The foundations of a healthy breakfast
Our vision about breakfast is an extension of our vision of a good morning routine: it strengthens you physically and mentally to overcome the day. For a lot of people it’s really challenging to spend the time and attention on a good breakfast and nutrition in general. It’s important that you look for a way to have breakfast that makes you physically feel good. That may be something completely different from what you are used to. You can only discover what works for you if you try a number of ways.
Fortunately, there are certain general guidelines that can be applied to every individual.
The link between what we eat and how we feel
Too often, the focus is still on the long-term effect of nutrition rather than the short-term effects, such as the well-known dip after lunch. A lot of foods have a major impact on our physiology. So it is in our interest to influence our physiology in a good way, by – you guessed it – … a good breakfast!
Let’s take a look at the positive and negative effects of food in the short term. By short term we mean the effect on our body up to a maximum of 24 hours after consumption.
Positive effects of healthy food
- More energy
- A satiated feeling but still a “light” body
- Sharpness and focus
- Better sleeping pattern (More of that famous ‘deep’ sleep)
- More emotional control and more positive mood
Negative effects of unhealthy food
- More ups and downs throughout the day in terms of energy and emotion
- You react more emotionally to events in your environment
- You sleep worse
- You become less productive
- You’re losing focus
- You have less self-control
These are just a few of the effects, but you can imagine that it will be a lot easier to learn new habits and become more productive if you get the positive stimuli from the top list.
To pursue a better version of yourself, you have to challenge yourself. Everything starts from an energetic and positive mindset. If your nutrition can already get your body started, it becomes a lot easier to adopt that mindset.
The importance of nutritional values
In order to assess our food consistently in terms of quality and nutritional value, we distinguish 3 categories:
The three essential building blocks that our body needs on a daily basis: protein, carbohydrates and fats. The quality of a good breakfast and a good meal is determined by the quantity and ratio of these macronutrients.
Protein, also known as proteins, are the building blocks of our body and take care of, among other things, our muscle production.
Carbohydrates are the energy source of our body and keep us running throughout the day. Different forms of carbohydrates can be distinguished:
Sugars are often spoken put in a negative light. Too much sugar is obviously not good. But that’s the case with everything. Sugars are absorbed very quickly by our body, resulting in an insulin peak (the well-known sugar high). That constant peak is not very healthy for our body and can be a precursor of type 2 diabetes.
- Complex carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are many carbohydrates bound together. Think of it as a kind of chain with different shades. Our body can only absorb one of these shades at a time, so our digestive system has to break everything down one by one. Thanks to this process, complex carbohydrates enter our body more slowly and there are no (or fewer) insulin peaks. This is more suitable for our body and physiology.
Fibres are often still not given enough importance. We should get more of it, but we are often chronically malnourished even when it comes to fibre. Fibres influence our intestinal flora in a positive way and are an essential part of a healthy breakfast.
Fats have a rather negative connotation in our society. Wrongly so, because fats have a major influence on our healthy hormone balance and are indispensable in our daily dietary intake. We distinguish three types of fats:
- Trans fats
Trans fats are a less known type of fat because it is not (yet) mandatory to put the quantity of trans fats on the packaging. In fact, trans fats are a recently discovered type of fat that is produced in highly industrialised processes when making chips, crisps, certain cakes, … etc.
- Saturated fats
Saturated fats are the unhealthiest fats we can absorb. Note: we even need saturated fats, but in the right proportions with unsaturated fats.
- Unsaturated fats
This is the type of healthy fats on which we need to focus as much as possible. As with complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats consist of different shades and are more optimal for our body.
Micronutrients are ‘smaller’ then the macronutrients. Micronutrients consists mainly of vitamins and minerals.
The effects of vitamins are practically too much to mention. It is important to know that there are two types of vitamins: water-soluble (A, D, E and K) and fat-soluble vitamins (B and C).
Minerals are necessary building materials for our skeleton and body tissues. We make a distinction between minerals that we need relatively often and minerals that we only need in small quantities.
- Main minerals: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Sodium, Chlorine and Potassium
- Minerals of which we only need small quantities: Iron, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Iodine, Manganese and Molybdenum
Awareness of phytonutrients is still on the rise. In short, we find phytonutrients in our daily portion of fruit and vegetables. We won’t go into more detail in this article, but you can follow one simple, well known rule of thumb when it comes to phytonutrients: the more green and the more colour on your plate, the better.
What does a healthy breakfast look like?
Wrestling through all those nutritional values and all those terms might seem like a whole chunk and might just cause more confusion. Know that dietary guidelines are a dynamic process and that even researchers and professors struggle to create one universal dietary pattern. The key is and remains that you listen to your own body.
Composing a healthy breakfast can vary from person to person, but if you follow a few simple (and proven) guidelines, you’ll have a bite-sized and quick breakfast.
