Rate my breakfast
October 19, 2010 2:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to improve my breakfast habits in the hope that it will help improve my severe physical and mental fatigue. Tell me how this breakfast sounds to you, and what you would change, if anything.

I'm a vegetarian, and I can't face eating eggs in the morning, but I am open to any non-meat non-egg breakfast ideas.

This is what I eat for breakfast at the moment:

A bowl of a good-quality commercial natural (untoasted) bircher muesli. Muesli ingredients = rolled oats; nuts 10% (almonds, hazelnuts, pecans); dried fruit 18.5% (sultanas, raisins, apricots); sunflower seeds; sesame seeds; honey; cinnamon. The muesli is low GI (GI rating of 40.)

Soy milk. Soy milk ingredients = filtered water, organic whole soybeans, tapioca syrup, Job's tears, sea salt, calcium carbonate.

A banana.

A glass of filtered water, or two.

Vitamin D.

A pot of black tea with soy milk.

I am aware that a healthy breakfast on its own can't fix my fatigue.

I am working on other areas as well (including working with my GP), but I want to optimise my breakfast.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know what sort of physical/mental fatigue you are experiencing, but the kind I get seems to be related to not eating enough protein. Muesli and bananas as breakfast would definitely give me a carb-crash and mental fatigue by mid-morning. My go-to is typically some hard boiled eggs, string cheese, and a handful of almonds. It's satisfying in terms of fat and protein, doesn't give me a carb burnout by mid-morning, and it's mellow enough tasting to not upset my stomach when it's super early.

If you absolutely won't do eggs I would suggest plain full-fat Greek yogurt or getting comfortable with eating non-breakfasty (savory) vegetarian proteins to widen your options. For example, a common Japanese breakfast might include some silken tofu in a light soy broth. Or, you could have hummus (or other bean dip) with some sliced veggies.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:04 PM on October 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oatmeal is the classic healthy breakfast. Eat that, with a few raisins or banana slices or whatever tossed in.
posted by Kololo at 3:06 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I love oats and I love soymilk, but both give me that weird carb overload crash thing pretty often even though oats are not high glycemic.

Cubed tofu with frozen broccoli florets and (sometimes) cashews, seasoned with soy sauce, seems to work pretty well for avoiding the carb crash thing.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:06 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing the 'add more protein.' I often found mornings to be a struggle until I upped the peanut butter and other protein sources.

Add some B-vitamins if you want a low-level energy boost throughout the day.

Non-food-related suggestions: Don’t eat until your body is wide awake. Wait at least an hour until eating. If you exercise in the morning eat after this. Never start your day with a stimulant (tea, coffee, cigarette). The ’stress’ state inhibits digestion.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:16 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you absolutely won't do eggs I would suggest plain full-fat Greek yogurt or getting comfortable with eating non-breakfasty (savory) vegetarian proteins to widen your options.

Yeah, think eastern Med: labneh with za'atar and olive oil, or ful medames.

Or perhaps baked beans on wholewheat toast: ideally British-style beans with the tomato sauce (and of course, no pork) over American-style with molasses. Substantial without being heavy, and generally unlikely to lead to a carb crash.
posted by holgate at 3:17 PM on October 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

I used to be an oatmeal evangelist, but I was always hungry by eleven. I've since switched to a breakfast of eggs, refried beans, and a piece of fruit. I'm good until 12:30 or one now, after eating breakfast around 6:30. I've also successfully satiated myself by subbing a Tofurkey sausage for the beans. Full-fat yogurt sounds like a decent egg substitute -- or, maybe, low-fat yogurt with flax oil added?
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 3:21 PM on October 19, 2010

I eat plain yogurt with a handful of a mixture of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and slivered almonds. Sometimes with a spoonful of honey if I'm craving sweets. I'm nthing that what you're eating would cause me to carb crash.

If you swap the soy milk on your muesli for (non-soy) yogurt, and add extra nuts to the muesli -- or make your own with more nuts/seeds, and less oats/fruit -- that should help you out.

Also, can you spread out your food over a longer period of time? I personally get tired when I eat a lot all at once, whether it's fruit or protein or whatever. I find that if I start with a few glasses of water, then my yogurt, then my coffee twenty minutes later, and then a piece of fruit or some veg an hour or so later, I feel a lot better and more alert.
posted by shamash at 3:31 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Add cottage cheese to the weekly mix. It has more protein and less carbs than yogurt. I usually eat fruit with it (on the side, not mixed in) often add a dose of flax seed oil. Depending on my morning workout, sometimes peanut butter on multi-grain, super nutty toast or on an apple, etc.
posted by getmetoSF at 3:32 PM on October 19, 2010

As "low GI" as the cereal claims to be, you're not exactly helping it with that banana. It's still a meal that is low in fat and protein, high in carbs and sugar. That for me, leads to a cranky tired self before lunch time. You listed the ingredients, but look at the nutrition info and see how many calories are coming from fat, protein and carbohydrates.

