Monday, May 7, 2018

Clean Eating: Breakfast Edition

I thought I would start a series where I chat about my meals and what my typical day to day looks like when I'm in the zone and things are going well.  I got inspired to do this because I've seen a lot of crabbing about weight loss and calorie counting specifically.  I am honestly shocked at the amount of people who perceive calorie counting as something only miserable people with an eating disorder do.  While I understand that like anything in life, calorie counting can be abused, I've honestly found it very freeing and it's given me the best relationship I've ever had with food.  Counting calories is what allows me to fit in ALL of the types of things I love such as cheese, peanut butter, avocado, butter, etc but to keep the amounts reasonable.  I've picked up on a lot of patterns with my eating and have been able to make observations about eating certain things and how it impacts my energy/hunger levels that I don't know that I ever would have connected before.  I think people hear "calorie restriction" and start clutching their pearls, when really what we're (or at least I'm) saying is that we're restricting from eating 5,000+ calories a day!  I think back to when I used to bemoan that I simply "couldn't" lose weight, and if I mentally tally my day to day food back then, I know I was at minimum eating 4,000 to 5,000 a day without question, and doing barely any exercise.  I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, I just don't want people to be like I was in my 20's when I was willfully ignorant.

Anyway, sorry to get off on that little rant, I just kind of want to stick up for calorie counting since I read some stuff this week that made me PO'd!  I also want to show that you can eat really varied, vibrant meals while counting calories that certainly are not in the same realm of starving.  Oh and cheap!  My meals are typically pretty inexpensive, so I wanted to show you that yes, you can have healthy but affordable meals.

Right now in an order to really set good habits for myself and give myself the fuel I need to do my workouts, my focus has been on clean eating.  Just to recap, my view of clean eating is focusing on eating fresh, homemade food with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits.  Doesn't have to be organic, doesn't have to be gluten/dairy free, doesn't have to be a previously unknown superfood grown by monks on a south facing mountain top in the Andes, it just has to be wholesome food that isn't heavily processed or packaged.  I've got some minor stuff in there like canned coconut milk and peanut butter that I suppose you could argue is packed/processed, but eh.  Again, I don't have some big stressful playbook that I go by here.  Lean proteins, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and oils.  Pretty standard stuff.  Oh and my biggest rule?  To make meals I ENJOY eating!  There's no reason that clean eating has to mean bland, gross meals that make you sad.

I am not a huge breakfast person really, but find that the breakfast I do eat ends up setting the tone for the day.  It's probably my "lightest" meal of the day calorie wise, I try to get at least 250 calories, but may go as high as 450.  It really just depends on what workout I know I have coming up that day and my hunger levels.  Through food tracking (and just personal taste), I've discovered that having a savory breakfast with lots of vegetables tends to set me up for the most success and feeling of satisfaction.  Given those perimeters, typically my breakfasts during the week switch between egg dishes or oatmeal/oat bran.  Both are cheap but can be easily dressed up by changing the vegetables/fruit I use in them, so it's hard to get bored.

One of my favorite things I've been eating lately are microwave scrambles.  I love eggs and eat them so much that I'm surprised I haven't turned into one, but don't want to deal with making eggs during the week.  Then Budget Bytes posted this microwave scramble tutorial and totally changed my life!    Since then I've been alternating scrambles with oatmeal during the week, which prevents me from getting burned out on oatmeal.  They are so EASY to throw together to bring to work, and I also love how versatile these scrambles can be since you're really just using what you like and have on hand.  My scrambles are a bit bigger than Beth's because I take this opportunity to fit in a ton of vegetables (it's not out of the norm for me to use a whole bell pepper and 2 big fistfuls of spinach), and I usually use 3 eggs.  I also don't use the butter she has in her recipe, just because I find that it doesn't need it.  I typically add in heavier fatty components such as avocado on my really heavy lifting days, since I find that it helps me stay full and I won't be famished by the time I get home and do my workout.  If I include cheese, I keep it to a couple of tablespoons.

