Monday, January 31, 2011

Building the Perfect Breakfast

Eating breakfast is a great idea, we all know that.  But what should you eat?  Believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time not only pondering that question and experimenting with my morning meal, in a quest to find the perfect breakfast.
 The good news is that I think I’m close.  While there are always possibilities for improvement, if you’re looking for a nutritious, fast, filling breakfast I’d suggest this as a great start.

Mike’s Morning Oats
Step 1.  Making Oatmeal Fast
Start with Old Fashioned Rolled Oats.  You know, the kind in the round container with the guy in the hat.  Not quick oats, not instant oats, not a packet or a pouch.  Old Fashioned Rolled Oats.   Get yourself a large bowl, and put 1 part oats and 2 parts water, and a pinch of salt in that bowl.  Microwave that mix on medium power.  In my 1200W Microwave, ¾ cups of oats and 1.5 cups of water are done well in 6 minutes.  My typical serving of oats is 225 Kcals/40g of Carbs/7g Protein/4.5g Fat.
Room For Improvement?
Maybe.  Oats are great because they’re a complex carb that is very high in soluable fiber and B vitamins, and they only cost about .07 cents a serving.  But…
·         Rolled Oats on the stovetop taste slightly better.
·         Steel Cut Oats “stick” even longer and taste even better, but they take a lot longer to make.
·         Making a porridge out of grains like Amaranth, Millet, or Quinoa is my last great frontier…

Step 2.  Adding Protein
A balanced meal should have a little protein as well.  After all, you’re still recovering from your last workout and if you’re running a caloric deficit you also want to avoid catabolism!  Also, that protein will help keep you full.  Oats do contain a bit of protein, but probably not as much as you’d want. 
I add protein to my milk with casein powder.  I typically add about ½ a scoop, which works out to 60 Kcals/12g protein. 
Room for Improvement?
In general, choosing real foods over processed foods (like casein and whey powder) is smart.  You could add an egg to your oatmeal before you cook it (I’ve heard this is really good).  You could also just eat your oats with a side of lean meat.  That said, I find protein powder very convenient, and fairly benign as a processed food as it is almost completely protein.
Step 3.   Add Some Fat
Although fat is calorically dense, fat does not make you fat.  Some fat is good for you, especially if it’s Omega-3 fat which you may not be getting enough of.    Besides increasing satiety, lowering blood triglycerides, lowering your risk of heart disease, and helping with your immune system, eating Omega-3 fats has been shown to reduce inflammation in some groups AS MUCH AS taking NSAIDs!  Eat your fat.
Anyway, I add about 8g of broken up walnuts to my oatmeal for some added fat, and added crunch.  Walnuts are mega healthy for lots of reasons, including a great omega-3 profile.  This works out to around 50 Kcals /5g of Fat.
Room for Improvement?
Other great fat sources are readily available as well.  Chia is great.  If you’re looking for a creamier texture, almond butter is another great option. 
What’s in Your Bowl?
So there it is, my perfect breakfast. It’s as simple as real Oats, Protein Powder, and Walnuts.  It’s that easy.  It takes me about 10 minutes to make, and it keeps me running all day long.  It’s a balance of nutrition, convenience, and repeatability that works for me. 
There are certainly many variations that you could come up with that would be just as good (and in fact I think a protein, nut, blueberry oat pancake sounds delicious).  
The premise is simple though.  Pick a protein, pair it with some fiber, a complex carbohydrate, and a little healthy fat and you’ll be well fueled and ready to take on the day…


  1. If you like almond joy...try this oatmeal variation!

    I'm new to the whole changing my life to a healthy one journey, but we do oatmeal for breakfast most days as well. One tip(of course we are feeding a family of six) is that we do it all in the crock pot. Low setting and everything is done in the morning. SOOOO easy and delicious and cheap and healthy. Win, win, win, and win:)

    I recently registered for my first 5k. I am super nervous, but seeing that others have already been there, done that is a huge encouragement.

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

  2. Thanks for the recipe, that looks amazing, I'll give it a try!

    I think I need one of those small "dip" sized crocks to make overnight oats practical though, my current pot doesn't fit in the dishwasher, and hand washing every morning would be more work.

    Good luck on the 5k. I've enjoyed reading your blog! If you need any help putting together your 5k training, let me know!