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Runner’s Plate: Build a Better Breakfast

Posted Aug 09 2011 9:42am

In the words of your grandmother…breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But seriously, there is no better way to start your day than with a healthful breakfast. Just like a good morning run, a healthy breakfast sets a positive tone for the day. I love breakfast and look forward to it every morning. It helps that I usually wake up hungry and breakfast foods are some of my favorites (sometimes I eat them for lunch, dinner, or snacks). If you’re not a breakfast eater, I encourage you to try to start adding it in to your daily routine! And no, drinking a cup of coffee is not enough.

Breakfast offers many benefits. Epidemiological (population based) research has linked breakfast consumption with healthier body weights and maintained weight loss. According to data from the National Weight Control Registry, 80% of those who have maintained a weight loss of 30 or more pounds, eat breakfast. In addition, breakfast skippers have a higher risk of overweight and obesity than breakfast eaters. So, for those of you out their trying to manage your weight – skipping breakfast = a bad idea!

Though research has yet to determine the reason for this link between breakfast consumption and healthier weights, it’s hypothesized that eating breakfast keeps you from overeating later in the day (or maybe feeding that sugar craving you get around 10am). Another hypothesis is that it get’s your metabolism going for the day, bringing it out of conservation mode from not having eaten for many hours while you were asleep.

Breakfast has also been linked to improved cognition and mental capacity (hello work performance!), improved diet quality, and increased physical energy.

Breakfast is especially important for runners. Whether you’re a morning, noon, or night runner, breakfast can provide you with important nutrients and the energy you need for a strong workout.

Breakfast should make up between 25-40% of your daily calorie intake. If you exercise in the morning, you probably want a bigger breakfast (after your run) and if you’re an evening exerciser, you will probably need closer to the 25% mark. As with any other meal, breakfast should be a mix of complex carbohydrates (45-65%), lean protein (10-25%), and a healthy fat (20-30%).

The composition of your breakfast is just as important as eating it! Say goodbye to pastries and high sugar muffins and say hello to whole grains, fruits, vegetables, eggs, yogurt, and milk!

There are so many great breakfast options, but, if you’re not a fan of typical breakfast foods, that’s no excuse. Go ahead and eat something non-traditional!  Here are some of my favorites that will keep you full for hours:

Note: the quantity you eat will depend on your calorie needs. All suggestions/recipes can be adjusted up or down.

When you’re eating on the run:

Homemade cereal trail mix (make ahead of time)

  • ½ cup whole grain cereal of choice (Cheerios, Kashi Autumn Wheat, Total, etc), 15-20 raw almonds, 2 tbsp dried fruit (suggestions: raisins, dried cranberries, apricots, figs, or pears)

Granola bar or other bar and a banana or apple. I recommend either Kashi TLC bars or Larabars. They use natural, whole ingredients and don’t add a lot of sugar (many Larabars don’t add any)!

2 hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit.

For those days when you want something quick:

Whole-wheat English Muffin (substitute a whole-wheat bagel if you need more calories)topped with:

  • 1-2 tbsp peanut, almond, soy, or any other nut butter and ½ banana
  • 2 tsp cream cheese, 2 slices of tomato, and 2 oz smoked salmon (lox)

These can also be eaten on the go as a sandwich if you are in a rush!

Greek yogurt topped with your choice of whole grain cereal, granola (I personally like Kashi Go Lean Crunch) or chopped nuts and fresh or dried fruit.

Ok you’ve heard this one from me before! I might be a little obsessed.

Museli with milk or yogurt. If you use milk, mix ¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill Museli with ½ cup low-fat milk and soak for 5-10 minutes (or overnight for a yummy mixture).

Fruit & Yogurt Smoothie: 1-2 cups mixed frozen or fresh fruits, ½ cup plain yogurt, ½ cup 100% fruit juice (like orange or grapefruit), and 1 tbsp ground flax seeds. Mix in blender and take to go!

  • Optional: scoop of protein powder
  • Note: if you are lactose intolerant or vegan, use ½ cup almond or soy milk and you might want to leave out the fruit juice to keep it thicker.
  • If you use fresh fruit, add ice.

When you have a little more time:

Oatmeal: there are so many ways to eat oatmeal! My favorite? Mixed with fruit, nuts, cinnamon and brown sugar.

Look out for a future post with a variety of oatmeal recipes!

Eggs any way you like them! Eat them as a sandwich, in a wrap or pita, or with a side of toast with nut butter.

When I make eggs, I kind of view them as the kitchen sink – throw in whatever vegetables and cheese I have in the fridge.

I recently made this pocketful of deliciousness:

  • 1 egg & 2 egg whites, scrambled (add 1-2 tbsp milk for extra fluffiness)
  • Chopped, roasted asparagus (I had it leftover from dinner the night before)
  • 1-cup baby spinach
  • 5 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 oz smoked salmon
  • 1 tbsp chevre (soft goats cheese)
  • ½ large whole-wheat pita (or 1 small to medium pita) or whole wheat wrap
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Sautee vegetables until warm in 1 tsp olive oil, add eggs and scramble.

Toast pita bread, or heat up wrap in microwave (10-15 sec). Spread goats cheese on pita, stuff with eggs and smoked salmon.

Do you eat breakfast regularly? What’s your favorite breakfast? Please share any recipes you have! I’m always looking for new ideas. 

- Sarah

(Sarah is a 2nd year grad student pursuing her MS in Nutrition Communication at Tufts University Friedman School in Boston. She is also completing the requirements to become a registered dietitian and will begin her dietetic internship in 2012. Sarah is also a certified spin instructor and an avid runner and regularly participates in road races from 5k to a 1/2 marathons. Follow her on Twitter  @SpinnerSarah  and at her personal blog  Food and Fitness Friend .)

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