Victoria BC Dietitian (Dietician Nutritionist) Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD Shares 1 Simple Trick to Stop The Mid-Afternoon Slump.Read More
This month’s nutrition game changer (NGC)* relates to breakfast. While I may not agree with the common sentiment that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (they’re all equally important), I have found that getting breakfast right can set you up for good energy all day. On the flip side, a couple of commonly-made breakfast mistakes can set you up for a day of cravings.
I’ve found that having a sugary breakfast can set you up to ride the blood sugar roller coaster all day long. By blood sugar roller coaster, I mean having your blood sugar spike after breakfast to subsequently cash making you crave sugar. After you eat the mid-morning donuts your blood sugar will spike and then crash again by lunch. And, again and again all day long.
I learned this one personally. While I always ate breakfast, for many years my breakfast of choice was toast with butter and jam and some fruit. I craved those donuts mid-morning, and other sugary treats all day long. I simply blamed it on my sweet tooth. When I switched up my breakfast to some plain yogurt with fruit, I noticed that I my sugar cravings decreased the whole day. I’ve continued to evolve my breakfast to be overnight oats, topped with nuts or seeds and fruit and I have fantastic energy all day long. Sure, I still enjoy something sweet most days. But it’s by choice. I’m not feeling controlled by my cravings.
Subsequently, I’ve found that I’m not the only one for whom this is an effective strategy. Decreasing the sugar (with a goal of completely removing the added sugar) at breakfast is something that I recommend for almost all of my clients. It consistently results in reduced cravings all day long.
To clarify, I’m talking about added sugars – not the natural sugar found in fruit. Added sugar is found in many seemingly-healthy breakfast cereals, in jam, in “fruit” yogurt, and when you add it to your coffee or tea.
Now if we’ve been connected for a while you’ll know that I’m not an anti-sugar hardliner (check out my “Why I’m Anti-Anti-Sugar” post). Healthy eating certainly can include the pleasure of sweets. I recommend enjoying them later in the day so that they don’t cause you day-long cravings.
*A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase. I share one NGC each month.
Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.
Discovering overnight oats, particularly when made with steel cut oats, has literally changed my mornings. I was always a breakfast eater. Usually toast. Then by 10:30am I was always hungry again. Not just a general hunger, I craved baked goods – donuts, muffins, anything sweet and baked. When I tried overnight oats made with steel cut oats, I no longer craved baking mid-morning. In fact, I wasn’t hungry at all until noon. I’ve recommended overnight steel cut oats for many clients and all have had the same improvement in their mid-morning hunger and/or cravings.
I shared the recipe for overnight oats last year - you can get that simple, delicious recipe HERE.
The recipe works with both rolled oats and steel cut oats. Today I want to talk specifically about steel cut oats. They’re even less processed than rolled oats – think of them as not-yet-rolled. As such, we digest them even more slowly. The more slowly we digest foods, the longer it takes before we get hungry again. Also, slow digestion prevents a blood sugar spike. Blood sugar spikes result in a crash and then craving more sweets.
Steel cut oats take a lot more chewing than rolled oats. And, they’re higher in fibre. Specifically, the “bulk-forming” kind of fibre (I’ll let you imagine why). Expect significant changes when you go to the bathroom. Because this kind of fibre helps our bodies get rid of bile and toxins, it’s fantastically healthy from a heart health and diabetes point of view.
One word of caution: be sure that you drink lots of water when you try steel cut oats. Otherwise you risk constipation.
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Sometimes the classics are a classic for a reason. Bananas and peanut butter simply taste great together. Here's a fun way to bring this classic duo together in a healthy kids snack. I'm choosing to share it today because it's easy for young hands to manage. Perfect if you're gearing up to pack snacks or a lunch for little ones with back-to-school next week. This works well with peanut butter, other nut butters (e.g. almond butter) and the non-nut butters if your child attends a nut-free facility.
Hey, it's also a delicious idea for those of us who are young at heart :)
Banana Roll-Ups Ingredients 2 small tortilla wraps, whole wheat ¾ medium banana 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, nut butter or non-nut butter ½ tsp honey (optional) 1 dash cinnamon, ground
Banana Roll-Ups Directions
- Slice banana.
- Spread nut butter or non-nut butter on wraps.
