Ask a Health Coach: Quick Breakfasts, Cravings, and Breaking Down the Food Pyramid

woman making and drinking a fresh green smoothieHi folks! Welcome back for another round of Ask a Health Coach. In today’s post, Erin will be answering questions about what to cook for quick weekday breakfasts, how to end the stigma of cravings, and why we’re still teaching outdated nutrition principles in school. We love getting your questions, so post yours in the comments below or over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group.

Francine asked:
“I need quick grab and go breakfast ideas. On the weekends I have time for a more elaborate meal like eggs and bacon, but what are your recommendations for weekday mornings?”

I actually get this question fairly often, so I’m glad you asked. As a society, we are busier than ever.1 And it sounds like weekdays mornings are so busy for you that making time for a healthy, supportive meal is totally off the table. Many of my clients want super quick breakfasts they can eat on the run. Something to replace their standard grab-and-go yogurt and banana routine.

My answer typically to them begins with a follow-up question like, “how fast do you need it to be?” I want to know how much time you’re planning on devoting to this pretty important act of self-care2 And yes, feeding yourself well is a fundamental form of taking care of yourself.

When people tell me they only have a few minutes to make breakfast, all I hear is “I don’t value myself.” Somehow, they’ve decided that getting out the door or onto their first Zoom call of the day is more important than fueling themselves appropriately. They’d rather sacrifice their metabolism and blood sugar than take a few extra minutes cooking up a satiating, satisfying breakfast.

Really then, it all comes down to priorities. By not making time for a proper meal, you’re essentially saying that your health isn’t a priority. Again, I get it — you’re busy!! But I’m assuming if you don’t have time to make a plate of eggs and bacon, you also don’t have time to:

  • Stop mid-morning to look for a snack
  • Shop for bigger pants due to added weight gain
  • Manage diabetes or other chronic conditions

Need more food for thought? A recent study showed that participants who had their largest meal at breakfast ended up losing significantly more weight than those who ate their biggest meal later in the day.3

Seriously though, why would you limit taking care of yourself to the weekends? Give yourself that time every day and your body will thank you. It doesn’t even require that extra much time. I’m fairly certain you can scramble a few eggs in three minutes or less. You can cook a sheet of bacon in the oven while you’re showering — or bake it in advance and store it in the fridge. You can even yank the leg off of a whole rotisserie chicken in under 10 seconds.

Which leads me to another interesting perspective. What if breakfast food didn’t have to look like traditional breakfast food? Leftovers from last night’s dinner make a darn good breakfast — anything from burgers to brussels sprouts.

Jenny asked:
“My middle schooler came home with a food pyramid chart that goes against everything I know is right. You know, the whole 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, and pasta on the bottom tier with fats categorized with sugar at the top. I’m fuming!! How do I educate my son with the correct information without starting something with his teacher?”

Honestly, I’d be fuming too. I’m also not surprised. This US-based food pyramid has been around forever. Even though it was replaced a few years back by My Plate (which is just slightly better) and fairly similar to Canada’s guidelines, it’s still making the rounds at grade schools, which unfortunately is teaching our kids a whole lot of garbage that they’ll need to unlearn later on in life if they want to be free of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.

That being said, knowing where the food pyramid came from actually sheds some light on why it’s so controversial. According to this research, it was designed as a marketing tool for the USDA — and completely ignored the advice given to them by their own team of nutritional experts.4

Originally, the food pyramid featured fruits and vegetables as the biggest category of foods. However, that version was dismissed and revised to encourage people to eat more refined grains, not coincidentally subsidized by the USDA.

So, it’s a problem on a lot of levels. The biggest one being that it’s obviously still being taught in school. I’m lucky enough to have had a few conversations with teachers in the Mark’s Daily Apple community and although their lesson plans support the Food Pyramid, they’ve taken it upon themselves to educate their students on the history of the Food Pyramid and My Plate guidelines, plus provide science-based information on the health benefits of avoiding a processed food diet (and not just the ones in the 6-11 servings category). And I encourage you to do the same. The more accurate information you can share with the next generation, the better off they’ll be now and as they get older.

Jason asked:
“Can we talk cravings? I realize that a lot of it has to do with childhood and our coping mechanisms, but I’m sick of carrying around an extra 10 pounds because I can’t control myself. I’d love your advice on this.”

You’re absolutely right, Jason. Your cravings could be how you cope with stress or boredom, they could stem from something from your childhood (i.e. being rewarded with food for good grades, eating when you’re sad, remembering grandma’s snickerdoodle cookies, etc), or a multitude of other psychological reasons.

Cravings can also come from the type of food you’re eating. Most processed food is engineered to make you want to scarf down more of it.5 Food manufacturers work hard to make their food more attractive to consumers whether it’s in the combo of highly-addictive fat and sugar or the highly-targeted marketing that makes you suddenly feel starving at 10pm.

