your body thinks you are going to need fuel (fat) later because the large amount of energy (carbohydrates) you ate first thing signalled that you’re packing it on in anticipation of a famine that is never going to come.
The good news is that each day’s requirement is established anew. If you get enough protein at breakfast, along with fibre, your digestion will slow down and you will get a nice slow, gradual rise of insulin that will serve you throughout the day. Your body has now begun to trust that you have enough food to survive. This seems to be why eggs, which are a nutrient-rich and dense protein, are the best breakfast option (see Six of Clubs).
Setting a balanced blood sugar level in the morning makes the rest of the ride a little smoother. We all know that blood sugar spikes (like any highs) become crashes. If you avoid the spikes, you probably won’t be “starving” by 11 a.m., and you won’t be tempted to eat that doughnut during the morning meeting. Otherwise, you can’t resist, your body won’t let you; it’s scared because it’s crashing and sugar saves. Avoiding that crash is what having a protein-rich breakfast does. Your blood sugar will be stable enough not to drive you toward fast and furious calories. This early play sets up your next strategic play: a lunch that refuels you so that you can have a sensible snack at 3 p.m., instead of throwing the entire game for Ginny’s birthday cake and some java. It’s all about giving you the tools in the morning when you have the courage to use them. Eating a proper breakfast gives you the strength to follow suit the rest of the day, naturally, with your biology co-operating.
But what else, other than eggs, can you have for a breakfast that is high in protein?
Here are three key foods: yogurt, hemp seeds, and white chia seeds. The last two may be new to you and I provide more explanation of these seeds in the King of Spades. Hemp seeds are almost pure protein at five grams per tablespoon and when they are combined with white chia seeds, which contain some protein and both soluble and insoluble fibre, you are set for the entire day! Yogurt is one of the few fermented foods that we eat and it is the fermented foods that lay the groundwork for a happy bowel. Remember the commercials with the Swiss guy yodelling his happiness long into his nineties because he ate yogurt? True story!
You’ll understand the magic by the third day, pinky swear!
Ingredients | Benefits
½ cup plain, low-fat yogurt | promotes bowel health
1 apple, grated* | phytonutrients
1 tbsp uncooked oatmeal | lowers cholesterol
1 tbsp slivered almonds | calcium and protein
1 tbsp white chia seeds (see King of Spades) | high in fibre
½ cup frozen blueberries | phenolics; enhance memory
¼ cup hulled hemp seeds (see King of Spades) | protein; eco-friendly
1 tsp ground cinnamon | lowers blood pressure
1 tsp blackcurrant jam, to sweeten (optional) |urinary health
* or ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
Mix all the ingredients together and you will have the right amount of protein (about 10 grams), fibre, and nutrients to set you up for the day. Serve immediately or cover and keep in fridge up to 3 days.