Q: like many i’m sure, i end up eating a grab n go breakfast. which is why i tend to eat boxed cereal – but then i’m hungry again right after i eat it. however, i’d like to transition over to REAL FOOD for breakfast. but with one kid, a kid on the way, and work, i’m ALWAYS pressed for time. how can i get the “grab n go” and the “filling” and “real” all in one (emphasis on grab n go, seriously). or, be honest with me, do i just need to make more time in the mornings to cook and sit and eat (i’d be in trouble then)?

Q: do I HAVE to eat breakfast? I keep seeing people say to eat breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper to lose weight, but does that make sense?

scrambled eggs, radishes, onion and tarragon

If you guys are going to start answering your own questions in the questions you send to me, you’re gonna put the Q&A Wednesday out of commission!

Or maybe I’m just that predictable in what I’m going to say?

Well, I’m throwin’ a curveball today. I’ll tell you this: it depends.

Am I a rise-and-eater? No. I’ve usually been up for a few hours before I have my first meal of the day. I’ve got dogs to walk, a future hubby to help get ready for work, a kindergartner (!) to get ready for school, and a world to save all before most people have had their morning potty break. There are lots of caveats to that, though. It doesn’t affect your metabolism, it doesn’t turn you into a ravenous anger bomb, and the world doesn’t implode if you wait for breakfast. That’s not the question, but I think it’s important to look at the question from other angles, too.

You’ll also have to remember that I advocate for anyone starting out on clean eating and moving away from processed foods to eat on a 6-meal-a-day plan, because it helps them learn to understand their bodies better – specifically the “hunger pangs.” What do I mean by that? I mean that anyone who struggles with overeating because they’re trying to starve themselves (or, simply, from eating bad foods and finding themselves starving right after) should go to a plan with eating fruits, veggies and a quality protein six times a day to help them separate themselves from not only hunger pangs, but the ravenous behavior that we’ve developed as a habit in response to it.

Think about it – we skip that first meal of the day. It is now noon, we haven’t eaten since 6PM the previous day and now we’re starving. What’s the first thing you dash off for? A bag of nasty fries, a greasy burger with a disgustingly sweet bun, and a 20oz of pop. (I’m from the midwest. It’s pop, thank you very much.) No one’s rushing to the broccoli. No one’s making a mad dash for brussels sprouts. No one’s going HAM on the cauliflower. It’s just… not happening.

I don't even remember what the hell he put in this.. I just know it was GOOD.

So, if the question is “Can I skip breakfast?” then I’d have to say “It’s more about your response to skipping breakfast than it is the breakfast, itself.” If you’re pigging out because you can’t wait a few hours of the day before you have your first meal, then for goodness sakes respect what your body is telling you – which sounds an awful lot like “I can’t handle that!” – and get up a half hour earlier to sit down to eat.

Now, regarding what to eat? That’s a little trickier.

First of all, I don’t eat anything hyper-processed in the morning… or ever. Cereals are notorious for having not only ludicrous amounts of sugar but absolutely no quality products of nutrients in them… partially because the only thing that was once remotely food in them is the “whole grain” they keep touting. All most of those cereals consist of is simply grain and 345,348,934,897 variations of sugar (at least 3 tablespoons per half cup, it seems) to make those grains more palatable.

Your first meal of the day, regardless of whatever time of day it takes place, needs to be something substantial. It’s “break fast” because it’s “breaking your morning fast,” with the “fast” being the amount of time between your last meal and your next. Going twelve hours without eating is a fast, and you have to be meticulous in breaking it. To me, that means protein and fiber.

Can you get that in a cereal? Sure, but at what cost? What do the ingredients look like? How much sugar is in it? You can just as easily make your own cereal for cheaper than the true “healthy cereals” run and save yourself stress and money. Grab a super-nutty trail mix (for example – one of my favorite mixes has raisins, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, and the occasional macadamia nut chunk), 4 or 5 cups of toasted oats (feel free to use steel cut, or the oatmeal we all know), 2 tablespoons of nutmeg and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix all of that up – super thoroughly – and store it in a giant container. (If you can fit it in the fridge, that’d be ideal. The nuts are high in protein, the grains are high in fiber, the entire recipe is low in sugar and moderate enough in carbs to help you get through the day without the ravenous feeling.

I also cook eggs for breakfast. Some days I feel like an egg white omelet… some days I feel like scrambling my eggs with some veggies inside. Other days, I let the chef of the house – otherwise known as the future hubby – play in the kitchen (he’s not gonna like how I put that) and make twenty-star dishes that blow my little raggedy eggs out of the water. (Bet you know which eggs on the page are mine and which are his, though.) Some days, I don’t feel like bothering with skillets at all and just eat fruit for breakfast.

And, really, get it out of your head that “studies have shown, that for breakfast…” because “scientists” have fallen off both sides of that horse for years now, depending upon whether the cereal industry (read: the pro-carbs breakfast camp) or the meat industry (read: the pro-protein camp) sponsored them. Listen to your body and your schedule.

So, to answer both questions, you have to do what I’ve always said – listen to your body and fit your schedule accordingly. Do you have a busy morning where you know you run out of energy if you don’t get in something to keep you going? Do you know that if you skip eating before you leave the house that you’ll go hard in the pasta paint at the lunch cafe? Then make your schedule according to your current needs and lifestyle, and make sure that you include eating where it belongs. If you have to wake up a half hour earlier just so you can have some scrambled eggs and grapefruit (which is what I’m slammin’ down right now), then get up a half hour earlier and let no man, child or pet (pets in my case) separate you from your breakfast time. Set aside time for you – and the family – to eat right. If that means getting up a half hour earlier to take care of everything else so the family can eat with you, then so be it. The important part, here, is to make sure you are listening to what your body needs and giving to it accordingly.