Whenever I consult individuals about a lower carbohydrate diet there is always one concerning question: “So what can you eat for breakfast?” The grocery retailers would have you believe that breakfast cereals, oatmeal, bagels, fruit, and juice are the essentials to a “complete and balanced breakfast.” Early morning business meetings further confirm that the traditional breakfast choices are muffins, croissants, bagels, and doughnuts washed down by sugared coffee and juice. With all of these sweet treats available and ingrained in our society as “the norm”, the thought of a hunk of meat and veggies after rolling out of bed can be hard to swallow for the average person. Breakfast is easily overlooked so quick options are preferred for many individuals. Parents especially get hit with the responsibility of trying to feed their kids something nutritious before they run out of the door (hopefully not late) for school. Parents beware, your kids will still do well on tests and your job will not suffer without the “brain food” provided from whole grains. Sorry mini talking frosted wheat guy; there are better options out there.
A clean, low-carb breakfast is possible once you break out of old habits and suck it up a little. Yes, some options may take a little longer to prepare, but good things are worth the wait. A little planning ahead and cooking extra food is all it takes to conquer a nutritionally complete breakfast. If the thought of meat and veggies after you wake up makes your stomach turn, there are definitely other options out there that may better suit you. You should certainly give new options a shot, but if the new meals give you trouble you may need digestive aid or have other issues that need to be addressed.
I used to travel a lot for my full-time job and realize people appreciate some quick options. I’ve included comparisons of standard breakfast items versus more nutrient dense options at a hotel breakfast buffet, a grab and go option, a weekend treat, and a café breakfast for kicks. I’ve added a cost analysis as well; however, prices may vary by location. Your own choices may provide an even bigger bang-for-your-buck when you add in the nutritional benefit that comes from eating grass-fed, free-range, organic options as these comparisons are based off of standard fare.
Round 1: Oh, the beloved buffet
- 2 cups bran cereal with raisins
- 8 fl oz orange juice
- 8 fl oz 2% milk
- 1 medium (7-7 7/8” long) banana
Price = Free to $15 at a hotel breakfast buffet
Total Fat: 8 grams, Sat Fat: 4 grams, MUFA: 2 grams, PUFA: 2 grams, Total Carbs: 151 grams, Protein: 21 grams, Sugar: 83 grams!! The only thing I see about this as complete, is that it’s completely full of sugar!
- 3 egg omelet with mushrooms, onion, tomato, green peppers, spinach, and ham
- 3 slices of bacon
- 1 cup honeydew
- 8 fl oz coffee (nothing added)
Price = Free to $15 at a hotel breakfast buffet
Calories: 473, Total Fat: 31 grams, Sat Fat: 12 grams, MUFA: 14 grams, PUFA: 5 grams, Total Carbs: 22 grams, Protein: 30 grams, Sugar: 17 grams from fruit/vegetables
While the vitamins and minerals in the cereal breakfast may exceed the totals in the paleo breakfast, it is due to enrichment. Even though many processed foods are enriched, consuming paleo choices for meals and snacks will easily add up to over and above 100% of the RDIs for most vitamins and minerals, with a few exceptions (i.e. calcium, vitamin D). The vitamin and minerals that you will be consuming with a paleo breakfast are from the whole foods themselves, not from processing.
Round 2: Grab and go goodness….
- 6 oz fat free yogurt
- 1 oz regular cream cheese
- 3.5-3.75” diameter cinnamon raisin bagel
Price = About $2.00
Total Calories: 452, Total Fat: 11 grams, SFA: 7 grams, MUFA:3 grams, PUFA: 1 gram, Total Carbohydrates: 72 grams, Protein: 17 grams, Sugar: 22 grams
- 1 bag (2 oz) Paleo Brands Natural BBQ Beef Jerky
- 1 oz walnuts
Price = About $5.50
Total Calories: 325, Total Fat: 20 grams, SFA: 1.5 grams, Total Carbohydrates: 14 grams, Protein: 26 grams, Sugar: 10 grams sugar
Even the most well prepared individuals will find themselves in sticky situations when a “grab-and-go” breakfast is the best bet. There are tons of tempting packaged options available at gas stations, fast food restaurants, or even in your own cabinets if your family/roommates aren’t on the paleo bandwagon. After checking out the analysis between these quick grab-and-go breakfast ideas, I doubt you’ll think twice about grabbing that bagel. At least I know I’ll pass on the massive inner tube of gluten.
The paleo options provide a great source of omega 3 fatty acids coming from grass fed meat and walnuts. The walnuts provide 2.5 g ALA. Iron from animal sources (heme iron) is more readily absorbed than iron from plant sources. While the bagel breakfast has iron from the enriched wheat flour, your body appreciates the real stuff.
Round 3: Fuel yourself through the weekend
- 4 oz grilled wild Atlantic salmon
- 1.5 cups grilled zucchini with coconut oil
- Spinach salad with strawberries, almonds, and balsamic vinegar
Price = About $4.00
Total Calories: 367, Total Fat: 18 grams, SFA: 7 grams, MUFA: 6 grams, PUFA: 5 gram, Total Carbohydrates: 20 grams, Protein: 34 grams, Sugar: 10 grams
- 3 slices french toast
- ¼ cup syrup with maple syrup flavor
- 3 oz turkey sausage links
Price = About $1.00
Total Calories: 940, Total Fat: 38 grams, SFA: 11 grams, MUFA:16 grams, PUFA: 11 grams, Total Carbohydrates: 115 grams, Protein: 36 grams, Sugar: 42 grams
Wild salmon, zucchini, and salad for breakfast? Oh my! This combination may sound strange at first, but not feeling ravenous again just shortly after breakfast is something strange to those eating the standard fare. Try it! You might like it.
Fun fact: the traditional retail bottles of maple syrup may not even contain any maple syrup at all. Retail industrial bottled “maple syrup” can simply consist of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, natural and artificial flavors, and colorings.
Round 4: Café FAIL
And just for kicks…. Does this breakfast look familiar?
- Egg white, spinach, and feta wrap with a large nonfat mocha drink with whipped cream
Price = $8.00
Calories: 630, Total Fat: 22 grams, SFA: 10.5 grams, Total Carbohydrate: 91 grams, Protein: 23 grams, Sugar: 58 grams
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