When Harvard physician Monique Tello looks at the typical American breakfast, she said, it makes her "want to cry."
Think about it -- most blueberry muffins aren't much different from cupcakes, and pancakes are little more than fried dough with liquid sugar poured on top.
"Eating like this may be ok once in a while, but if you do so often, I guarantee these foods will make you sick, one way or another," Tello said.
Many American breakfast foods (like cereal, waffles, and pastries) are primarily made up of refined carbs -- a type of unhealthy carbohydrate that gets rapidly turned into sugar in our bodies. And they lack two nourishing ingredients: protein and fibre. As a result, breakfast can be a nutritional disaster.
The solution is a meal that's high in protein to fuel our muscles and has plenty of fibre, which fills us up and regulates our digestion.
Here's what Tello eats: a combination of berries, Icelandic-style (high protein) yogurt, and a mix of nuts, seeds, and rolled oats.
"I'm a working mum. I take the train into work. I need something quick, easy, and transportable. Plus, it needs to be budget-friendly, and must hold me over for a number of hours," Tello said.
So her breakfast is based around three simple ingredients:
- Berries: Tello buys a mix of frozen raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries in bulk, since "fruit is frozen at the peak of freshness, so the quality and vitamin content can be better than what's in the produce aisle." Plus, she said, frozen fruit is cheaper than fresh and lasts longer. Berries are also high in fibre and pack key vitamins like A, C, and K. Tello fills a plastic container with the frozen fruit, and either lets it defrost overnight or sticks it in a microwave.
- Nuts, seeds, and/or whole grains: Tello advises using the ingredients you prefer here, but she goes with unsalted nuts, toasted pepita seeds, and whole rolled oats, all of which are high in fibre and have some protein too.
- Yogurt: Tello eats plain Siggi's, a brand of high-protein, low-sugar yogurt from Iceland. Other types of Greek plain yogurt have a similar nutritional profile.
To make her meal, she pours the nuts and seeds over the defrosted berries, and stirs the yogurt into the mixture.
"Don't forget your spoon!" she said.
If you're not a fan of yogurt and berries, the nutritional profile of Tello's breakfast can be replicated in dozens of other forms. A couple of hard-boiled eggs and a piece of whole grain toast would work too; as would some turkey bacon and a whole wheat English muffin or a couple of tablespoons of no-sugar added peanut butter with sliced apples.
As long as your meal features whole grains (not refined ones) and good sources of protein, fibre, and some healthy fats, you're good to go. The combination of ingredients will fill you up and keep you fuelled for hours.