Happy Tuesday, lovely people! Let's talk meal swaps. When you're starting on your health and wellness journey, figuring out where and how to start may seem like a daunting task. Promotional items are all over the internet, YouTube, and Instagram, and you may feel like you need all of those things incorporated into your meals and routines in order to change your lifestyle. That is not the case!!
Your breakfast provides the nutrients and thus, energy for the start of your day, which I feel is the most important! Unfortunately, many of us start off with tons of sugar and then wonder why we crash mid-day. Keep in mind that indulgences are awesome every once in a while, and everything is okay in moderation! With that being said, here are some tips to still enjoy the breakfast items you love but feel better doing so. Enjoy! :)
Pumpkin spice season is among us, and we all know that means gallons and gallons of beloved PSLs being sold every day. It's no surprise that these sweet drinks contain LOAAADS of sugar- 50 grams in a grande, to be exact. That's about four tablespoons of pure sugar in a 16 ounce drink. Can you say blood sugar spikes?!?! NO ONE (well, I'm pretty sure no one) would brew a nice 16-ounce cup of joe at home and proceed to dump 12 sugar packets (12 teaspoons=4 tablespoons) into it. Now, know that I prefer eating intuitively and listening to your body not calorie counting and macro-managing, but just for a frame of reference, the Dietary Guidelines recommend that women have at most 6 teaspoons of sugar per day and men have at most 9 teaspoons of sugar per day- so 12 teaspoons in one drink... that most people have multiple of throughout the day... yikes is the word that comes to mind.
Coffee and caffeine are not inherently bad, even though they are often portrayed that way. There are many studies being conducted across the world, testing their efficacy in treating diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's Disease. Harvard does a ton of research on coffee, and they determined that it "loves us back"! How sweet.
Bulletproof coffees are a current craze- basically coffees blended with saturated fats. When I tried my first cup, I blended up one cup of coffee, 1 Tbsp of ghee, and 1 Tbsp of coconut oil and found that, not only did I not experience an afternoon crash, but I also stayed fuller for longer. If bulletproof coffees aren't your thing but you still want all the frothy goodness in your drink, get a handheld frother! I got mine for $10 on Amazon with free Prime shipping and it is aaaamazing. If I'm running late or just don't feel like cleaning the blender afterwards (the laziness is sometimes very real), I just put either milk or ghee/coconut butter in a cup and "blend" it with my frother. Trust me, it's a game changer.
Need some flavor other than the bold roast's? Add spices! I love adding cinnamon and pumpkin spice into my coffee and on top after frothing it up. No added sugar- just flavor!
And let's be real. Sometimes, Starbucks just calls your name like a sweet Siren, and you can't resist. THAT'S OKAY. As always, everything in moderation is key. The beauty of Starbucks and almost all coffee shops is that you can customize your drink order- get fewer pumps of syrup, go sugar-free (*cough* Cinnamon-Dolce is amazing). So many options, so little time.
The verdict is in... swap these pre-made, sugary coffee shop drinks,
For these... make-your-own coffee shop drinks, substituting sugary syrups for sugar-free options when available OR asking for fewer pumps of syrup, FROTH IT UP, adding some healthy fats like ghee, coconut oil, & organic cream, and adding allll the spices.
I love enjoying a slice or two of toast in the morning, and nothing is wrong with that! I feel like as a society, we have been accustomed to very carb-phobic ideals so having toast may seem like an unhealthy option, and perhaps, it is if you're choosing non-nutrient dense bread options.
For example, a popular toast options seems to be tons of Smuckers jelly slathered on a slice of white bread- I mean can you really just use one of the Smuckers packets?! Usually, the answer is no. So let's think about that. First off, white breads are refined. What's that mean? The starchy part of the grain has had its bran and germ stripped from it, resulting in a loss of nutrients. Sometimes the bread will say that it's fortified or enriched, meaning that the lost vitamins have been artificially re-introduced into the grain- not as great as having it there to begin with. Secondly, let's talk jelly. Nine times out of ten, your jelly is not just the fruit- it's fruit plus loads of added sugar, which is not necessary!! Fruits are sweet enough! And what goes better with jelly than peanut butter? I'm going to do an entire blog post about peanut butters, but in short, the only ingredient that needs to be there is.. you guessed it... PEANUTS! No need for added oils or salts yet most brands add both of those + more.
So if you're looking to turn your toast from drab (nutrient-poor) to fab (allll the nutrients) here are some suggestions.
First and foremost, pick a bread that is more nutrient dense- think whole grains, sprouted breads, and even sourdough, which can be a lot easier on digestion than other white breads. My go-to bread is Ezekiel's low sodium bread, which can be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Since I typically just use bread for toast, I keep it in the freezer, toast it for two cycles when I'm having toast, and voila! This helps keep it fresh for longer- no moldy bread for me, please.
Next, think about packing all the goods on your toast. Add some healthy fats, additional fiber with some fresh or frozen/thawed fruit, and protein with chia seeds, hemp seeds, or even beans. I also love putting fresh herbs on my toast- cilantro and basil in particular. It's such a game changer. My favorite combo lately is toasted sourdough with a bit of cream cheese, PESTO, basil, mozzarella, tomatoes, hemp seeds, and balsamic vinegar-- I'm usually a savory breakfast kind of gal, and this combo hits the spot every time.
If you are a huge fan of jelly, just check the ingredients and realize that quality jelly may be a splurge item. OR (and this is what I do), buy some frozen berries, heat them up in the microwave as needed, and mash 'em up! SO affordable without all of the added sugar.
I do a toast post every Tuesday on my Instagram (@pleasedontkalemyvibe), so you can check that out for some additional inspo.
