Things seem to come into the office in waves, and recently the theme has been the need to start the day with a high protein breakfast in order not to kick off the cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes that make us all feel horrible and leads to packing on the pounds. We’ve all had drummed into our heads forever that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but eating the wrong breakfast can be worse, I think, than no breakfast at all. If you start the day with a meal high in refined carbohydrates — ie, any kind of pastry or bread, sweetened yogurt, most cereals, juice — as in most of what America eats for breakfast … your pancreas will immediately pump out a lot of insulin to reduce the sugar load in your blood (where it’s damaging) and pack it away in other places — namely, when there’s too much — in your cells as fat. This is what your pancreas is designed to do. But think about cave people times … Were there muffins, cheerios and big glasses of orange juice around then?? No, there were not. Was your pancreas designed to deal with that kind of carb load? No, it was not. So what happens?
Okay, so if you start your day with a big load of flour and/or sugar — to your body they’re the same thing — your blood sugar shoots up, giving you instant energy. Zoom! You might feel great, but your pancreas flips out. Too much SUGAR! Panic!! Flood the blood with Insulin to fix things! And so your pancreas goes wild, and the insulin does its job; the sugar gets removed from the blood. But in its stress response to too much sugar, the pancreas has done its job too well, and now your blood sugar is so low that you start feeling horrible — exhausted, grumpy, really hungry, even shaky and nauseated … Miserable. Now your body is getting the message to eat. And your body is smart — it’s telling you to eat something to get that blood sugar up. So you grab something else high in carbohydrates as fast as you can to feel better. And then … well, you get the idea where this is going. Your day’s blood sugar curve starts to look like this:
When instead, with a balanced mix of protein, healthy fats and unrefined, whole carbs, it should look more like this:
One great way to have a day of lower and more stable blood sugar is to eat a breakfast high in protein, veggies and healthful fat instead of refined carbohydrates. Here is a great recipe that you can make at the beginning of the week and then just keep eating til it’s gone. It keeps and packs easily — and it’s great for lunch or dinner too. You can make it with whatever veggies you have around. And if you use pre-chopped ones, it is lightning fast to make. This recipe is heavy on the vegetables and is dairy free, although you could certainly add a bit of cheese if you wanted.
Fast Breakfast Frittata:
- 12 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk of any sort (I use almond or coconut milk)
- 3 slices bacon (or if you’d rather not use bacon, a few tablespoons olive oil or butter)
- 1 small onion, diced
- few cloves garlic, diced
- chopped vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, asparagus …whatever sounds good to you!) You should have enough to just about fill your pan to the brim. They will shrink a bit as they cook, leaving room to add the egg mixture. For my 12 eggs and a 13 inch pan, I used 12 oz. broccoli, 10 oz. mushrooms, 6 oz. baby spinach, one cup shredded carrots and one red bell pepper.
- handful chopped olives, artichoke hearts, sliced sun dried tomatoes, or capers (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoons mixed dried herbs (oregano, thyme, basil, cumin, chili …) or a handful of fresh herbs (chives and dill are nice)
- dash of balsamic vinegar if you like it
- salt and pepper to taste
Dice the bacon first and saute in a cast iron (or other ovenproof) frying pan. (I use an old 13 inch skillet, which is perfect for this amount of ingredients, but you could a 1o-12 inch pan too — your frittata will be thicker.) You can also just reduce the amounts accordingly if you want to use smaller pan sizes. Saute the onions, garlic, and any dried herbs for a few minutes, then add mushrooms if you’re using, and cook until they have released their liquid, and it’s mostly evaporated. If the bottom of the pan is looking dry add a bit of olive oil or butter. Add the other veggies and saute until just tender — not mushy! Add a splash of balsamic vinegar at this point if you like the flavor. I do! Everything should still be bright green. If you’re using something hard like broccoli or carrots, it helps to cover the pan so they steam a bit. If you are using chopped greens, add these last because they only need a minute or two or they will be overcooked. Add any olives, etc. at this point.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While veggies are in the pan, crack a dozen eggs into a large mixing bowl, add the milk, and whisk everything together with a hand whisk or fork until it’s well blended. Turn off the heat under the pan, and pour the egg mixture into the pan on top of the vegetables. The eggs should mostly cover veggies with just the tops sticking out. Place the whole pan in the oven for about 20 minutes til eggs are just firmed up.. The center will often puff up, and this tells you it’s done. Enjoy warm, then slice up and wrap for great breakfast/lunch/snack/picnic food; this keeps well … I just brought some on a Midsummer visit to the mountains after two big exams yesterday. It got rave reviews!
This recipe is for experimenting — I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same twice. It’s always been fantastic. Use what you have — i doubt you will ever make something that doesn’t taste good! It can also be a great dish for a summer dinner party — make ahead and serve at room temperature with a big salad. Happy summer 🙂