I'd also suggest full fat plain yogurt. Go for a full serving, not those small 60cal diet containers. A 1 cup serving is around 200 calories. That's a pretty good amount of breakfast for me. I'll have it with some small amount dried fruit and granola sprinkled on top. Something like dried blueberries, and a tablespoon or two of flax and oat granola.

Another great breakfast is Kashi Go Lean. I'm not a huge fan of processed foods. Except this one. Lots of protein and fiber, never sugar crash afterwards.

2-3 Tablespoons nut butter, a small apple (or half of a huge apple) and a glass of milk. Almond butter is delicious, and I don't know how I only discovered it a few months ago.

I love lazy Huevos Rancheros. Basically I'll microwave some leftover spicy black beans (or from a can) and put a fried egg on top. You would skip the egg of course, but I still think it'd be just as tasty. A spoon full of sour cream could replace the fat.

I'd also suggest, (assuming Hot Buttered Sockpuppets is female), an iron supplement, especially if you're menstruating. Anemia can be sneaky, especially when meat-free, and will make you feel like crap.
posted by fontophilic at 3:37 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing the note that the breakfast lacks protein.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:49 PM on October 19, 2010

Protein ideas:
Smear nut butter on that banana
Have an apple + a chunk of cheese instead of the banana
Try yogurt instead of milk on the muesli
Would a hard-boiled egg at 10am be a more palatable option than scrambled at 8am?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:05 PM on October 19, 2010

I can't deal with solid food in the morning so I just drink a SlimFast shake. Have a little mini-fridge of them next to the bed. They're pretty balanced for macronutrients and have added micronutrients. Then later in the morning when I can deal with food, I eat more stuff.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:16 PM on October 19, 2010

That's a huge amount of sugar. If I ate that for breakfast, I'd be an exhausted wreck within an hour. Dried fruit, honey, a banana, and maybe the soy milk, are all energy-saps on their own. Mixing them into one meal sounds kind of disastrous.

I second peanut butter on toast, cheddar cheese and rice cakes, whole milk (the fat slows the absorption of sugars), baked beans on toast (though there is quite a bit of sugar in there, so alternatively a black bean puree or humus or something,) labne/quark if you have access to it, perhaps a high-protein bread if you have access to some. I get sliced "men's bread" despite the ridiculous name at my health food store. Shove as much protein at the problem as you can, and see if you feel better. Also try cutting out the tea...that can make me feel tired and shaky unless I have sufficient protein and fat in my meal. I'm not saying high-sugar and low-protein/fat are the entire cause of the problem, but they sure could be, and they definitely cause extreme physical and mental fatigue for me. Good luck.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:17 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Peanut butter or Nutella on toast.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:25 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yep, that's a ton of sugar. Nth-ing more protein. And fat. You need fat to function. Without enough fat intake in the early part of the day, my brain is much less able to deal with stress or difficulty, and I find resilience wearing thin well before lunchtime.

Also, variety. I find that my energy is better when I vary my breakfast day to day.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about a tofu scramble?
posted by amarynth at 5:25 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Definitely waaaay too much sugar, far too little protein. I would crash and burn on that.

What I used to eat (before I got a dairy allergy) was ~170g plain greek yogurt with 1-2 tablespoons of museli on top, a sprinkle of blueberries, a good multivitamin, and water. I might add in a sprinkle of sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Dark agave syrup if I need the sweetness.

Leave the tea until at least an hour later. Caffeine can destroy things like calcium.
posted by ysabet at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

how about a protein powder shake made with hemp protein powder? get a big bag of frozen fruit and some green food like vitamineral green, throw in some flax and maybe some acai with guarana and you are totally and seriously good to go for at least a few hours.

vitamin d and black tea are yes yes yes as well
posted by lakersfan1222 at 6:06 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

how about a glass of skim milk, steel cut oatmeal with walnuts and raisins? and a whole grain mini bagel with peanut butter three hours later? I would consider eating every three hours - try to refuel as you burn...think of it as a gastank needing to be refueled every three hours. your blood sugar will stay constant, rather than spike and fall.
posted by dmbfan93 at 6:37 PM on October 19, 2010

I eat something similar most mornings (I'm vegan). I don't have issues with fatigue at all, so I'm biased, but I think your breakfast sounds great, maybe minus the banana. Save the banana and have it for elevenses.