The verdict is in... swap these white refined bread topped with added-sugar-laden jelly, peanut butter with added salt and oils (why? just why?), and just refined sugar on your toast, in general,
For these... sourdough, sprouted grains, and whole grains, topped with REAL fruit, peanut butter (with PB as the only ingredient), AVOCADO, ghee, cultured butter** (personal fav), almond milk cream cheese/dairy cream cheese from pasture-raised cows, fresh fruits, beans, and some seeds like hemp and chia.
3. Cereal Swaps
Cereal is another food that gets demonized, and in many cases, it's justified. Cereals contain so. much. sugar. Even expensive cereals that claim to be organic, natural, and every other health buzzword, still have more added sugar than I like to put into my body first thing in the morning. When I pick my cereals, I first check the ingredients (they should be few and recognizable AND I like higher fiber content), and if those look okay, I do my sugar-check. My rule of thumb is that the sugar should be equal to or less than the amount of protein. Then, I sweeten my cereal how I choose, whether it's with fruit, honey, nut butter, or spices. That way, I know exactly what is in my cereal- plus, all of those options make for a super yummy bowl of goodness.
Let's take Kellogg's Special K Vanilla Almond cereal for example. According to its label, it contains 11 grams of sugar for every 3 grams of protein, and sugar is listed third our of twenty on the ingredient list, which means it is the third most prevalent thing in the cereal. Kashi GoLean Crunch is also heavily marketed as a good choice, but looking at the label shows that it contains 13 grams of sugar for every 9 grams of protein. It's sweetened with brown rice syrup, dried cane syrup, and honey, listed third, fourth, and eighth on the ingredient list, respectively.
My go-to is Trader Joe's Shredded Wheat Bites- the only ingredient, you ask? JUST 100% WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT (and Vitamin E for preservation purposes). Do I eat it just like that? Usually no- my heart is not made of stone. I add some grass-fed milk and honey. Sometimes I add some fresh fruit, but let's be honest, if I'm having cereal for breakfast, it's usually because I am pressed for time, so milk and a simple honey drizzle will do. Even though honey is organic and raw and all of the other good things, it's still an added sugar, BUT I added it, and I know exactly how much I put into my meal, which matters to me.
The verdict is in... swap these seemingly healthy cereals with more sugar than protein per serving,
For these... whole grain cereals with HIGH fiber and more protein than sugar per serving. Stay simple, and add your own ingredients.
All oatmeals are not created equally. A lot of oats are refined- same concept that I touched on with the toast. They're also often laden with added sugar.
(Spoilers alert for my upcoming Instastory about healthy items from the Dollar Tree.) I found a large can- 11 servings worth- of 100% whole grain quick oats for ONE DOLLAR. I can't make that up, people! Making healthy swaps doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg- some things can literally cost a dollar, which is probably less than what you're already paying!
Okay, let's talk toppings. Personally, I like fruit, nuts, nut butters, seeds (chia/hemp), and sometimes cacao powder to spice up my oats. Fruit contains sugars, yes, but those sugars are not considered to be added sugar because they exist naturally in these plants. Sugars in fruit are harder to break down than table sugar, and because of this, they release more slowly into our bloodstreams, preventing severe blood spikes while still added a sweetness to the oats. While you don't want to eat your body weight in fruit, having some with your oatmeal is an awesome way to sweeten it and
get in some extra fiber.
The verdict is in... swap these pre-made sugary oatmeal packets and refined oats,
For these... rolled oats or quick oats with "100% whole grain oats" as the only ingredient topped with unrefined sugar (if you must), fruits, nuts, seeds, and whatever your heart desires.
Okay, I know what you're thinking. Alexis, how can a SMOOTHIE be on this list!? It's a SMOOTHIE.
Health foodies post smoothies constantly, and a lot of people see a morning or post-workout smoothie as the epitome of health; however, many smoothies are just fruit. Even though fruit sugar is natural and good, we still don't need an entire blender-full in one sitting! Tropical Smoothie & Jamba Juice, I'm looking at you.
Smoothies can really pack a nutritional punch if you load 'em up with all of the right ingredients- think greens, nut butters, seeds, powders, with a little bit of fruit for sweetening. Spinach and kale in smoothies can sound like SUCH a turn off, but trust me, you can't even taste it!! If you want to make your smoothies thicker or make a smoothie bowl, adding veggies is the best way to do it! Steam then freeze some cauliflower, squash, and zucchini, and throw 'em in your smoothie whenever! You can't taste them, but you get all of the benefits. You can try adding an avocado or some greek yogurt also for additional healthy fats and a creamy consistency.
Protein powders... I use them occasionally, but personally, I am able to get my protein in without them for the most part. If I'm going to be super busy and out-and-about that day, I'll add a scoop to my smoothie. These powders are tricky because everyone reacts to them so differently. Some people bloat on whey, and some people just can't really digest them period. So don't think that when you make a smoothie, you HAVE to put some protein powder in it. That's definitely not the case. If a protein powder isn't agreeing with you, just try another! I have found that my body works optimally with pea proteins, which are usually SUPER gritty and gross. If you want to try one, I highly suggest checking out the Aloha protein (mine's in vanilla), which they sell at Target and CVS. I'm also a HUGE fan of collagen peptides (I use the Vital Proteins brand) because there's no taste associated and you can put them in literally everything.
The verdict is in... swap these completely fruit-based smoothies with tons of sugar,
For these... veggie-dense smoothies with just enough fruit for some added fiber and sweetening. Maximize your nutrient density by adding seeds & powders to help get you the most nutrient bang for your meal buck!
I hope that this was helpful for you all! Let me know if you want to see more types of blog posts like this.