Are You Making This Breakfast Mistake?

For years my breakfast was either dry cereal or toast with jam. As I always ate whole grains, I thought I was starting my day off on a healthy note. I was utterly oblivious to how nutritionally lopsided my morning meal was.

Void of much protein or fat, my carb-laden breakfasts launched my body on a wicked blood sugar roller-coaster ride. The result: one cranky girl with brain fog, sporadic energy, constant hunger and mad carb cravings.
 
Can you relate? If so, it's time to power up your breakfast plate.
 
4 Reasons to Eat a Protein-Rich Breakfast

  1. Elevate Your Energy and Mind
    Protein is the only food source of amino acids. Amino acids produce mood-enhancing chemicals including dopamine, our natural energizer and mental focuser. A protein-rich breakfast will give you clear, sharp mental focus and lasting energy. Skip protein and you will feel slow, dull and scattered.
     
  2. Boost Your Mood
    Protein's amino acids also create serotonin, a feel-good chemical that promotes happiness and well-being. Without a protein-packed breakfast, you may feel irritable, anxious or blue.
     
  3. Curb Hunger, Eat Less
    A breakfast with high-quality protein and healthy fats can keep you full for 4 to 5 hours. Eat just a bagel, muffin or cereal and you'll soon be clamoring for a snack. If you're often hungry an hour after breakfast, you're most likely skimping on protein.
     
  4. Tame Your Sweet Tooth
    Protein helps stabilize blood sugar. A hearty dose of a.m. protein will help zap your 3 p.m. candy jar raids and nighttime ice cream binges. 

Balanced Breakfast Ideas
Start your day off right with a breakfast containing 20 to 25 grams of protein, plus some healthy fats and fiber-rich carbs. Here are five high-protein foods with approximate grams per portion and serving suggestions:

  1. 3 eggs (18-24 grams depending upon size)
    Make a veggie omelet, a veggie frittata, or a scrambled egg burrito with a whole-grain tortilla, avocado and salsa. Hard boil eggs or freeze mini quiches for easy workday breakfasts and enjoy with fruit and/or veggies.
     
  2. 4 ounces (about the size of your palm) of lean organic meat, organic poultry or wild fish (20 g)
    Yes, you can eat lunch for breakfast! Layer turkey, chicken, salmon or sardines on whole-grain bread or a sprouted-grain wrap with avocado, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, arugula, spinach--whatever sounds tasty.
     
  3. 1 cup cottage cheese (27 g) or plain Greek yogurt (23 g) - not fat free!
    Stir in fresh or frozen fruit, cinnamon, flaxseed meal or chia seeds, and chopped raw nuts.
     
  4. High-quality protein powder (1-2 scoops depending upon type and serving size)
    Mix into a green smoothie (recipe here) or warm porridge made with protein-rich whole grains (e.g., quinoa, millet, amaranth), nuts, seeds and fruit (or make it savory with sweet potato, Swiss chard, etc.).
     
  5. 2 tablespoons organic nut butter, such as almond, cashew, walnut or hazelnut (7 g)
    Spread on a Food for Life Ezekiel sprouted-grain English muffin (8 g) and follow with protein powder (10-15 g) mixed with water and a green powder or low-sugar veggie juice.

Breakfast Reboot
Experiment with different dishes to find the right combination for your body; one that provides long-lasting physical and mental energy.
 
Don't Forget the Kids!
A protein-deficient breakfast impacts kids too. Sugary cereals and yogurts, refined-flour breads, pastries and fruit drinks will nose dive their mood, energy and concentration. Make sure their brains and bodies are well fueled with a balanced meal of lean protein (amount needed varies by age), healthy fats, fruits and veggies, and whole grains.

Southwestern Quinoa Corn Salad

This simple recipe featuring mega-healthy quinoa and fresh summer corn has a spicy, zesty kick that’s sure to add a little sizzle to your supper.

Native to South America, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a protein-rich seed with a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture and light nutty flavor. In addition to protein, it’s also high in iron and calcium, and is a good source of manganese, magnesium, copper and fiber.  Most commonly considered a grain, this ancient superfood was once considered "the gold of the Incas" due to its high nutrient content. Quinoa is gluten-free and ranges in color from pale yellow to red, brown and black.

It's important to rinse quinoa seeds well as they are naturally coated with saponin, a bitter substance that protects them against birds and other predators. Pour the quinoa in a large bowl filled with cold water and rub the seeds for a few minutes to release the saponin resin. Then put the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and hold it under running water, rinsing until the water runs clean.

Cooked quinoa freezes well. Consider preparing extra to have on hand for quick-prep meals. Allow to cool, then place in a plastic bag, flatten and seal. Thaw in the refrigerator overnigt or for several hours.
 

Southwestern Quinoa Corn Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or more to taste)
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 2 tbsp finely minced chives
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco or chipotle sauce (or to taste)
  • Avocado, diced (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve or strainer and rinse thoroughly with cold, running water.
     
  2. Bring water to boil in a small pot.
     
  3. Add the quinoa and salt and bring to boil again.
     
  4. Cover and reduce heat to low for 15 minutes.
     
  5. Turn of heat and keep the pot covered for an additional 5 minutes.
     
  6. Strain off any excess liquid and spread the quinoa out on a tray to cool while preparing the other ingredients (or make ahead of time and let cool).
     
  7. Steam or lightly sauté corn until just tender.  Cool to room temperature.
     
  8. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss.
     
  9. Season with additional salt, pepper or hot sauce to taste
     
  10. Serve with fresh lime wedges and top with diced avocado (optional).

Adapted from rebar: modern food cookbook.

Crowd Pleaser: Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus

With many gardens soon to be overflowing with cilantro and backyard barbecues in full swing, this zippy recipe is a delicious change from the usual ho-hum hummus or chips and dip

While store-bought hummus can be great in a pinch, homemade hummus is much more flavorful and satisfying, and often more healthy thanks to no added sugar and preservatives or excess salt and oil.

Most of us know beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber. Cilantro is also a good source of dietary fiber as well as iron and magnesium. Plus, it aids in digestion; settles the stomach; relieves gas; prevents nausea; decreases inflammation, blood sugar and bad cholesterol (LDL); and raises good HDL cholesterol (HDL). I'm sold.

This hummus whips up quickly, and because it doesn’t include tahini, the ingredients can be easily found if you don’t already have them on hand.

As with most recipes I make, I’ve reduced the oil in this one from 1/2 to 1/4 cup, and add more as needed.  And, because I love cilantro, I use a bit more than 3/4 cup (ok, a lot more, but I really like this herb). Once you’ve blitzed everything together, you may find you want to add more lime, a dash more salt, or a bit more oil or water if it’s too thick. I like to add a dollop of chipotle sauce for a little smoky heat. 

Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus
Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans organic garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (about 3-3 1/2 cups home-cooked beans)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

Instructions: 

  1. Place garlic in a food processor and process until minced, about 5 seconds.
     
  2. Add beans, lime juice and salt. Process into a puree.
     
  3. With the processor running, slowly add olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube.
     
  4. Process until the mixture thickens, about 1-2 minutes.
     
  5. Add cilantro and jalapeno and pulse throughout, about 30-60 seconds.
     
  6. If needed, adjust seasoning and/or consistency according to taste.
     
  7. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Enjoy with toasted whole-wheat pita bread, raw veggies, baked pita or corn chips, or whatever else sounds yummy to you.