I think it was mid-December when I started looking for an alternative to my typical oatmeal/grain-based breakfast. Not because I stopped digging oats mind you, but because somewhere toward the end of last year I came to understand that sugar is just no good and I wanted to start eating less of it.
Now before you get annoyed with me and that blasphemous statement, I’m not saying that I’ve stopped eating sugar or bread completely or don’t enjoy sweets. I’m just not eating sugar (or as the case may be, foods that your body eventually converts to sugar – i.e., grains like rice, pasta, bread) on a daily basis like I have for oh, I don’t know – 31 years?
This whole “no sugar” thing came to my attention in multitude of ways, and after being beaten over the head with it by a cane in the form of various websites, blogs, magazines and books, I was finally convinced to try removing even the sneakiest of sugar out of my diet.
After nearly 4 months consuming less sugar? I’m here to report that I feel really good.
The funny thing is, I didn’t even think I felt “bad” before. Sure, I battled a sweet tooth as big as a molar that at times pinned me to the ground with its roots, but isn’t that the same for everybody? Isn’t that just a part of being human?
Well, no. As a matter of fact, it’s not.
Humans have no dietary requirements for sugar. That’s the hammer that hits the nail on the nutritional head for me and why I had no qualms experimenting with this. Cutting out sugar is not like completely eliminating a macronutrient like fat, protein or carbs. Our bodies need all three of them. Carbohydrates aren’t evil, but the amount of carbs that are found in the Standard American Diet is definitely suspect.
This is why I’ve never had any urge to try a “low-carb diet”. But a low-carb diet is essentially what has happened in my quest to eat less sugar here. I’m still eating carbs because I eat vegetables with reckless abandon, but because vegetables are relatively low in carbohydrates compared to things like grains and fruit – my daily carb intake is a lot lower than it has been in the past and this has proven to be a good thing.
Eating sugar, even unrefined sugar – leads to craving more sugar. At least for me it does. And since I don’t have a degree in nutrition or scads of studies to reference for you, all I’ve got is my own experience to share. Consuming sugar regularly inevitably sucks me into this spiral of sugar craving hell that always leads to an out of control feeling that I’d prefer not to feel. I’m then left with having to exercise that muscle we call “willpower” (a muscle that always tires and eventually gives out) or stepping up the exercise to burn off excess calories when I’m out of willpower. And if I don’t? The the weight I lost starts to creep back on and I start feeling really crappy in more ways than one.
Well, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of losing and gaining and losing and gaining those last 10 lbs over and over again. I want to break that cycle once and for all, and eating less sugar seems to be the way for me to do it.
So this is where I’m at: eating less sugar. In fact some days, barely any at all. Less sugar does mean less grains and even less fruit too – which sounds crazy, I know. But rest assured sugar and fruit and grains are not gone forever! Absolutely not! Just not everyday. I absolutely recognize that this approach isn’t for everyone and that maybe it’s not for you. It took me a long time to get to the point where I would be willing to try it. We’re all on our own journeys and we each have to find our own way and figure out what works for us. But if nutritionally-sound, effortless weight loss and the defeat of sugar cravings once and for all is something that sounds appealing to you? Then I recommend reading some more about this and consider trying it out for yourself.
OK then! With all of that background out of the way, if I’m not eating oats or Ezekiel toast or fruit for breakfast every day anymore, then what the hell am I eating? Well I’m so glad you asked!
I tried that bitter chocolate-y pumpkin-y thing for breakfast for a couple weeks there – and while that was a nice way station on the journey away from Sugar For Breakfast – it required too much effort to become a breakfast staple. Greek yogurt was part of my regular breakfast rotation for a while there too, but still – I don’t want to eat a ton of dairy every day either.
I guess that leaves me with eggs, beans, nuts, fish and vegetables then?
Vegetables for breakfast? Doesn’t scare me! But salad for breakfast? I don’t know… salad for anything other than lunch or dinner seems sacrilege! Breakfast is supposed to be sweet! Like sugary cereals! Or at least some fruit! Not cruciferous, fibrous and green-ous.
Well friends, I tried it – cause why not? Not only did I try it, I’ve actually come to like it. No, wait. I. Love. It. Salad for breakfast has found it’s way into my affections and I can no longer pretend that we’re “just friends”.
Now I’m not eating salad for breakfast every day, but I’ll freely admit it’s on the AM meal menu more often than not. But if I’m going to eat a salad for breakfast, it needs to feel sort of – what’s the word I’m looking for… breakfasty?
“Breakfasty” is defined in my dictionary as something a bit light and airy, perhaps a bit tangy and maybe even delightful. But it has be substantial, satisfying and filling too.
With those adjectives in mind, here’s what a typically goes into my breakfast salad of late:
Greens (including but not limited to green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, kale, spinach, romaine) – (all light yet filling!)
Hard Boiled Eggs (substantial!)
Red pepper and/or carrots (delightful!)
Fresh squeezed lemon juice, as a part of the dressing. (tangy! airy!)
First of all, if you skimmed that list of greens, take note now that kale is among those in parenthesis. Kale is a salad newcomer ’round these parts (breakfast or otherwise) and has been welcomed with open mouths.
Kale is a bit chewy when raw though, but fortunately softens up nicely if you give it a bit of time to hang out in something liquid-y and high in fat (like oil or avocado).
I start by hand squeezing a lemon into a my ginormous salad bowl and then mixing in a bit of my salad dressing of choice. The lemon gives me more liquid to work with, which means I can actually use less salad dressing than I otherwise might given the absurd quantity of greens I include in any salad meal. Sometimes I’ll add in a little extra vinegar too if I’m feeling particularly rowdy.
Dressing mixture mixed, stir in your pile o’ greens before you chop a single vegetable! Give that Kale every second you can to wilt and save yourself scads of chewing time.
Now that your greens are on their way to softening up, you can get to work on your other salad toppings. Today it was half a red pepper, half an avocado and two hard boiled eggs.
I should say that I usually don’t eat my breakfast salad until sometime a bit later in the morning. This is not a bound-out-of-bed-and-dive-head-first-into kind of meal. On this particular morning I started my day at Y, ran some sprints on the treadmill, returned home for (organic, dark roast) coffee with (organic) half and half as a breakfast warm up – and then manufactured my light, airy, tangy, delightful, filling, satisfying, substantial salad an hour or so later when I felt hungry.
So there you have it: Salad! It’s not just for lunch and dinner anymore.