3 egg scramble with salsa, avocado, peppers, mushroom and cheese (450 calories)
That huge scramble was on a lower body lifting and HIIT day, which is why I upped my calories!

2 egg scramble with mushrooms, potatoes, onions and spinach (316 calories)

I typically pair my scrambles with a piece of fruit on the side, and that's my breakfast for the morning.  Those scrambles leave me really full and satisfied until lunch and have been a game changer when it comes to upping my veggie consumption for the day!

My other ride or die breakfast is oatmeal, and I alternate between steel cut oats and regular rolled oats.  Oatmeal is another great breakfast option because it's cheap as hell, easily portable and you really can dress it up with all kinds of spices and toppings to keep the variety factor going.  I find that oatmeal is the most satisfying to me when it has a little bit of a fat component, so long as you don't overdo it.  Peanut butter is a pretty standard topping for me, although I keep it to no more than a tablespoon typically.  Flax seeds are another good fat choice, and the toasted ones from Trader Joe's are especially tasty.  My new thing I've been rocking lately though is to drizzle oatmeal with a bit of canned coconut milk, the kind that you really have to stir the crap out of to get the coconut cream to mix into the water.  Besides the fact that it tastes really nice, it really ups the luxury factor on an otherwise boring breakfast.

Steel cut oats with a banana, peanut butter, honey, flax seeds and cinnamon (384 calories)

Steel cut oats with berries, honey and a drizzle of canned coconut milk (294 calories)

You'll note in the captions that those bowls of oatmeal had honey (sometimes I use maple syrup too), but I keep that to a scant 1/2 teaspoon.  To be honest, it grosses me out to have overly sweet oatmeal, so if I use sweetener at all, that's about it.  That plus the fruit make it sweet enough, especially if I use banana.

I don't have pictures of this, but I also really love oat bran and frequently eat it for breakfast, especially on rest/low impact days when I don't need as many calories.  It's low calorie and fast to make, but it's also incredibly filling.  Again it's not the most exciting thing in the world, but I find the texture very comforting, especially when my stomach is feeling wacky.  It reminds me of Cream of Wheat, which I used to love but gives me insane heartburn for whatever reason.  I even had oat bran in a pinch as a snack the other night when I was feeling hungry, and it almost immediately silenced my stomach and made me feel so full!  I don't get super fancy with it like I do oatmeal, I typically just season it with a pinch of salt and have fruit on the side.

And as a Southern girl, I do love my grits too.  They are very low calorie and have the same comfort factor to me as oat bran.  I love to sprinkle them with a tiny bit of cheese, or scramble a couple of eggs to have on the side.  Again, it's a good basic option on rest/low impact days.

So I know I said in the beginning that my version of clean eating doesn't exclude dairy, but you'll observe from these pictures that I don't eat a ton of dairy in the morning.  I just find that not only does it seem to wreck havoc with my stomach, but I suspect dairy is pissing off my skin too since I've noticed it's less red since I reduced the amount I eat.  It also comes down to that satisfaction factor, and yogurt/cottage cheese don't seem to keep me full as long.  If dairy doesn't give you issues, then Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit also make very inexpensive and low calorie breakfasts that you can easily take on the go!

I hope you liked getting a peek behind the curtain so to speak at my breakfasts.  I'll also be doing a post on my lunches and dinners!


  1. I agree -- counting calories and using a food-tracking app has been the best way for me to understand how much I'm eating and make better choices. It helps me manage the trade-offs and resist the stuff that seems so quick and easy to pop in my mouth but is actually more calories than it's worth -- so I can leave room in my allowance for the stuff I truly want that makes me feel good.

  2. YUM! Eggs make my stomach upset. Doesn't stop me from eating them, ha!

    Love the oatmeal ideas. I have found that a savory rather than sweet breakfast always makes me feel fuller longer. Have you tried savory oatmeal? I haven't. Wonder if it would be good?

  3. Love the egg scramble idea. Thanks for sharing.