Breakfast Ideas - Ask a Nutritionist

May 11, 2023

Are you stuck in the American breakfast rut of eating sweet things in the morning? Looking for new healthier ideas for breakfast? Listen in to this week episode of ask a nutritionist with Britni as she discusses some new way to think about our first meal of the day.

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Welcome to the “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are thrilled to have you join us today as we discuss the connection between what you eat and how you feel, and share practical real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition. Now let's get started.

BRITNI: Good morning and welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's new midweek segment called “Ask a Nutritionist”. I am Britni Vincent, a Registered and Licensed Dietitian at Nutrition Weight and Wellness. And on today's show, we will be answering two questions we've received from our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners. So the first one isn't so much a question, but it is breakfast ideas. We get this question or this topic suggestion a lot with our clients, our class participants, and I know that there's been more than one Dishing Up Nutrition listener that has requested this topic.

Breakfast foods to avoid

So it is a good one because you know, I think that people get stuck in a rut really easily with breakfast and in America, we're really conditioned to want sweet things for breakfast, unfortunately. You know, think about it: cereal, donuts, rolls, muffins: they're all very sugary things. It's like wanting dessert for breakfast, really.

Various ways you can eat eggs for breakfast

So let's start out with eggs. You know, that is the obvious answer, right? And I think a lot of people just get tired of eating eggs every single day. But what I would encourage you to do is switch it up. Maybe cook them different ways, have different combinations. So here's some ideas.

An egg bake is wonderful because you can add a variety of different vegetables in there. You could add hash browns. You could add up diced sweet potato. That's a great dish to make just to kind of clean up out your refrigerator with all the leftover vegetables at the end of the week. And then you could add cheese. And if you're dairy free, then just eliminate that cheese. And then when it comes time for breakfast, all you have to do is heat it up. Super, super simple. You can freeze egg bake as well. You can also put them in muffin tins, so it's like little egg muffins, and that can be great for a quick on the go breakfast as well.

You could do poached eggs, you know, you could have your poached eggs over some spinach or tomatoes, and then with maybe a side of fruit or some sweet potato or little baby red potatoes on the side. That would be a delicious breakfast.

Scrambles, egg scrambles: super easy. Again, kind of like the egg bake, you can throw so many different things in there. You could throw sausage, bacon, smoked salmon, any leftover meat from dinner, or you could skip adding additional protein and just add, load it up with vegetables instead. And then again, you could for your more concentrated carbohydrate, have a side of fruit or potatoes in there.

Hard boiled eggs, that is a really quick option for the morning. I have some clients that say, I just need something that doesn't take me any time. And a few hard boiled eggs, you know, a little bit of fruit, maybe a clementine is super simple and a quarter cup of nuts. It does not get much quicker than that In the morning.

You could make an egg salad up. I know that's not a traditional breakfast option, but it is equally as delicious as any of these other ways to cook your eggs. And it might sound strange, but I like to eat my egg salad with some apple slices; kind of gives you that sweet savory combination. You can use celery or carrots as your dipper for that egg salad. Again, lots of options that you can do there as well.

Another breakfast idea: a balanced smoothie

Another very quick option for breakfast, and those of you that maybe aren't super hungry in the morning, a smoothie is a wonderful option and there's a ton of different ingredients that you can throw in there. Start with your protein powder. You know, whey protein is great if you tolerate dairy. If you don't, I would recommend a Paleo Protein powder that is made from beef.

And then you want to be getting I would say at least 21 to 28 grams of protein from that protein powder. So just look on the nutrition facts label on your protein powder to see how many grams are in one scoop. Then you can figure out how many scoops you need in there. So you've got your protein, and then you could add, oh, half a cup of fruit, whether it be fresh or frozen, doesn't matter. And then I encourage you to add some vegetables in there because you don't really notice the taste. So spinach is super simple. You could do kale. I have been really into frozen riced cauliflower in my smoothies lately. It makes a really great texture. And again, you don't taste that cauliflower.

If you have the Key Greens, you could add that in there as well. And then lastly, the fat, which could be canned coconut milk, could be nut butter, could be avocado. Those are some easy fat options to add in there. And again, you can switch up the flavors too.

If you are somebody that feels like you need to chew your breakfast to feel satiated, you can make a smoothie bowl. So blend up your protein powder with that coconut milk. You might need to add a little extra water in there. That'll make it nice and thick. And then you can top your smoothie bowl with your fruit. And then it's kind of more like a yogurt parfait in a way, but it's a smoothie bowl. So that is a wonderful option as well.

Balanced banana pancakes

One favorite breakfast at my house are banana pancakes. So the original recipe is two eggs and one banana. You mix it all together. I use an immersion blender. You can add cinnamon, vanilla extract in there, and then you fry it like a pancake. Sounds strange, but it totally works.

And I actually add more eggs in there to up the protein. So I generally use more like three eggs for one banana. To keep it to a half a banana for one serving, you're only then getting an ounce, an ounce and a half of protein. So I would add some additional protein to this, whether it be, you know, some sausage on the side, I think that's delicious, that savory sweet combo. Or you could do bacon on the side or maybe some hard boiled eggs. And then you can top your banana pancake with some nut butter or butter if you would like. Super delicious. I have even blended in some cauliflower or some spinach in there. And that works really well too.

