I used to eat oats for breakfast. Day-in, day-out. Oats and dried soya mince with protein powder, with a chopped apple, topped with peanut butter or jam. Day-in, day-out.
It was a filling and healthy breakfast, but I often felt bloated and sluggish, or I would eat it and feel hungry after a couple of hours. I would never change it though, never thought about branching out and trying something different, simply because I didn’t know what would work for my body and because I was stuck in a bit of a rut with my eating.
Obviously, I had to re-think when I decided to go Paleo.
Oats – OUT.
Soya mince – OUT.
Peanut butter – OUT.
Jam – OUT.
One of the main advantages of switching to a Paleo lifestyle has been that it has forced me to explore new foods and new dietary habits. I’ve chucked a good deal of my old habits, and forced myself to make new ones.
Breakfast was one of the first challenges. It’s taken a while to get right, but I now have a rotation of 3 breakfasts that I fall back to, but which inspire constant variation in their details. I’m a sweet-toothed breakfast eater, and don’t really like cooking early in the morning, so I prefer to prep things the night before which I can put together quickly when I get up.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the obsession with ‘nice-cream’ – the frozen wonder-food made by blending frozen bananas and other fruit into a thick and creamy paste, normally topped with a variety of healthy toppings. It feels like an indulgence, but is a great and balanced way of starting the day.
Every two weeks or so, I prep bags of frozen fruits and vegetables to use in nice-cream bowls. I bulk buy bananas, spinach or kale, cucumbers, then whichever fruit happens to be cheap in the supermarket. I chop it all up, the bag the mixture in portions of around 200g which I store in the freezer.
In the mornings, I can grab a bag from the freezer, blend it with a bit of almond milk, add a scoop and a half of protein powder and mix. Occasionally (depending on the flavour of my protein powder) I add either a supergreen blends powder, which includes spinach powder and spirulina, or cacao powder if I’m really craving chocolate!
This basic bowl usually contains around 300 calories, and in my current mix this is coming from 30g carbs, 6g fats, 32g protein. Obviously depending on the mix of veggies and fruits, the type of protein powder etc. this can vary.
However, the best part of the nice-cream is the toppings!! As my bowl doesn’t contain much fat, I normally scatter a selection of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cacao nibs, coconut yoghurt or chocolate over the top, and often serve it with a spoon of nut butter.
This breakfast normally keeps me full and satisfied through until lunch, and I always feel energised enough to go to the gym on it as well. I can go until around 2pm if I am busy without thinking about food. If I know that I am going to be doing an intense exercise session, or not have time to eat for a long time, I will add an extra banana into the smoothie for the carbs, or make the toppings slightly more substantial – for example with my paleo granola (recipe coming soon!).
Another breakfast which I rely on, especially if I’m travelling or without my blender, is a simple chia seed pudding. This has to be prepared the night before, and left to soak, which means it is ready to be grabbed from the fridge in the morning and eaten on the go.
If I am making this as a stand-alone breakfast, I will blend a scoop and a half of protein powder and a banana with a splash of almond milk, then mix 25g of chia seeds into this, and leave to soak overnight. This provides a healthy balance of carbs, fats and protein (31g carbs, 14g fat, 35g protein based on a normal 90g banana) which is normally not available in just simple chia pudding. It also ups the calories, therefore providing satiety for longer!
I normally will have this with an apple or some berries, just for more carbs. As I have mentioned before, my paleo diet is slightly atypical as I find my body fuels itself a lot better whilst running on a 40% carb diet, as opposed to a normal Paleo which can be down to 20-25%. This is specifically for me as a 40-45 mile a week runner, and if you find that you would prefer to limit carbs, it is easy to just not eat as much fruit or vegetables as I do.
As you’ll have seen, these breakfasts are all cold or frozen, which is great in summer and spring when I want something refreshing, but not so great for the cooler rainy days of autumn and winter. I’ve not had a Paleo winter yet, but I have had days where I just wake up craving something warm (yet sweet) so I’ve had to come up with a true alternative to my oats!
A sweet potato, baked in the microwave for 4 mins, can be topped with all manner of sweet paleo goodness – normally for me a scoop of protein powder mixed into coconut yoghurt or almond milk, and a spoon of almond butter. This is warm and comforting, as well as being balanced (36g carbs, 16g fat, 30g protein based on an 150g sweet potato and 18g almond butter).
My basic recipe for a great paleo breakfast should be obvious by now: a carb source (banana/veggies/sweet potato), a protein source (normally protein powder because I’m lazy and it’s tasty), and a fat source (chia seeds/nuts/nut butters). With this, it’s so easy to mix and match between different parts of the triad, so I never get bored and I never get stuck in a rut!
Oh, and for special breakfasts… my protein pancakes are my go-to! These take a bit more effort, including switching on the stove, but they are so worth it for after a fasted cardio workout or for a lazy brunch.
What is your go-to paleo breakfast? How do you ensure balance in your meals?
I’d love to hear from you about your own nutrition, especially your thoughts on balancing your nutritional intake. Drop me a comment below the line, or drop me a DM on Instagram (@primallyimperfect). And have an amazing Friday!!