Breakfast has been a controversial meal in the nutrition space. Some experts say skip it, while others say it’s the most important meal of the day. In this blog post I’m going to share why I encourage women to never skip breakfast and what to put on your plate for healthy hormones, balanced blood sugar, and stable energy levels.
Why I Don’t Encourage Intermittent Fasting For Most Women
Intermittent fasting has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. Fasting can have incredible benefits, like improved mental clarity, metabolic flexibility, and increased longevity, but like everything with nutrition, what's best depends on context. We are all unique individuals and what works for one person may not work for another.
Women have a more delicate system and are much more sensitive to shifts in energy balance compared to men. Fasting in the morning can wreak havoc on our hormones especially if we are already in a stressed state. Let’s take a look at what happens on a biological level when you skip breakfast:
Your brain primarily uses glucose (aka sugar) as its main source of energy. During the night when you’re fasting from food for 7-9 hours your body taps into stored glycogen from the liver and muscles to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. However, sometimes your body doesn't have enough glycogen to maintain this balance and you wake up with low blood sugar.
When you skip breakfast, your blood sugar remains low and your body starts to stress and wonder where the next meal is coming from. In response to the stress your adrenal glands release cortisol. Think of cortisol as nature's built-in alarm system. Cortisol affects nearly every organ system in your body, including the nervous system, immune system, and reproductive systems. If you’re trying to improve your health or lose weight we want to keep this hormone low.
Normally, cortisol levels are highest around 7 a.m. in the morning, which is why it’s important to eat something to bring them back down. If you don’t eat, cortisol will remain elevated and it’s likely you’ll feel anxious, jittery or cranky. Aim to eat a nutrient dense meal high in protein and fat within 30 minutes to one hour of waking up to keep your blood sugar balanced.
“But what if I’m never hungry in the morning?”
A lot of clients I work with say they’re not hungry when they wake up. While this is common, it doesn't mean it’s normal. Waking up with an appetite is actually a sign of good health and a healthy metabolism. If you’re not waking up hungry it could mean that your body is running on stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones suppress your appetite. They're more worried about keeping you alive rather than eating.
Low appetite in the morning could also be a result of habit. When we do something repeatedly, like skip breakfast every morning, we train our body when to expect food and it adapts. Even if you’re not hungry in the morning, try to eat something small to get your body’s hunger hormones back on track.
What To Eat For Breakfast
When it comes to breakfast, what you eat matters! Typical breakfast foods like cereals, muffins, pastries, waffles and pancakes are a scam. While these sugary meals can be enjoyed on occasion, don’t make them a staple in your diet unless you want to send your body on a blood sugar roller coaster ride and drive up inflammation.
To build a healthy breakfast you’ll want to focus on including a protein, healthy fat and complex carbohydrate high in fiber. Stick to whole single ingredient foods and avoid anything with a lengthy ingredient list. Balance is key! You may be eating healthy foods, but that doesn’t mean your meals are balanced with all the macronutrients.
Below are some examples of “healthy” unbalanced breakfasts and example upgrades.
Egg whites and toast with jelly
Oatmeal with fruit
Banana strawberry smoothie
Vanilla latte (we want to avoid sugar and caffeine on an empty stomach)
Each one of the example meals above is lacking protein or healthy fat. Instead try:
Pasture raised eggs with avocado toast
Overnight oats made with coconut milk and topped with hemp and chia seeds
Low sugar smoothie made with nut butter and protein powder
Coffee with grass-fed half and half and collagen powder served with 2 hard boiled eggs and some blueberries
If you’re needing more breakfast ideas, check out some of my favorite recipes below!
Eggs & Avocado Plate
2-3 Pasture Raised Eggs
1 cup spinach or mixed greens
1/2 cup sweet potato
Avocado oil spray
Everything But The Bagel Seasoning
Spray a pan with avocado oil and cook the eggs to your liking. In a separate skillet wilt down the greens with a little bit of avocado oil. Serve with 1/2 avocado and 1/2 cup of sweet potato
Creamy Green Smoothie
2 scoops plant based protein powder*
½ cup blueberries
½ cup frozen cauliflower rice
1 cup spinach
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 tsp chia seeds
½ tsp bee pollen (optional)
Pour almond milk into a blender, add in the rest of the ingredients and blend until well combined!
Chickpea Avocado Toast
1/4 cup chickpeas
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
handful of broccoli sprouts
1 tsp honey
1 piece of Ezekiel bread
Place one piece of bread in the toaster. Meanwhile, mash the avocado, chickpeas and salt together in a bowl. Remove the bread from the toaster and spread with the avocado mixture. Top with pumpkin seeds, sprouts and drizzle of honey.
1 scoop protein powder
1/2 banana, mashed
½ tbsp almond milk
¼ cup egg whites
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup blueberries, warmed
1-2 TBSP Almond or Peanut Butter
Mash banana and almond milk. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spray a pan and heat over medium-low before pouring in batter. Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes. Top with blueberries and nut butter!
Looking for more recipes? Check out my Whole Foods Recipe Guide!