As we prepare for a phased return to something resembling normality, you can’t overstate the importance of nutrition to get you brain ready for the daily grind. Here are some nutrition tips and tricks to help set some positive new habits.
The first thing to bear in mind is that there is no one best way to start the day. Find an option that fits your calorie and macronutrient intake, and more importantly your lifestyle. If you prefer to eat larger meals in the evenings then don’t go overboard at breakfast. If you regularly find yourself stalking around the office for snacks at 11am then it might be worth allocating some more calories earlier in the day.
Consider how you prefer to eat over the course of the week, too. Most of us socialise more at weekends and use mealtimes to catch up with friends and family. It is worth allocating more calories to the weekend and building this into your planning.
Planning and execution is everything. If you wake up to an empty fridge then you really limit your options and your chances of success.
Most of us will function better and enjoy better health by adopting an approach that can be summed up as “eat enough food to manage hunger and fuel performance.” If you have more specific goals then you’ll probably require a more specific and accurate method of tracking.
The following principles are fairly universal and will apply to most people:
1. Focus on Protein:
Protein isn’t just about building muscle tissue. Adequate protein is required in order to rebuild all of the body’s tissues from muscle, ligament and cartilage to hair, skin and nails. Eating sufficient protein will help to ensure that you are able to recover fully from whatever training you are undertaking.
The additional benefit of consuming enough protein is one of the easiest ways to manage hunger levels and ensure that you are satisfied at the end of the meal.
Protein is the macronutrient that is most often missing from breakfast and is the legacy of a century of breakfast advice emanating from the cereal manufacturers.
There are plenty of different sources of protein and you aren’t necessarily limited to traditional breakfast foods. The taste and texture profile of protein powders has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years so it is worth experimenting with adding them oats based breakfast to give them a better protein ratio- particularly if you’re pursuing a plant based approach.
2. Optimal Nutrition
Put simply this means eating foods which provide benefits beyond purely “energy” – you’re better off choosing to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables as the foundation of your breakfast rather than sticking to cereal and toast.
Nutrition-wise, you’ll take in a far wider variety vitamins, minerals and phytonutrient, more fibre and more flavour.
3. Add Fuel
If you’re an active individual and you’re not looking to lose weight then you will need to add in more fuel for your breakfast.
Carbohydrates get a bad press and there is a tendency to demonise them however it is far better to consider carbohydrates on a continuum and select according to your needs and goals.
High Calorie Density and Low Volume: Rice, Bread, Bagels, Cereals, Bananas
Moderate Calorie Density and Moderate Volume: Pulses, Oats, Apples, Oranges
Low Calorie and High Volume: Berries, Squash, Pumpkin
Eating for fuel and performance can make consuming sufficient food a struggle, so you’ll be better served eating higher density foods like bagels and cereals, which are less satiating than oats and berries.
You could organise these by macronutrients or calories but a more practical way is by preparation time – putting together an elaborate spread is the last thing you need if you’re trying to get kids ready for school in the morning.
10 minutes prep time:
- Green Peppers, Onion and Cheddar Cheese Omelette
- Bacon and Eggs w/ Mushrooms and Spinach
- Scrambled Eggs on Toast
- Porridge with Berries and Protein Powder
5 minutes prep time
- Greek Yoghurt w/ Berries (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are all great additions)
- Protein Smoothie (Fruit, Milk of Choice, Protein Powder, Nut Butter)
- Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel
60 seconds prep time (longer than that but done the night before)
- Overnight oats
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Left overs (sometimes the best breakfast is dinner)
For help planning nutritional meals go to Nutrition Kitchen.