Non-egg breakfast idea: breakfast hash

Another non egg breakfast could be a hash, so you could use any vegetable, maybe starting with a sweet potato or potato or some other root vegetable. And then adding other vegetables. It could be zucchini or shaved Brussels sprouts or spinach, peppers, onions, really whatever you want. And then your protein could be a sausage or just ground chicken, ground turkey, ground pork with some seasonings in there. This is a super easy one to make a big batch of. And then again, be able to just heat it up in the morning

If you're not adding enough oil or butter to that pan to get enough fat, you could top that with a little bit of avocado too, and that that could work as a lunch or dinner option as well. This new craze of a chaffle; maybe some of you have heard about this and what it is, is you make a waffle out of eggs and cheese; sounds kind of crazy. So the, the recipe is two large eggs and a cup of cheese gives you four waffles and you make them in your waffle maker just like you would a regular waffle.

And then you can put any sort of add-ins in there that you would want, make it more savory or sweet. So two waffles would give you one egg and roughly one ounce of cheese. So that's about two ounces of protein total. So again, most people really need a little extra protein in there. So I'd add something else on the side there. Again, for your fat, depending on if you're doing sweet or savory, you could do some butter or some nut butter on top of that waffle. And that is a totally new idea. Maybe your kids would love to get involved in doing that one.

Leftovers for breakfast

And then here is my last breakfast idea. You don't need to eat breakfast foods for breakfast. So maybe you just have leftover dinner for breakfast. I know for some people that sounds not very appealing, but once you wrap your mind around that, it makes things so much easier because then any food in your fridge can just be used interchangeably for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or even snacks. So that is one thing to think about. You know, a lot of my clients will have their chili for breakfast. That's an idea.

Is it okay to eat bacon?

My second question that I'm going to answer today is, is bacon actually bad for you? Or is the highly processed part along with nitrates the bad part? This is a favorite food of ours, and our favorite brand is Hatfield extra thick cut with no nitrates or nitrates. So this goes very well with the original question or topic of breakfast ideas. So the short answer is no, a good quality bacon is not bad for you.

So let me start by telling you what bacon actually is. So bacon most often comes from the pork belly, and then it's sliced and it's injected or soaked in a brine solution containing salt, sometimes sugar, sometimes nitrites, sometimes other flavoring. And then it may or may not be smoked.

Cured bacon is preserved with a commercial preparation of salt and sodium nitrates, and nitrates are additives that are responsible for giving bacon its pink color, and then it has some other functions as well In bacon. Uncured bacon is bacon that hasn't been cured with that sodium nitrates. Usually it's cured in with a form of celery, which contains naturally occurring nitrates along with just plain old salt and maybe some other natural flavorings like parsley or or beet extract, something like that.

Bacon, historically, you know, it's been said to be unhealthy, mostly because of the saturated fat content and the sodium content. In many of our podcasts and articles, we've really debunked the idea that saturated fat is what causes high cholesterol. So if you want to learn more about that, I would encourage you to listen to some of our past shows or read some of our past articles talking about cholesterol, and we will definitely address that topic in those.

Do we need to be concerned about the sodium in bacon?

So what about the sodium? Yes, bacon has a lot of sodium. It does, and it can vary quite a bit from brand to brand. But here's the thing, if you are eating a real whole food diet, you're not getting excessive amounts of salt. In fact, most whole real foods are very low in sodium. And even if you do salt your food, that is totally fine. In fact, I would encourage you to salt your food if you are eating real foods because you want to make sure you're, you're getting enough salt and sodium as well.

So if you are eating a real food diet, adding a few strips of bacon here and there is not going to put you overboard for most individuals as far as sodium content is concerned. So I wouldn't recommend eating bacon with every single meal, but again, having a few strips at breakfast sometimes, or maybe you're putting it on a salad. I think for the majority of people, that's not a concern at all.

What to look for when purchasing bacon

When you're looking at purchasing bacon, you do want to think about quality and there's, again, tons of different options out there and not all created equal. So first look at the ingredient list. I would encourage you to do that with any food that you're looking to purchase at the grocery store. So peek at that ingredient list and find one that has the fewest ingredients. Organic pasture raised bacon is the best option. Now that is harder to find. So here in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, you'd really find that organic pasture raised at a co-op, maybe some of the farmer's markets or just a local farmer. And then if it's at a farmer's market or a local farmer, just ask questions as far as whether or not it's pasture raised. And sometimes local farmers are not certified organic just because it's a very expensive process to become certified organic. But many times their practices would be considered organic practices.

And then the question of the nitrites/nitrates. So nitrate free is, is ideal to avoid the the food additive nitrates. You know, some people do react negatively to those. And there is some research suggesting that they may be carcinogenic. And as I mentioned earlier, sometimes they do add like cell result as a naturally occurring source of nitrates.

Does bacon count toward protein?

And when we think of what does bacon count as, so it does give you protein, so we would count it as a protein. Two slices is roughly about seven grams of protein, and seven grams is equal to one ounce of protein. So of course this could vary quite a bit depending on just how thick your strips of bacon are.

How to cook bacon: method recommendation

And then I just want to briefly talk about how to cook bacon. You know, several years ago I discovered baking your bacon and it was a game changer because I hated pan frying bacon. And then there's grease everywhere and it's just a mess. So you can bake your bacon. I would put a sheet of parchment paper down on there and then put your bacon on there. About halfway through I always flip it and I drain the grease.

And then I find if you drain the grease halfway through, it gets even crispier, which is what I love. And you can save that bacon grease. You know, if you are buying good quality bacon, then that bacon grease is completely fine to use. And that would be a delicious addition to many different vegetable dishes that you could do throughout the week. And then if you bake your bacon, you can bake a whole pack at a time and then just store it in the fridge so you're, you're ready to go for breakfast or again, to put on top of a salad or whatever you're looking to do with your bacon.

So I hope I gave you some fresh ideas for breakfast and you learned a little bit about bacon as well. Thank you so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition’s “Ask a Nutritionist”. If you have a nutrition question you would like us to answer, we invite you to join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook.

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