The right ratio of macro-, micro- and phytonutrients
The ratio of macronutrients may vary depending on your goal, but in general we can suggest the following:
- Protein: 10 to 35% of the total kCal
- Carbohydrates: 45 to 65% of the total kCal (focus on complex carbohydrates)
- Fats: 20 to 35% of the total kCal (focus on unsaturated fats)
If you want to be able to translate these proportions into calories, you need to know that protein and carbohydrates give 4 calories per gram and fats around 9 calories per gram. To give you an idea, we will translate this into a concrete example for a diet with 2,000 kCal/day.
- Protein: 50 to 175 grams, or 200 to 700 kCal respectively.
- Carbohydrates: 225 to 325 grams, or 900 to 1,300 kCal, respectively.
- Fats: 44 to 78 grams or 400 to 700 kCal respectively.
Of course, the amount of calories you can take daily varies greatly from person to person, depending on your gender, age, size, body type and activity level. Your calorie intake also depends on your goals: maybe you want to lose weight? Or maybe you just want to gain muscle mass?
Always remember this simple rule of thumb, when you want to set your calorie goals: Consume more calories than your body consumes/needs, you’ll gain weight. If you consume less calories than your body consumes/needs, you’ll lose weight. As simple as that!
A good breakfast depends on how you eat
What a healthy breakfast actually means depends very much on your diet. Are you someone who eats according to the standard of three meals a day? Then you can count ⅓ of the total daily kCal for your breakfast.
Do you eat six meals a day or do you snack regularly? Then you should take this into account when calculating your breakfast. For the sake of convenience, you can say that a good breakfast can contain 1/3 to 1/5th of our daily calorie requirement.
To lose weight or just stay at a healthy weight you don’t have to – despite what many people think – diet. We don’t believe in crash diets as a long-term solution. Putting your body under pressure for a few weeks or months and then falling back into your old pattern is of absolutely no use. It’s better to fundamentally adjust your diet, which may not have been right in the first place, and which will benefit you much more in the long term.
There are a number of alternative feeding styles that are gaining momentum in our current society. Every body is different, but maybe you feel good about one of these feeding styles.
Vegans simply avoid all animal products. So the focus here is to eat only 100% vegetable stuff. Today, there are already a lot of plant-based meat substitutes that can make the transition to a vegan lifestyle a lot easier.
- Vegan is more environmentally friendly for our planet
- It dovetails nicely with the ethical and moral values of our present-day society.
- There are proven health effects compared to omnivorous or carnivorous feeding styles
- It may be more difficult to get ‘enough’ of certain nutrients
- In the beginning, it can be bit of challenge to find recipes and prepare dishes
- Despite the proven health effects, eating meat still has its proven health benefits
Intermittent fasting simply stands for periodic fasting and is a feeding style based on the caveman principle where you don’t eat for a long time and then consume all your daily calories during a fixed “eating moment”. Our ancestors did not always have food within reach and often had to hunt and gather a whole day before they could eat at night. So our bodies were quite used to not eating for a long time and could easily extract energy from our fat reserves, which in turn gave your digestive system the necessary rest.
In practice, for example, you stop eating at 9 p.m. in the evening and don’t start eating again until 4 p.m. the next day. In this way your body has 19 hours of rest every day and can focus on other processes.
- There are proven health effects with a focus on our immune system
- You need to spend less time on all your meals on a daily basis
- Intermittent fasting can help keep your total calorie intake well under control
- There is still little long-term research regarding intermittent fasting. Despite the promising recent studies, these can still be disproved.
- A long period of not eating is not for everyone. Not everyone feels comfortable with this eating style
- The “eating window” can sometimes feel heavy and intense because of the large portions
Keto is the latest movement that focuses mainly on eliminating carbohydrates and full bet on protein and fat. The idea is that your body takes in little or no carbohydrates so that the body is forced to extract energy only from your fat reserves. To compensate, your body will create ketones that are an alternative source of energy for sugars.
- There are proven health effects
- Sugar is avoided as much as possible, which reduces the occurrence of sugar-related negative effects
- Many people experience a more constant feeling of energy with this style of nutrition
- Like intermittent fasting, the keto movement is still a young movement. Some doctors express concern, but there are still too few studies to give a definitive answer.
- Due to the loss of carbohydrates you will have to be creative in finding recipes/meals.
None of the above feeding styles are thé answer. There is no conclusive answer regarding the right feeding style. However, this does show that you can be enormously creative when it comes to nutritional style.
Not satisfied with your energy level? Do you feel heavy or bad after meals or do you just have a lousy feeling in general? Experiment with what works for you and what doesn’t, and see how your body reacts to certain foods. This is the only way to achieve the ideal nutritional style that is completely tailored to your needs.