- Top with bananas.
- Drizzle honey and add a dash of cinnamon.
- Roll (pack in lunch boxes) and enjoy.
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Recently I had a client who asked me for my nutrition game changers. She was looking for foods or habits that have made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase.What a cool concept. Thank you Alison for asking me the question! I liked Alison’s idea so much that I’ve decided to share these ideas with you too. Starting today, once a month, I’ll be sharing with you my nutrition game changers. It might be a food (like today) or it might be a simple habit that can make a big impact in your health. I hope that you enjoy this new idea! It was easy to decide what my first nutrition game changer would be. I first started eating hemp seeds (a.k.a. hemp hearts) myself. Loving them, I’ve now introduced them to almost every client whom I work with.
Hemp Hearts: Why Do I Love Them?
Hemp hearts are a great source of plant-based protein and healthy omega-3 fat. Their mild taste, tiny size, and softer texture mean that they are less noticeable than other nuts when you add them to dishes, lending themselves well to many uses.
And, they’re grown in the Canadian prairies. So, they’re a more local choice than many nuts and seeds.
Help Hearts: How to Eat Them
These are the two most common ways that I recommend including hemp hearts:
- Hemp seeds are a great way to include protein at breakfast. As you can see in the picture, I add them to my overnight oats. Sprinkle them on your cereal or blend them into smoothies. Do you head out the door without eating breakfast? How about wolfing down 1 – 2 TBSP of these and a piece of fruit? It’s a healthy breakfast without taking the time to prepare anything.
- Add them to plain yogurt and fruit as a protein boost to your afternoon snack. Their healthy fats will also help keep your blood sugar stable and likely keep you full longer (and less likely to hit up the vending machine for junk foods).
Want to give them a try without committing to a big bag? Keep an eye open for the individual serving packages (like the ones I have in the picture). Or, browse the bulk food section at your local grocery or health food store.
Store your hemp seeds in the fridge. Like all nuts and seeds, this will keep the fats fresh and they’ll taste better.
Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.
Is your cereal as healthy as you think? Lots of cereals that are marketed as healthy don’t have a lot going for them. They’re marketed for what they don’t have in them, “low fat”, “low calorie”, etc. Many famous "healthy" cereals fall into this category. Many people are surprised to find out that their favourite cereal is actually contributing to their weight gain.
Instead of choosing a cereal for what it doesn’t have in it, I want you to choose your breakfast for what it does have in it. Choose to nourish your body instead of depriving it.
One of the most common things that I do when working with people is change their breakfast. You will likely benefit from changing your breakfast if you:
- Find yourself hungry again by 10am (and looking longingly at those donuts and croissants).
- Crave sugar mid-afternoon.
Choose a breakfast that naturally has lots of fibre so that it is slowly digested. Grains and pseudograins that are minimally processed have most of their fibre attached. Puffed cereals are digested quickly. Flakes are digested at a medium pace. Look for intact grains that take lots of chewing. Steel-cut oats are a fantastic example. So is making a cereal out of quinoa or buckwheat.
Ready to take your breakfast bowl up another notch? Or, not ready to switch cereals but want to reap the benefits of a healthier breakfast? Help your breakfast last longer by adding nuts and seeds (or their butters). Their protein and healthy fats will help you digest your breakfast even slower, keeping you full longer.
I don’t know if the old saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is true. It may not be the most important meal. But it certainly is an important one. Starting off with the right breakfast raises your blood sugar gradually and keeps you full for hours. It’s like armor protecting you from the tempting, junky foods that surround us all day. In other words, eating the right breakfast can help with healthy weight loss. Are you eating the right breakfast?
The Right Breakfast
The great news is that there isn’t just one perfect breakfast. Many foods can make up the “right” breakfast. Here are the 4 important characteristics of the “right” breakfast (and some food ideas):
- Produce. I highly doubt that you’re surprised that I ‘m recommending that you include fruit or vegetables in your breakfast. Most of us could use to eat more and so why not get a serving or two in at the start of the day? Eat a piece of fruit, top your oatmeal with berries, add some spinach in your omelet, or warm up last night’s stir-fry leftovers.
- Protein. Here’s something that toast or cereal eaters often miss. Including protein will help your blood sugars be stable for longer, which means no mid-morning crashes and cravings for donuts. Sprinkle hemp hearts or chia seeds on your cereal, spread nut butter on your toast, or enjoy a couple of eggs.