Perhaps a talk with a veg-friendly nutritionist is in order? Or else spend some time at VeganHealth.org? If you're mostly vegan, and you're not supplementing with B12, you should start - lack of B12 is a common cause of fatigue and other health issues.

As a counter to people saying "not enough protein," nuts, oats, and soymilk are quite high in protein. I can't say from what you've posted whether it's "enough", but it should be easy enough for you to figure out.

Remember that the number one cause of fatigue is... not getting enough sleep!
posted by acridrabbit at 6:53 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Putting in a plug for quinoa, the South American seed, on the protein front. Boil up a batch the night before, scoop out some the next morning, add a bit of olive oil for mouth feel and whatever spices float your boat, then a couple/three minutes in the microwave, and you've got a tasty protein bomb that will boost your energy all day. Plus, if you do fancy some sugar with the meal, the quinoa helps balance blood sugar, so the crash won't be as bad.

Another possibility protein-wise: those 16-bean combos they market for soup making. Just skip the soup part, boil 'em up, and serve hot with your spice(s) of choice (Tabasco makes the world go 'round, IMHO).

Being mostly, but informally vegetarian, I didn't realize for a long time what a downer being protein deprived can be. Definite recipe for the blahs.
posted by 5Q7 at 7:20 PM on October 19, 2010

I love quinoa, too. Here is what I sometimes do for breakfast:

1 cup hot cooked quinoa
1/3 cup nuts (I like cashews for this)

grind the nuts in a small food processor, until there are no chunks. Add 1/3 cup warm water, and a tablespoon or so of the quinoa. Blend more, until you have a thick creamy mixture. Pour on top of the quinoa. You can add a touch of salt, or a pinch of something sweet. From The Yeast Connection Cookbook.

Tasty and really filling.
posted by annsunny at 7:46 PM on October 19, 2010

Complete protein bread, Alvarado St. Bakery, with almond or peanut butter and honey or real fruit jelly works great for me. Or a a cheese sandwich.
posted by mareli at 7:52 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

i find that eating a later breakfast helps. i'll have coffee with a bit of sugar first thing, around 6, and then another cup with sugar an hour later. this keeps my blood sugar up, and i'm not very hungry. finally around 9:30, i'll have oatmeal. then i'm usually good and not remotely hungry until 12:30 or 1. a light lunch (a good sized salad with a little protein, no carbs) usually does the trick and keeps me going until 4 or 5 without the midday exhaustion. then a good dinner on the early side, 6 or so.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:55 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

kefir milk; it's delicious, easy (can be carried along with) and filling. plain or with fruit.

veggie breakfast links. i'm not vegetarian, but i love those things. i think they make them with crack cocaine. just heat up a little 8" skillet with the faintest smudge of oil, toss those guys in and roll them around over the fire until they're warm through and a bit brown outside--won't take more than a couple minutes. eat! if you get inspired on a weekend, you can stir up a little white gravy and bake some biscuits to put your "sausage" gravy over. mmMMm.

i agree with the nut butter idea, too.
posted by miss patrish at 9:11 PM on October 19, 2010

Please be sure to get your thyroid checked if you haven't already, the symptoms of an under-performing thyroid are very similar to symptoms of stress so not immediately obvious to most. Soy aggravates hypothyroid symptoms, so your current breakfast choice could actually be making you feel worse (in addition to any sugar crash).
posted by cali at 9:33 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cheese! Cheese on toast! Get some more protein and fat and you'll feel better longer into the day.
posted by that girl at 12:21 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd make your own muesli and skip the dried fruit. I've found sugary stuff in the mornings, even in fruit form, fuck my energy levels completely. I crash and wobble and carry on. So I do muesli, but a nut and seed heavy mix of my own and usually with yoghurt. Or I do toast with cheese/nut butter. I will occasionally have cereal and milk but never with sugar or fruit.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:19 AM on October 20, 2010

My word, you people eat enormous breakfasts!

Two pieces of wholemeal toast with marmite and a double espresso, cycle 12 miles to work, an apple around 10 am and I'm good until 12.30-1 pm for lunch.

Perhaps you just need to spread it out more? It may be a cultural thing, but I don't know many people in the UK who expect to eat nothing between breakfast and lunch.
posted by fatfrank at 7:56 AM on October 20, 2010

I've become positively addicted to Mountain High plain whole-milk yogurt. It's rich, thick, and more filling than anything else I've ever tried. I eat half a cup of it every morning with a generous handful of granola and coffee with milk and sugar. It keeps me going strong till lunchtime.
posted by ardent at 10:33 PM on October 20, 2010

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