What have mothers across the centuries always said? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! And, in fact, to paraphrase Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules, we should “Eat like Kings/Queens at Breakfast, Princes/Princesses at Lunch, and Paupers at Dinner”. So, with that being said, mornings can be very hectic for families. But I believe that breakfast can and will set the stage for our children’s success each and every day in school and beyond.
Thinking back on my childhood, our sweet Momma always prepared breakfast for my younger brother and me. Some mornings she would hit a homerun with a quick and tasty breakfast meal. Other times she could totally bomb, causing us to secretly feed it to the dog; flush that serving down the toilet; or let it casually fall out of the car during our school drop-offs. (don’t tell…bad on so many levels).
The traditional breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast is really a nice mainstay but can be impractical, and in some regards not as healthy for some. My suggestions vary based on the available time in the mornings, the day of the week (weekends can render more time), seasons of the year and documented food sensitivities / intolerances / allergies. As the ancient Chinese Proverb states: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. One of my favorite breakfast meal ideas is based on a very nutrient-dense protein shake. Other breakfast ideas incorporate preparation in advance, such as overnight oats and breakfast whole wheat pizzas that can be individually frozen and heated up as served.
The beauty with protein shakes is the ingredient versatility that can nourish the consumer, and most importantly, the child. Another important factor is the time element. Obviously, breakfast protein shakes are super quick. The mixology of the shake can be measured and prepped the evening before. Mason jars can hold the non-perishable goods like the protein powder, nuts and seeds. Each morning simply add the items, with a liquid of choice, to the blender.
That’s the easy part. The more contemplative aspect is making educated decisions on the fundamental ingredients, i.e., the protein powders and the liquids. Did you know that all protein powders are not created equally? I am here to happily share with you information on which I educate my own patients. These protein-shake nutrition principles were nicely organized by my colleague, Dr. Ginger Southall Decker, in a report entitled “The Shakedown Report”. As it relates to the 6 deal breakers with protein powders, one should definitely steer clear of the following ingredients: whey (dairy), casein (dairy), Non-GMO soy, maltodextrin, sucralose (Splenda) and fructose. My recommendation is to choose a plant-based protein meal replacement powder, like one composed of pea protein, hemp protein, organic brown rice and/or cranberry protein.
The toxic reasons behind avoiding protein powders with the 6 deal-breaker constituents is really beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice it to say, the aforementioned elements can be toxic / inflammatory to our systems, particularly young growing minds and bodies. Additionally, parents should perform their due diligence to avoid protein powders possessing heavy metals, like mercury.
The liquids used to mix with the plant-based protein powders can be a choice of water (alkaline preferably) and/or any of the nut mils, i.e., almond milk, coconut milk, almond-coconut milk, cashew milk, and my newly discovered macadamia milk. I am certainly not a fan of dairy, even if it is organic milk from grass-fed cows not exposed to hormones and antibiotics. The constituents of cow’s milk are difficult for our digestive tract to fully break down; and this can lead to “leaky gut” (inflammation). Have you heard that we as humans are the only species that drinks another species’ milk after birth?
Soy milk, Non-GMO and definitely GMO (genetically modified / engineered organisms) is not encouraged for use in plant-based protein powdered shakes! As a lesson, soy is a phytoestrogen, thus a plant-based source of estrogen. Remember, too much of a ‘good’ thing can be problematic, and hormones are powerful.
So finally…the fun ingredients!!!
Here are some fabulous and healthy additives that can really make breakfast shakes delectable and so very nutrient dense.
*Fresh and/or frozen fruit, particularly all of the berries
*Super greens like kale and spinach
*Nut butters, almond in particular.
*Seeds, which add more protein, ‘good’ fats and fiber: flaxseeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds
*Other creative ingredients, such as herbs (basil, parsley), ginger root and cacao beans. Cacao beans add a more natural chocolate flavor than the more artificially flavored powders. In addition, the chocolate flavor can be adjusted by the number of beans used in the shake.
*Lastly, considered coconut water as a potential fluid, particularly from a young coconut.
Switching gears, I made reference to a couple of other breakfast recommendations. The overnight oats and the breakfast pizzas. Both can be prepared ahead of time and simply served. The creation of the overnight oats allows the preparer to really get fancy! A nice twist is to soak the rolled oats (preferably gluten-free) overnight in fresh-squeezed orange juice with either vanilla extract or dried vanilla powder. To add to the delight and nutrition, soak raw sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds in water. Both soaked items (oats and seeds) should be refrigerated. Now, comes the fun and visually-appealing construction. Use those cute mason jars with or without latches and scoop out a couple of spoonfuls of the soaked seeds, followed by the soaked oat porridge. Next, top with fresh fruit (you know I love berries) and lightly toasted coconut flakes.
What child doesn’t just love pizza? That calls to mind my sweet niece who was hospitalized for a gut problem. During her short stay she was kept NPO (nothing by mouth) and as a side note she received animal therapy (possibly a contributor to her rapid recovery). One day she asked her pediatrician mother if they could take their midday walk past the cafeteria, so she could at least “smell the pizza”!
Breakfast pizza is as full of flavor as its traditional counterpart. The use of whole wheat crust, egg substitute and whole food dairy-free cheese substitutes will increase the overall nutrition, while lowering the calories and fat. By using salsa and/or other veggies you can absolutely give the breakfast pizza an extra flavor kick. Once prepared, the cooled pizza slices can be wrapped individually in foil and placed in labeled gallon freezer bags. On that cool Fall morning (or any morning), the individual breakfast pizza can be warmed for feeding the mind, body and soul. Yum!!!
Be Healthy…Look Better…Perform Well,
Karen M. Pendleton, M.D. aka “Dr. Karen”.