- Real whole grains. This one is optional. You may just want to include protein and produce and you’ll be doing great. Others (me included) do better with some real whole grains at breakfast. What do I mean by “real” whole grains? I mean minimally processed grains. Something that you really have to chew. There’s a lot of highly processed breakfast foods that claim to be whole grain and/or high fibre. I recommend avoiding anything that’s super light-weight, like a lot of breads and puffed cereals. They digest really fast and your blood sugar starts to drop quickly. Instead look for something that needs a lot of chewing, like steel-cut oats and is heavy to hold, like many sprouted grain breads.
- Sugar. Again no surprises here (except where it can be hidden). Have as little added sugar as you can (ideally none). Watch out for it in “healthy” cereals, take-out smoothies made with fruit drink concentrates, and in “fruit”-on-the-bottom yogurt.
Here's a recipe for Overnight Oats - a fantastic example of the right breakfast. Try it tomorrow morning and see how great you can feel!
I'm a long-time lover of avocados and so I'm excited to see that many others have realized how delicious they are. And, that their healthy fat is not something of which to be afraid. Browsing around Pinterest for some cooking inspiration (I love Pinterest), I found this recipe. I like to give credit where credit is due, so here's the original recipe: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Baked-Eggs-Avocado-Recipe-30787252 This baked avocado egg recipe has all the creamy deliciousness of an eggs benny - without all the work of Hollandaise sauce. In other words, it's a perfect recipe for Easter breakfast. Finger Food Version: Cook a few minutes longer until both the whites and yolk are set (it's recommended that babies under 12 months don't have runny egg yolks). Cut the egg and avocado into finger-food size pieces. Or, spread on long, skinny pieces of toast.
Baked Avocado Egg Ingredients:
salt & pepper
Baked Avocado Egg Directions:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Slice the avocados in half. Remove the pit. Scoop out enough flesh from the avocado, so the egg will fit in the centre. Reserve this flesh for another recipe/snack.
- Slice a small piece off the back of the avocado halves so that they will sit flat without rolling around. Place the avocados in a small baking dish, making sure they fit tightly. If your dish is too big, scrunch up a piece of tin foil to fill the space.
- Season the avocado halves with salt and pepper. Crack an egg into each avocado half.
- Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of your eggs and avocados. And, how you like our eggs cooked.
- Enjoy scooped directly out of the avocados. Or, spread on top of toast.
Do you find that weekday mornings are rushed?
If so, you're not alone. Most families I work with name this (and weeknight evenings) as the most harried times of the week.
Usually I share recipe ideas that can help with weeknights.
But I've recently given overnight oatmeal a try and I'm loving this! I've totally jumped on the bandwagon. And I'm sharing the recipe with you so you can jump aboard too.
Prepared the night before, and with no cooking required, overnight oats are fantastic!
Made with rolled oats, it's a minimally processed, whole food way to start the day. Much healthier than most boxed cereals and those instant oatmeal packets.
And it travels well. Which is perfect if you find that you can get your kids fed in the morning but you struggle to get something into yourself. I know that many people rely on smoothies in this situation. But I've always found that I'm hungry again by about 10am when I've had a smoothie for breakfast. Not so with overnight oats - I'm full until noon (or later)!
This recipe is really more of a technique. Mix and match proteins and fruits for variety and to find your favourite combination.
Overnight Oatmeal Directions:
- Combine equal parts rolled oats with yogurt and milk in a bowl or the container that you'll take this in to go (I carried mine with me in the mason jar). A generous adult serving is 1/3c up oats, 1/3 cup yogurt, 1/3 cup milk. For kids, start with 1/4 cup of each ingredient and adjust from there depending on your child's appetite.
- Choose a protein that you like. Examples include hemp hearts (my personal favourite), chia seeds, chopped or sliced nuts, nut butter, pumpkin seeds. Add it to the oat mixture.
- Choose a fruit that you like. Examples include: applesauce (my personal favourite), berries, pomegranate, pumpkin puree. Add it to the oat mixture.
As the name of this dish suggests, prepare everything the night before. Place it in the fridge. The next morning, give it a stir and enjoy!
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