The problem with cravings though isn’t in the craving itself, but how we perceive it. I see a lot of health coaches and nutritionists out there acting like craving *forbidden foods* is a huge problem that needs to be solved. They put a layer of shame and guilt on it that doesn’t need to be there.

Listen, it’s in our nature to want a quick source of energy6It’s also in our nature to appreciate the fact that food brings us joy. I’m not saying it’s healthy to polish off a bag of cookies every night. But feeling bad about it isn’t the answer either.

When you remove the emotional layer from eating and see it through the lens of biology, you can start to tear down the rules that have been served up to us via diet culture. The rules that say you’re only good if you eat *good foods* and bad when you eat *bad foods* are total nonsense. Not only that, they create a lot of angst and emotional conflict around eating that’s really unhelpful.

Instead of thinking that you can’t control yourself, be curious about your relationship with certain foods. You might ask:

  • When do your cravings come on?
  • Are you physically hungry?
  • Do you need something on an emotional level?
  • How do you feel when you eat the foods you crave?
  • How do you feel afterward?

Notice patterns in your beliefs and behaviors without judging yourself. You might discover that you crave certain foods if you didn’t eat enough protein that day or if you were particularly stressed out. You might realize that you love potato chips and decide that allowing yourself to have them more regularly prevents obsessing over them. Or you might figure out that you just can’t keep them in the house. No one knows your body better than you, so take the time to evaluate your actions and honor your choices, judgement-free.

Got anything to add? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

TAGS:  goals

About the Author

Erin Power is the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients regain a loving and trusting relationship with their bodies—while restoring their metabolic health, so they can lose fat and gain energy—via her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple.

If you have a passion for health and wellness and a desire to help people like Erin does every day for her clients, consider becoming a certified health coach yourself. Learn the 3 simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in 6 months or less in this special info session hosted by PHCI co-founder Mark Sisson.

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8 thoughts on “Ask a Health Coach: Quick Breakfasts, Cravings, and Breaking Down the Food Pyramid”

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  1. @Francine – I get up and go with a breakfast in my coffee. I put in an egg, collagen, butter, coconut oil and some salt, blend it all up and it’s a great hot drink and FAST.
    Another quick breakfast is make some “bacon & egg muffins” over the weekend and refrigerate them and pop them in the microwave for about 10 /20 seconds and out the door (or zap them at morning break) = Bake the bacon until mostly cooked, wrap a piece around the muffin cup (I use silicone) crack an egg in the middle and bake them. You can add a cut up date in the bottom (for sweetness if you like eggs that way, my husband does) or some peppers in the bottom or some cheese on the top…. easy. I still get up early and read, alone time, but not that big on chewing in the morning, or eating before work… just not hungry enough. Hope that helps!

    1. So glad to hear other people do not like to chew in the morning! We I mention this to most people I get strange looks.

      I drink a matcha with whipping cream and collagen first thing and a bone broth protein smoothie later in the morning when I feel hungry.

  2. Kind of shocked at the tone of response on the first question. I mean, I get it, and I eat a solid, unrushed breakfast every day, but I also understand that other people’s lives are very different, people have a lot going on, and adding 10-15 minutes to someone’s morning to not just COOK, but also EAT and CLEAN UP can be near impossible for some people.
    A short, gentle admonition followed by a lot of real suggestions would have been much better.
    For that person (and others) may I suggest that when you have free time, boil a dozen eggs and cut up a ham or a stick of pepperoni or salami, cube some cheese if you do dairy, and make yourself some little bento boxes of eggs and cubes and grapes or berries. You can vary the contents, it will keep all week, and you can eat this easily while walking or driving.

    1. I’d have to agree, came off a little inconsiderate to me as well.

    2. Completely disagree. It sounds like she simply undermined the typical, fallacious arguments for why a healthy breakfast isn’t possible. Summed up – stop making excuses and make it happen, it’s not that hard. Honest truth over coddling.

      This site has never been an echo chamber.

    3. I, too, thought the response was unnecessarily preachy and not something you would say to a fully functional adult.
      I often had to be at work at 5 a.m. and sometimes even 4 a.m. Nobody in their right mind makes a sit-down breakfast at 3 o’clock in the morning. I brown-bagged a lot of bacon/egg “muffins” in those days as well as chicken salad (minus the bread), canned fish, or dinner leftovers, all of which was packed the night before. You can’t get any more “grab and go” than taking a sack out of the fridge on your way out the door.

    4. Count me among those who thought the breakfast response overly preachy. It´s not that taking time to make a healthy goal isn´t a worthy goal. But part of being a good health coach is meeting people where they are. Not everyone is ready and willing to implement the best habits. If they were, they could just read blogs like this one and wouldn´t need to hire a coach.

  3. There are a few quick ideas:)
    Trailmix, oatmeal, granola… I prefer egg and toast time permitting but sometimes I have to just grab and go 🙂