Drop the doughnut. Back away from the bagel. It’s time to give your breakfast routine a makeover, too!
No matter how many times we hear that crusty old adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” it’s also the meal that inevitably gets the most short shrift when it comes to planning. With everything going on in my house in the morning— getting Jade ready for school, juggling early-morning wakeup calls for filming my shows, not to mention trying to fit in a workout—I don’t exactly have time to be flipping omelets. I’m pretty sure you don’t, either.
That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s okay to grab whatever’s fast and easy—or skip breakfast entirely. Recent research may have debunked the notion that skipping breakfast actually causes people to gain weight, but I know from my own experience that I feel draggy and less sharp if I don’t give my body some fuel before I start the day. It just has to be the right kind of fuel. Anything sugary, even if it’s packed with good whole grains, like a muffin or buckwheat pancakes and syrup, sends me into an inevitable cycle of energy surge and slump by midmorning. If you find yourself feeling drowsy or eyeing the clock waiting for lunch by 11:00, your breakfast routine may be crying out for a makeover.
Believe me, I know. It took me years to figure out that my so-called healthy muffin—actually full of refined carbs and sugar—wasn’t really doing me any favors. To be consistently at my best in the morning I need to keep my breakfast savory and full of healthy, slow-digesting whole grains, and I need it to be easy and portable.
My solution? Good old oatmeal, preferably of the chewier, steel-cut variety, but in a pinch or on the road, plain rolled oats absolutely get the job done. The trick, though, is to be smart about the toppings. Forget brown sugar or maple syrup or even dried fruit, which is also packed with natural fruit sugars. (And don’t even get me started on those evil little packets of microwave-friendly presweetened oatmeal, which are both insanely overpriced and full of sugar!) Instead, take your hot bowlful in a savory direction. When I’m really racing the clock I just give mine a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. If I have a little more time I add chopped nuts, fresh herbs, and a bit of fresh fruit. Even a touch of pesto! It may sound weird at first, but trust me, once you’ve tried it you’ll be hooked, and you’ll love the way those sugar lows just don’t come around anymore.
If you’re one of those people protesting there’s no time to make real oatmeal from scratch in the morning, consider this: oatmeal reheats brilliantly and will keep in the refrigerator for at least 4 or 5 days. So on the weekend, or while you are preparing dinner one night, cook up a double or triple batch of plain oatmeal, let it cool, and portion it out into covered containers. Stack ’em up in the fridge so you can grab one on your way out the door in the a.m. and reheat it in the microwave. Do as my editor Rica does and keep a bottle of olive oil at your desk to doctor it up, or bring a separate baggie of savory toppings to sprinkle on each serving. It’s just as easy as instant and so much better tasting (and more economical). Just note that if you are going to be reheating the oatmeal, cook it with an extra half cup or cup of water; it may seem too loose, but it will thicken up as it cools. And if you are someone who uses a slow cooker, you’ll find that giving your morning breakfast routine a makeover is all but effortless.