Sunday, 30 October 2011

Is there a Life Beyond Cereal, Croissants & Caramel Caffe Latte's?

If breakfast is in fact the most important meal of the day why do so many people stick with the traditional breakfast choices of muffins, croissants, bagels, cereal and toast washed down by sugared coffee and juice. Sorry guys but there are much better options out there.

Smoked Salmon, Eggs and Spinach
For the last year I have been eating a paleo style diet, also known to many as the hunter-gatherer diet. This is not a new fad diet but just how we used to eat before the agricultural revolution started about 10,000 years ago. It's all about natural foods to help achieve great health and physique. So what did we eat before the agricultural revolution? It's very simple really, just foods from nature such as game meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, eggs, seeds and nuts. If you want to learn more about the paleo diet check out the YouTube link from my June post or even better read Robb Wolfs  "The Paleo Solution". I eat a paleo style diet for health reasons and because it makes me feel better. As a result I now have more energy than in my 20's and have also managed to sort out my food sensitivities by switching to this style of eating i.e. no dairy and grain. I am not sticking to this diet religiously, but I do try to apply the 80/20 rule. It is unrealistic (for me at least) to be 100% paleo.

Egg's from the office microwave
I often get comments in the office about my "weird food habits" and many friends and colleagues ask me what I can possibly eat for breakfast if grain and dairy products are not on the list. There are many articles on the Internet suggesting wonderful paleo style breakfast options and they are all great, however a lot of them assume you can cook eggs and bacon every morning at home and prepare fancy smoothies and egg-muffins on a daily basis. For me, and I believe many other people out there, this is not realistic. In the morning I need to get to work early and often I do a work-out before getting to the office, so preparing food in the morning at home isn't an option. Instead I prefer to eat my breakfast at work. My office does have a canteen but the options are limited to fruit if you want to eat a paleo diet, everything else is pretty much cereal, muffins, toast, bagels, croissants, sweet yoghurt's and so forth. However I do have access to a microwave and a fridge in the office, which I can use to cook and store food. Since I am definitely not one of those women who will prepare breakfast the night before or get up extra early to scramble eggs and carry around tupperware, I need something which is quick and easy to prepare at work. However at the weekends, I love cooking a beautiful breakfast and taking my time to prepare it, I have therefore divided my paleo breakfast options (according to Lea) into weekday versus weekend treats.

Monday to Friday
When I leave my house in the morning I always have a glass of water and then grab a piece of fruit, which I eat on my way to work. As soon as I get to the office I have herbal tea. This is then followed by breakfast consisting of some form of high quality protein (eggs, meat or fish), nuts, fruit and veg.

I have a drawer full of nuts, currently it is stocked with walnuts, hazel nuts, Brazilian nuts, pecans and almond butter. I also use them for afternoon snacking if required. Nuts are a great source of fibre, minerals, protein and fat. Always buy them natural and avoid the salted and roasted versions.

Wild Alaskan Salmon with Lemon
Only animal products contain all of the essential amino acids found in a protein (except for soy products), so unless you are vegetarian eating meat, chicken (+eggs) or fish provides the best sources of protein. In my office drawers you can always find a stash of tinned fish. My favourites are mackerel in tomato sauce or wild Alaskan salmon with fresh lemon. In the office fridge I will usually have some free range organic eggs, which I can whisk with a fork, microwave in two minutes and then voila, scrambled egg's. If you do not have access to a microwave and fish seems like an impossible thing to eat in the morning, you could always boil eggs at home and bring them in. Occasionally I have some venison sausages or other leftovers from the night before which I can eat for breakfast. So if you don't mind bringing in leftovers, beef, chicken or fish are all great breakfast choices. It is important to get some form of good quality protein. Brain cells, muscle, skin, hair and nails are just some of the body parts that are protein-based so we need to feed them.

Fruit & Veg
In addition to the dried fruit in my drawers I also keep some fresh fruits in the fridge. Mixing them up is important so you get a variety of nutrients. I do my best to find organic products in season. Avocados, tomatoes, spinach or any other vegetable can be eaten for breakfast too. I also tend to have a couple of lemons lying around, which I can have with my fish and in tea. 

Saturday and Sunday
During the weekend I love preparing a scrumptious and healthy breakfast, here are some of my favourites:

Coconut Pancakes
One of my favourite weekend breakfast delights is Coconut  Pancakes. All you have to do is mix up some eggs, chopped up coconut, coconut milk (full fat) and ground cinnamon. Cook the pancake mix in coconut oil on a hot pan. This combination of ingredients turns out some pretty delicious pancakes. I like to slather them in aged honey, fresh berries and cocoa powder. Feel free to use your own combination of fruit toppings.

Bacon and Eggs
Another favourite of mine is the classic bacon and eggs. I usually have them with some spinach or avocado on the side but you can add tomatoes or any other vegetable you fancy.  Alternatively you can prepare an omelet where you can mix in onions, mushrooms, pepper, pumpkin seeds and so forth.

Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs
Smoked salmon is just yummy, I tend to only eat wild Scottish or Alaskan salmon as I am not a big fan of farmed fish. Therefore I only eat this dish when wild salmon is available and in season. The factory farmed versus wild salmon debate is perhaps a discussion I will bring up in a later post. In the mean-time I suggest you read Mark Sission's article from Mark's Daily Apple "Salmon: Factory Farm vs. Wild". Do not forget to add lots of lemon and garnish the salmon with some dill.

A smoothie should resemble a meal as much as possible, so it should contain a high quality protein, good fats, antioxidants and more.  I have listed a couple of options below but the best thing is to experiment and find you own favourite combinations.  All you need is a blender and a juicer. 

Berry Smoothie
All ingredients are mixed directly in the blender

Coconut Milk (full fat)
Mixed berries (frozen or fresh)
Banana (optional)
Nut butter
Handful of ice

Green Smoothie
Juice the cucumber, celery, pineapple, spinach, lime and some apple. Place avocado and remaining apple in a blender together with juice and ice.

Pineapple, peeled and chopped
Spinach leaves
Lime or Lemon
Handful of ice

Bon Appétit
Lea Bentzen

P.S. My final tip: To ensure you are getting enough omega 3 in your diet, I suggest you sprinkle either chia seeds or flaxseed over any of you breakfast items. Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ration of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is approximately 15/1. So start including plenty of salmon, walnuts and seeds in your breakfast if you are lacking in omega-3. You can also top it up by taking a good quality omega-3 fish oil. If you want to track your food intake try using Paleo Track, this site breaks down your food intake into Protein, Fats and Carbs and tells you the breakdown ratios of your fatty acid consumption.

My office drawer full of nuts and seeds

Mmmmm banana with almond butter

Whisking egg's in the office kitchen

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