“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” How often did we hear this growing up and how often do we still hear it? Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? I would say it’s not. You really can’t pin your whole day on one meal in my opinion. There are times when I say it’s important to eat something within an hour, but most of the time I recommend eating when you feel hungry and go from there.
Let’s look at times when you should consider being diligent at eating breakfast. First, when people have blood sugar regulation issues. This looks like the term “hangry”. Think hungry and angry combined = hangry. This happens when your blood sugar falls too low and you can become overly emotional, want to eat anything and everything in sight and feel shaky. While this is normal for some folks, it really shouldn’t be a daily or even weekly occurrence. Eating breakfast can help your body regulate its hormones, giving your body the cues that the day is going and we’re ready to conquer. It should be noted that I’m not talking about frosted mini wheats. I’m talking about oatmeal with nuts and berries, eggs with vegetables and fruit, or if you’re in a hurry, some quality bread with nut butter. What the goal is with these meals, is low sugar, and quality, complex carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Another time I recommend eating breakfast within an hour of waking is if you workout at a greater intensity in the morning. People often report feeling really good doing cardio in a fasted state. This means they've had no food and are walking/running/hiking etc.on an empty stomach. Once you introduce weight training into the routine, people tend to feel less good in a fasted state.This obviously doesn’t apply to everyone and that’s where knowing and listening to your body comes into play. If you are doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) or resistance training, I do recommend eating beforehand even if it’s a ½ banana with peanut butter, yogurt, or a piece of toast then having a more hearty meal post workout.
Those 2 instances aside, the most important thing to remember is, eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re not. Focus on protein, carbohydrates, fats and vegetables each time you eat and eat your total calories for the day by the time you go to bed. People love to overcomplicate and overthink things. While there are some scenarios where meal timing is necessary, the majority of the time, that’s just not the case.
Interested in learning more? Schedule with our knowledgeable nutritional therapist, Hannah Roeter BS FNTP.
The term “healthy fats” is tossed around a lot these days in particular in the “whole foods” space, which is great that people are becoming more aware that French fries are different than a fresh avocado. This is awesome and a huge improvement from several years ago when people were thinking that eating non fat everything was the key to health and that eating fat would in turn make you fat. We’ve since learned the massive health benefits of eating high quality fats but, somewhere we got a little wonky on portion sizes.
People love extremes. We went from eating no fat to eating all the fat with popular diets like the ketogenic diet (or what people think is a ketogenic diet). We need fat. Our brain is made of fat. Our cells are held up with fat. Our hormones travel on fat. We just don’t need as much as a lot of us are currently eating.
As people began to realize the benefits of a whole foods diet, whole milk cheese and yogurt became popular again, eggs and bacon are the breakfast of champions and heavy whipping cream or even butter became a staple in people’s morning cup of coffee. Listen, I love all these things and I’m not knocking on any one of them individually. An issue that I see, is some people are *only* eating high fat foods in pretty big portions too. This raises the issue of total calories consumed and also cholesterol. While fat doesn’t make you fat, overeating cholesterol does negatively impact your overall cholesterol levels. People can forget about fruits and vegetables because fat is so satiating. This can be a reason people drop body fat while eating a high fat diet, mostly because they end up eating less total calories. An issue arises when people are eating high fat, and high carb in combinations (or even just normal carb). Again, fat and carbs are not bad, but it’s incredibly easy to eat more than your body requires which equals a calorie surplus.
For the majority of people, sticking to around 30-40% of your daily calories from fat is sufficient. This supports brain function, hormone function and satiety while also supporting body composition. This means that if you eat 2,000 calories per day, you’ll eat about 65-70g of fat per day. This may look like a big number, but most people are surprised how easy it is to consume much more than that.
I do believe that there are specific people and situations that do well on a higher fat/ketogenic diet. I just don’t believe that the majority of people should. Don’t fear fat, (or any other macronutrient for that matter) just realize that as with everything, it’s about moderation and being aware of the quantities you’re consuming based on what your body needs.
Interested in learning more? Schedule with our knowledgeable nutritional therapist, Hannah Roeter BS FNTP.
