Kai Zau tells us not all hours are created equal, and that the first four hours of the day are four times more valuable than other hours.
We can allow our mornings be a whirlwind of running out the door as fast as possible straight into the rat race of the world without having done anything to truly fuel ourselves for the day; or we can approach our mornings as the opportunity to best support ourselves: building a foundation towards our success for the entire day.
If the first hours of the day are most important, and approximately every seven years our bodies are rebuilding themselves, then the fuel we are putting in ourselves and when we are fueling ourselves is rather important.
If you’re continually filling your body with cream cheese, bagels, and coffee in the morning; then that’s all it has to rebuild itself with. Pondering this really starts to emphasize the saying “you are what you eat.”
To help fuel our bodies towards their best selves as they continually regenerate themselves, here are four key building blocks to follow; including some great breakfast recipes at the end of this article aimed at helping start your day out right.
Building Blocks to Fuel Yourself Toward Your Best Self and Day
1) eat more plant based foods
2) take vitamin supplements
3) never skip breakfast
Eat More Plant Based Foods
As a former personal trainer and sustainability consultant, I could spend hours lecturing on the health and sustainability benefits of eating plant based foods; however I’ll simply recommend that at some point you watch the TED talk on the importance of eating more plant based foods, and in the meantime, here are some quick ways to start getting more plant-based food in your diet:
- Replace half of your pasta with vegetables, an easy way to do this is by replacing half the noodles with spiralized vegetables .
- Replace the second half of your sandwich (or whatever you lunch is and reduce that by half), replacing that half with a large salad.
- Grab a green juice, but make sure to keep the fruit and sugar content low and the vegetable content high, here’s my favorite green juice recipe .
It’s difficult to derive all of the nutrients necessary to function at optimum levels simply from nutrients of the foods you eat alone.
Let’s take a look at spinach for example, a healthy food. Yet, still a cup of spinach is only going to supply you with 14% of your daily recommended value for vitamin C, 4% for iron (even though it’s often considered an iron-rick vegetable), 5% of Vitamin B-6, 6% of Magnesium, 56% of Vitamin A, and 3% of calcium.
Where would you get the rest of the 100% of the daily recommended value for those vitamins and minerals in your diet, and more importantly where are you going to get the vitamins and minerals not included in the nutrition of spinach such as Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Zinc and others?
It’s simplest for most to simply supplement in order to ensure they are reaching their daily recommended values. Joan Matthews Health Recovery Center has some great resources and testimonies on how diet and supplements affect us and can help us function at our best when used correctly.
Never Skip Breakfast
What we begin fueling our bodies with in the morning gives us the foundation to start building our success for the rest of the day.
If we start our day with just a coffee, our body is hitting energy slumps, jitters, and sugar cravings before lunch even has time to roll around.
However, if we start fueling our body right from the start it’s going to start functioning at it’s best right from the beginning and that fuel will give us what our body needs to fuel our mind and body through the brain draining and physically demanding tasks it will face throughout the day.
Balance is key, not just to nutrition, but to all aspects of our lives and is a building block we continually discuss in our articles.
Consider a food like dark chocolate for example. It’s a super food with a bar containing 11 grams of fiber, 67% of our daily recommended value for iron, 58% for magnesium, 89% for copper, 98% for manganese; however that whole bar also contains over 600 calories, sugar, and fats.
We can’t just sit around eating chocolate bars all day or our calories, sugar, and fat contents would be too high while we missed out on other key nutrients. It’s important to find balance across many foods to help contribute towards foods that will help you function best throughout the day.
Authority Nutrition has a great article on the health benefits of dark chocolate along with reminders of how to select a bar that is healthy versus one loaded with milk, sugar, and other fillers. Chocolate has even been scientifically proven to make us happy. Food is pretty cool fuel for our mind, body, success and happiness.
Not sure how to find the right balance or fuel yourself best from the beginning of the day? Well, take comfort in the fact that if you follow one of our recommendations to eat more plant based foods, you’ll already be taking a step in the right direction by replacing half of one of your meals a day with healthier alternates.
And if you follow our recommendation to never skip breakfast, then you’ll be starting your day off with a healthy meal, and to help with that, below are some of my favorite breakfast recipes with options for whether you want to make a quick shake in the morning, prep a quick meal the night before, or spend a little more time on a weekend to cook up a hot, delicious and nutritious dish you can sit down and really enjoy.
