There is Life Beyond Bagels for Breakfast

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Whenever I consult individuals currently following the paleo plan and those interested in starting there is always one concerning question: “So what can you eat for breakfast?” The grocery retailers would have you believe that breakfast cereals, oatmeal, bagels, fruit, and juice are the essentials to a “complete and balanced breakfast.”  Early morning business meetings further confirm that the traditional breakfast choices are muffins, croissants, bagels, and doughnuts washed down by sugared coffee and juice.  With all of these sweet treats available and ingrained in our society as “the norm”, the thought of a hunk of meat and veggies after rolling out of bed can be hard to swallow for the average person.  Breakfast is easily overlooked so quick options are preferred for many individuals.  Parents especially get hit with the responsibility of trying to feed their kids something nutritious before they run out of the door (hopefully not late) for school.  Parents beware, your kids will still do well on tests and your job will not suffer without the “brain food” provided from whole grains.  Sorry mini talking frosted wheat guy; there are better options out there.

A paleo breakfast is possible once you break out of old habits and suck it up a little.  Yes, some options may take a little longer to prepare, but good things are worth the wait.  A little planning ahead and cooking extra food is all it takes to conquer a nutritionally complete breakfast.  If the thought of meat and veggies after you wake up makes your stomach turn, there are definitely other options out there that may better suit you.  You should certainly give new options a shot, but if the new meals give you trouble you may need digestive aid or have other issues that need to be addressed.  That’s why the paleo dietitians are here to help!

I travel a lot for my full-time job and realize people appreciate some quick options.  I’ve included comparisons of standard breakfast items versus paleo options at a hotel breakfast buffet, a grab and go option, a weekend treat, and a café breakfast for kicks.  I’ve added a cost analysis as well; however, prices may vary by location.  Your own choices may provide an even bigger bang-for-your-buck when you add in the nutritional benefit that comes from eating grass-fed, free-range, organic options as these comparisons are based off of standard fare.

Round 1: Oh, the beloved buffet

  • 2 cups bran cereal with raisins
  • 8 fl oz orange juice
  • 8 fl oz 2% milk
  • 1 medium (7-7 7/8” long) banana

Price = Free to $15 at a hotel breakfast buffet

Calories: 696

Total Fat: 8 grams, Sat Fat: 4 grams, MUFA: 2 grams, PUFA: 2 grams, Total Carbs: 151 grams, Protein: 21 grams, Sugar: 83 grams!!  The only thing I see about this as complete, is that it’s completely full of sugar!

Option #2

  • 3 egg omelet with mushrooms, onion, tomato, green peppers, spinach, and ham
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1 cup honeydew
  • 8 fl oz coffee (nothing added)

Price = Free to $15 at a hotel breakfast buffet

Calories: 473, Total Fat: 31 grams, Sat Fat: 12 grams, MUFA: 14 grams, PUFA: 5 grams, Total Carbs: 22 grams, Protein: 30 grams, Sugar: 17 grams from fruit/vegetables

While the vitamins and minerals in the cereal breakfast may exceed the totals in the paleo breakfast, it is due to enrichment.  Even though many processed foods are enriched, consuming paleo choices for meals and snacks will easily add up to over and above 100% of the RDIs for most vitamins and minerals, with a few exceptions (i.e. calcium, vitamin D).  The vitamin and minerals that you will be consuming with a paleo breakfast are from the whole foods themselves, not from processing.

Round 2: Grab and go goodness….

  • 6 oz fat free yogurt
  • 1 oz regular cream cheese
  • 3.5-3.75” diameter cinnamon raisin bagel

Price = About $2.00

Total Calories: 452, Total Fat: 11 grams, SFA: 7 grams, MUFA:3 grams, PUFA: 1 gram, Total Carbohydrates: 72 grams, Protein: 17 grams, Sugar: 22 grams

Option #2

  • 1 bag (2 oz) Paleo Brands Natural BBQ Beef Jerky
  • 1 oz walnuts

Price = About $5.50

Total Calories: 325, Total Fat: 20 grams, SFA: 1.5 grams, Total Carbohydrates: 14 grams, Protein: 26 grams, Sugar: 10 grams sugar

Even the most well prepared individuals will find themselves in sticky situations when a “grab-and-go” breakfast is the best bet.  There are tons of tempting packaged options available at gas stations, fast food restaurants, or even in your own cabinets if your family/roommates aren’t on the paleo bandwagon.  After checking out the analysis between these quick grab-and-go breakfast ideas, I doubt you’ll think twice about grabbing that bagel.  At least I know I’ll pass on the massive inner tube of gluten.

The paleo options provide a great source of omega 3 fatty acids coming from grass fed meat and walnuts.  The walnuts provide 2.5 g ALA.  Iron from animal sources (heme iron) is more readily absorbed than iron from plant sources.  While the bagel breakfast has iron from the enriched wheat flour, your body appreciates the real stuff.

Round 3: Fuel yourself through the weekend

 

  • 4 oz grilled wild Atlantic salmon
  • 1.5 cups grilled zucchini with coconut oil
  • Spinach salad with strawberries, almonds, and balsamic vinegar

Price = About $4.00

Total Calories: 367, Total Fat: 18 grams, SFA: 7 grams, MUFA: 6 grams, PUFA: 5 gram, Total Carbohydrates: 20 grams, Protein: 34 grams, Sugar: 10 grams

Option #2

  • 3 slices french toast
  • ¼ cup syrup with maple syrup flavor
  • 3 oz turkey sausage links

Price = About $1.00

Total Calories: 940, Total Fat: 38 grams, SFA: 11 grams, MUFA:16 grams, PUFA: 11 grams, Total Carbohydrates: 115 grams, Protein: 36 grams, Sugar: 42 grams

Wild salmon, zucchini, and salad for breakfast? Oh my! This combination may sound strange at first, but not feeling ravenous again just shortly after breakfast is something strange to those eating the standard fare.  Try it! You might like it.