Christmas and New Year’s are fast approaching, maybe they’ve already passed by the time you’re reading this article. How many times have you heard or maybe even you’ve said something along the lines of “Ugh...I’ve eaten so much this weekend I shouldn't eat for a week.” So, let’s look at this. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Enjoying family and friends (small groups only this year, of course) and savoring some of your favorite holiday treats. With this can come eating more sweets and more calories in general also known as “overindulging”. Practicing moderation (having a few bites then tossing the rest, or 1 or 2 of your favorite things) here would be key, however this is something that should be practiced so if you’re not there yet, don't worry. So, let’s say you ate more than necessary around holidays and you’re feeling bloated, tired and “off” in general. Should you actually not eat for a week? No!
So, what should you do? Eat normally, move in a way that feels good. Now, if your “normal” eating isn’t effective for helping you feel good, then you may need to reassess your current situation. What I’m talking about is eating plenty of fiber. Think raw sauerkraut to get your guts feeling better, lots of fresh and cooked veggies however you like them, fruits and “tolerable to you grains” and some lean protein. Intense exercise may or may not feel great after some extra eating. Listen to your body here. A long walk could feel great, lifting heavy weights might also feel amazing and you’re likely to hit some PRs due to some extra glycogen (carbs) stored in your muscle tissue. It’s important to note that I’m not talking about “burning off the extra calories”, I’m simply talking about moving to get your body feeling more normal, regulating your digestion and getting your mind clear from some sugar fog.
Sure, doing an extreme diet after the holidays might be tempting but, eating whole unprocessed foods, drinking water, moving however feels good and making sleep a top priority will not only get you feeling better, but possibly feeling better than before than the holidays. The key to this is being consistent. Showing up everyday and doing the work necessary to feel your best.
Eating some extra food around the holidays really isn't a big deal. Our bodies are very adaptive and can adjust to some extra calories here and there. Regardless, before diving face first into the sugar cookies, take a minute and think about if you really want one. If the answer is “yes”, eat one, if the answer is “no”, you don't actually have to eat it just because it’s Christmas. This year has been a weird one and the holiday season is no different, so enjoy every minute of your weird Christmas and don't stress about the extra food.
Schedule a visit with our in house nutritional therapist, Hannah Roeter BS, FNTP
Protein Powder Debate
“Should I take a protein supplement?” is a common question I get asked. Here’s my answer: it depends. Protein can be a highly debated topic which I’m not going to dive too deep into, but here are some brief thoughts.
Protein supplementation through protein powders can be a very useful tool when exercising with the intention of getting stronger and building muscle mass. When we exercise, we literally tear apart our muscles (which causes muscle soreness) and they have to rebuild themselves. That’s how we get muscle hypertrophy (growth). If we are not getting sufficient protein intake or overall calorie intake, our bodies cannot repair themselves which can lead to fatigue, poor muscle recovery and feeling overall really depleted.
There can be an argument made against protein supplementation. It encourages laziness with food preparation and also leads down the path of more processed foods instead of focusing on getting the majority of your calories from whole food sources. There’s something very methodical about eating and chewing slowly to digest your food. While I wholeheartedly agree with this, this is also real life and we need to find a balance. For me personally, I do supplement with protein after most workouts because I tend to do higher intensity workouts with an emphasis on weightlifting. If I were exercising at a lesser intensity with no emphasis on muscle gain, I wouldn’t care as much and I’d focus on eating whole foods the majority of the time to meet my needs.
It can also be a great way to get additional nutrients by adding in leafy greens and berries to your shakes. If you tolerate dairy, adding in some yogurt can be beneficial for not only additional protein but also probiotics for gut health. People like to argue that smoothies/shakes should be avoided because eating whole foods should be the priority and for some, it can lead to eating excess food because the smoothie didn’t “register” that they've eaten their meal. If this is you, do what works for you and eat whole foods. If this isn't you, then I say a smoothie everyday is no problem at all. You’re getting protein, carbs, fat (optional) and fruits and veggies so, I’m really not sure how that’s ever a bad thing.
There are some guidelines though. Aim for getting a protein powder with the least amount of ingredients and no artificial sweeteners like aspartame (acesulfame) and splenda (sucralose). Stevia is just fine in my opinion with minimal to no gut reaction for most folks. Sugar alcohols which are xylitol, malitol and erythritol should also be avoided when possible due to the gut reaction many have from them such as bloating, gas and diarrhea.