Oh, and if you need an emergency fix, I’ve included my secret weapon, a banana, chocolate chip, and oatmeal muffin recipe as well.
Breakfast Recipe Option 1: Quick Shake In the Morning
This recipe is inspired by Thug Kitchen’s Smoothie and can be made in less than 3 minutes
Step 1: Place 1 peeled banana (easiest if you break it into 4 parts to fit it in your blender), a small handful of almonds say 10-12 almonds, 1-2 large handfuls of spinach, 2 ice cubes, dash of cinnamon, 2 cardamom pods, and 1-2 cups almond milk (depending on how thick you like your smoothies) into your blender or nutribullet. If you want a truly luscious texture, freeze the bananas overnight first.
Step 2: blend until blended in your blender or nutribullet, usually 20-30 seconds.
Step 3: enjoy
Breakfast Recipe Option 2: Overnight Oatmeal
This recipe is inspired by Pinterest boards everywhere and can quickly be prepped the night ahead of time for you to grab and go in the morning.
Step 1: place 1/2 cup old fashioned oats, 1/2 cup low fat non-sweetened greek yogurt, ½ cup almond milk, small handful chia seeds (say 1 tbsp), dash of cinnamon, and sprinkling of vanilla (say 1 tsp) in a mason jar or tupperware and stir to combine.
Step 2: top with a handful of sliced fruit like strawberries, then top with a handful of sliced almonds, and drizzle lightly some fresh honey over everything.
Step 3: put in the fridge overnight.
Step 4: grab, go, and eat anywhere you like. It’s great traveling to work and eating when you first get to the office.
Breakfast Option 3: Vegetable Scramble
This recipe is inspired by the Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook and is for when you have a little more time to cook up a hot and healthy breakfast packed with vegetables and super foods like chard and nutritional yeast.
Step 1: prep all the fresh produce which will include dicing 1 green bell pepper, dice 1/2 red bell pepper, slice 10 mushrooms, dice 1/2 a medium red onion, mince 1 garlic clove, cut 1 yam into 1/4 cubes, cut enough cherry tomatoes in half to fill 1/2 a cup, slice 2 zucchinis enough for 1 cup, slide 1 yellow squash enough for 1/2 cup, tear swiss chard enough to fill 1 cup.
Step 2: heat some olive oil in a pan enough to allow you to sauté the ingredients, about 2 tbsp olive oil, and sauté the peppers, mushrooms, onion and garlic until soft and caramelized.
Step 3: add the yams, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tbsp tamari, and 1 tbsp water to the pan of satued vegetables.
Step 4: Cover the pan and steam until the yams are soft, about 10 minutes.
Step 5: Add the tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and 3 tbsp nutritional yeast. Stir well to combine. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the veggies are soft but not mushy.
Step 6: Add the chard, cover, stir, and allow the chard to wilt about 1 minute.
Step 7: serve and enjoy
Recipe for the Secret Weapon: Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins
This recipe is inspired by Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook and is so delicious and nutritious people tell me they feel like they have a food-gasm when they eat them. They also happen to be gluten free and vegan (as long as you get the right chocolate chips)
Step 1: Line muffin tin tray with coconut oil and preheat oven to 350 degrees
Step 2: In a large bowl stir together 2 cups oat flour, 1 ½ tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon.
Step 3: in a small bowl combine 2 tbsp of ground flaxseed with 6 tbsp water and stir until gelatinous, about 30 seconds. Let sit in the fridge for 5 minutes
Step 4: In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup coconut oil (if your room isn’t warm enough for the oil to be liquefied, put it in the microwave real quick until it looks like a clear liquid), 1/2 cup maple syrup, 3 ripe mashed bananas, 2 tsp vanilla, and add the flaxseeds you mixed in the small bowl. Stir all until well combined.
Step 5: stir 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips into the mixture and stir until combined
Step 5: Fill the muffin tins with the mixture so each tin is about 2/3 full.
Step 6: Bake for 8-10 minutes
Step 7: remove from tins and enjoy! I think they are best shared with friends.
To Recap, here are the Building Blocks to Fuel Yourself Towards Your Best Self and Day:
1) eat more plant based foods
2) take vitamin supplements
3) never skip breakfast