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Try a healthier start to your day

If you are trying to cut back on sugar and refined foods, one of the hardest meals is breakfast.

A few factors make breakfast challenging. You’re tired. It’s early. You don’t have a lot of time to prepare and to get creative in the kitchen. Plus there are so many convenient, quick breakfast options on the grocery store shelves, at drive-thrus and at coffee shops.

The easy choices become a bowl of cereal, toast and jam, cereal or granola bars, a fruity yogurt cup, frozen waffles with a drizzle of syrup, or a quick stop on the way to the office for a breakfast sandwich, coffee and muffin, or packaged oatmeal heated up in the microwave once you get to work.

While these might be the quick and easy options, they certainly aren’t doing your health any favours. Most of these are carbohydrate dense and so it’s not just the added sugars but the carbs themselves that break down to sugar in the body.

Plus with packaged foods, all of the fibre has been removed and so you aren’t left with much in the way of real nutrients, just an influx of the nasty white stuff that can, over time, lead to a whole host of potential health problems. Not to mention, the huge spike they’ll cause in your blood glucose levels, and you’ll be looking for another sugar fix a couple hours later.

Let’s take a look at the sugar content of some common breakfast items

Breakfast bars – Can have upwards of 25 grams of added sugar per bar.

Fruit-flavoured yogurt – The fruit flavouring and artificial sweeteners can add about 30 grams of sugar to a six ounce container.

Muffins – Unless you are baking your own healthy versions, many prepared muffins will deliver over 32 grams of added sugar. That’s more than a snickers bar!

Packaged cereals – Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch has 20 grams of added sugar in one serving. Even the supposedly healthier granola type options aren’t much better. General Mills Oatmeal Crisp Crunchy Almond has 16 grams of added sugar.

Frozen waffles and syrup – Two Eggo waffles and some maple-flavoured table syrup will give you about 35 grams of added sugar.

Flavoured Coffee – Maybe you skip an actual meal and get your start with a delicious Starbuck’s grande, non-fat, vanilla latte. If so, you’re also getting a whooping 35 grams of added sugar.

My rule of thumb, to make sure your blood sugar is balanced and to keep you satiated from meal to meal, is to have a combination of fat, fibre and protein whenever you eat.

Here a few of my favourite sugar-free breakfast options

Eggs – Are always a great breakfast choice. Soft boiled, poached, or over easy with a side of fruit can be a great breakfast. For a good grab-and-go option, make a batch of egg muffins (think mini quiches without the crust) add in some veggies, herbs and maybe even some good quality sausage meat, keep them in the freezer and the reheat in the morning while you’re in the shower. With eggs remember to keep the yolks soft to slightly gelatinous so you don’t get that oxidization happening when the yolks get hard.

Grain-free, sugar-free granola – You can makeup a batch of this beforehand or simply take a tablespoon each of your favourite unsalted seeds and nuts (walnuts, slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds), top with a tablespoon of unsweetened coconut, a sprinkle of cinnamon, pour on some unsweetened almond milk and toss in a handful of blueberries or a cut up apple and you have a delicious bowl that will keep you going for hours.

Smoothies – Now that we are slowly getting into the warmer weather, I like starting my day with a refreshing and nourishing smoothie. Many of the store bought, pre-packaged smoothies can have a lot of sugar in them, so making your own is the best route. I start with water as a base, add in some veggies — usually spinach and cucumber, then fruit for sweetness — berries or an apple, half an avocado for some good fat and creaminess, and then maybe some chia, flax or hemp for some added protein. Give it a good whiz in the blender and you’ve got enough for breakfast and then a mid-morning snack.

Yogurt – I so wish I could stomach yogurt because of it’s incredible probiotic properties and benefits, but my taste buds just can’t seem to adapt. If you enjoy yogurt, I recommend a full-fat, plain, organic version with only two ingredients – milk of some sort and bacterial cultures. Many Greek yogurts have cornstarch and thickeners added to give them that nice consistency so be aware. Throw in some seeds, nuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon, fresh berries and you have yourself a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, gut-healing meal.

Fresh Fruit – Is always a quick and easy option for breakfast. While whole fruit contains a lot of beneficial vitamins, minerals and fibre, it also has a lot of natural sugar called fructose. So it’s best to eat your fruit with some other foods to slow the absorption of fructose into the blood stream. Try a big bowl of fruit salad tossed with seeds, nuts, shredded coconut and a sprinkle of cinnamon, maybe a dollop of good quality, sugar-free, full-fat yogurt. Organic peanut or almond butter is great spread on a sliced banana, apple or pear.

Try these healthy breakfast alternatives and see the difference they make. Be aware of your energy levels, moods, and notice if you feel more balanced throughout the day. Enjoy!

*This post was originally published in the Herald Community on June 24, 2014

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