Bottom line is, if you’re exercising at an intense pace with the goal of getting more fit and adding more muscle mass to your body, I think it’s a good idea to supplement with a protein powder post workout, especially if eating enough protein is a struggle for you. Keep in mind that it’s not an excuse not to cook and eat whole foods, and most importantly, don’t forget to eat your vegetables!
Interested in finding a personalized approach for yourself? Schedule a visit with our in house nutritional therapist, Hannah Roeter, BS, FNTP.
There are so many ideas in the nutrition world these days, that some people just end up feeling perplexed, perhaps even accompanied by a little bit of “analysis paralysis”. In an attempt to dispel some confusion, I’m going to highlight two of the most important ideas today. One term is macros (short for macronutrients). The other is JERF (abbreviation for Just Eat Real Food).
Let’s look into these terms and what they actually mean. Starting with Macros first: it simply means the amounts of carbohydrates, fat, and protein in a diet. Typically when people say they’re “tracking macros”, it means they are keeping track of protein, fat, carbohydrates and total calories.
JERF is the other term we’re diving into also known as Just Eat Real Food. Typically when people say this (or use it as a hashtag on social media) they are referring to eating whole, unprocessed foods most of the time. Tracking your whole food intake is commonly not practiced here.
Now that we have an understanding of what I’m talking about, let’s look into some benefits and pitfalls that can happen with both practices.
Benefits of macros based eating include enjoying balanced meals and snacks most of the time since you're trying to keep your macro percentages (carb, protein, fat) similar each time you eat. It teaches people appropriate portion sizes by having people measure the food they’re consuming. This can be beneficial for many, since we tend to underestimate certain foods such as fat and overestimate other things such as protein and carbohydrates. Oftentimes, people can tend to undereat then overeat every few days because overall total calories have been too low. This can be especially prominent in people who have done poorly designed diets in the past. Tracking can keep this in check (to be clear, I’m not talking about binge eating behaviors here). It also teaches consistency, which can be a challenge for yo-yo dieters or for people who eat sporadically. Everyday, you’re eating similar foods, similar portions and similar total calories.
Tracking macros does have its share of pitfalls however. IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is another common social media hashtag and while it can be great for fitting an occasional “indulgence” in your dietary plan it can also lead people down the path of poptarts and protein shakes all day, everyday. For some people it can also trigger their past of eating disorders or disordered eating patterns from past attempts at logging calories (typically very low calorie diets) and they can also become a bit obsessive if they don’t hit their numbers perfectly each day.
Now, let’s consider the benefits of JERF. Eating whole foods the majority of the time also means you’re limiting processed foods which is always good. The focus tends to be more on quality of the food which is a great mindset shift from “how can i get the cheapest chicken breast?” to “how was this raised” “what were the farming practices?” etc. It can also be a great way to reduce plastic use by reducing the amount of pre packaged foods you purchase each week. It also has a great focus on homemade meals with nutrient dense ingredients.
The pitfalls of JERF: The one I see most frequently is undereating. Healthy foods such as lean meats, beans, veggies and fruits are pretty low in calories so it makes it easier to eat less.This can be helpful from a fat loss perspective but you need to remember less food isn’t always better. On the flip side of this, it can also be really easy to overeat things such as fatty cuts of meats (bacon, sausage) and nuts. Nuts are extremely easy to eat (especially if they’re roasted and salted!) and 1 serving is about 14 almonds. I don't know about you, but I can definitely eat more than 14 almonds at a time. It can also become really easy to eat too much fat, not enough protein and not enough carbohydrates. There’s more to this concept, but I’ll leave that for another day.
In conclusion, successful implementation of either method does require knowing yourself, and knowing your history of eating. They both benefit from some experimentation to see what works best for you and where you’re at in your life currently. Something that has worked well for you in the past may, or may not work again. Be open to trying new things and to your own process. They both come down to how you do it, the amount of head space you have along with any goals you have.
Interested in learning more? Book an appointment with Hannah Roeter to organize your best plan.
Staff at Mission Health & Wellness regularly contribute to this blog including Nick Carlo, Hannah Roeter, Courtney Mohr Taylor, and Dr. Kristen Acesta