Fun fact: the traditional retail bottles of maple syrup may not even contain any maple syrup at all.  Retail industrial bottled “maple syrup” can simply consist of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, natural and artificial flavors, and colorings.

Round 4: Café FAIL

And just for kicks…. Does this breakfast look familiar?  Thanks to a co-worker of mine who let me sneak this shot J  She soon heard the wrath of my paleo preaching after the camera flashed.

  •  Egg white, spinach, and feta wrap with a large nonfat mocha drink with whipped cream

Price = $8.00

Calories: 630, Total Fat: 22 grams, SFA: 10.5 grams, Total Carbohydrate: 91 grams, Protein: 23 grams, Sugar: 58 grams

Liquid sugar should not be this expensive.  While the egg whites provide protein – you’re missing out on a lot of good nutrition (carotenoids, fat-soluble vitamins) by cutting out the yolk.  You could buy a nice cut of grass-fed meat with the money spent on this insulin spiking disaster.

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  1. Raph
    July 8, 2011 at 5:04 am

    Very serendipitous…I was actually thinking about this this morning, i grabbed a fruit smoothie (bananas, strawberries, blueberries, protien + water) today because I usually get eggs and wanted to mix it up a bit. Thanks for this, breakfast can certainly be tricky.

  2. Sarah Sanchez
    July 8, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Okay, I had to laugh. Cafe fail is where I was for a long time. I thought I was doing such a healthy thing with that choice. Thanks for the reminder. I am going to go make myself a smoothie now before I run out the door to work.

  3. Crunchy Pickle
    July 8, 2011 at 6:41 am

    That’s a great take on breakfast! I NEVER miss the standard breakfast items. When I wake up, if I am actually hungry (which is less common now), I will definitely crave protein. RIP cereal! :)

  4. Alex
    July 8, 2011 at 7:45 am

    For the past two months, in an effort to really dial in my compliance, I have switched to a strict 2 eggs, 3 slices of bacon breakfast. (Sometime I add in Greek Yogurt). It’s filling, only a couple hundred calories, and it’s delicious (I mean, it’s bacon). Not to mention, it works out to about $2 a day for breakfast (not bad at all)!

  5. Stephanie Greunke
    July 8, 2011 at 7:52 am

    You’re very welcome! Breakfast can definitely feel like a hurdle, but it doesn’t need to be. I included some fun visuals (pictures, macronutrient breakdown pie charts) in the original blog post, but unfortunately they were not able to be included in this post. I’m glad you enjoyed it even without those visuals.

  6. Primal Toad
    July 8, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I don’t think of breakfast as breakfast anymore. I am VERY curious as to when we started to think of certain foods as only edible during certain parts of the day.

    What is wrong with a big ass salad for breakfast? Eggs for lunch or dinner? Steak and veggies for breakfast? I am 100% serious too. Even with the SAD… why bagels for breakfast and pasta for dinner? Why? Why? Why?

    It makes no sense to me. None at all. My favorite meal is a salad. I throw in mixed greens, romaine, spinach or some other green, LOTS of veggies with maybe some fruit, meat and a homemade dressing of usually vinegar and olive or macadamia oil. Sometimes I’ll add coconut, avocado, etc. What’s wrong with eating this at any point during the day?

    I just don’t get it. Why? Lol.

    • Steph Greunke
      July 12, 2011 at 10:43 am

      There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that so keep it up! Know that you’re doing yourself a favor and forget about the whys :)

  7. Susan@Home Workouts
    July 8, 2011 at 8:44 am

    I think bagels are the devil, but I rarely eat meat and veggies for breakfast. WHile I’m certainly not against it, I love breakfast food so I stick with bacon, eggs, or an omelet or go simple with a smoothie with almond milk, coconut water, coconut oil, frozen raspberries, and some chocolate protein powder.

    After eating one of theses meals my hunger is controlled for hours!

  8. Brian
    July 8, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Great article, and so true. One small note: wild Atlantic salmon is commercially extinct(http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/atl_salmon.htm). Wild Pacific salmon is still widely available and the stocks are reasonably well managed.

    • Steph Greunke
      July 12, 2011 at 10:46 am

      Thank you so much for bringing this up. I must have missed that in my editing.

    • Me
      July 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm

      Not in Europe it isn’t.

  9. Delilah
    July 8, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Helpful article ! I have found a way to make eggs/veggies quick and easy for breakfast. I bake about 12 eggs and a package of frozen spinach (thawed) or other veggies I have lying around, then cut into squares. Heat up in microwave along with a link of pre-cooked chicken or turkey sausage and you have paleo-on-the-go ! I do not miss the donuts and bagels anymore.

  10. Dave K
    July 8, 2011 at 10:46 am

    This represents the major problem with Paleo. Most people can not afford to double or triple their cost of eating. Most people live at the financial redline as is.

    • remaining nameless for this comment
      July 14, 2011 at 6:06 am

      Dave K, I call BS. Total cop out. I went paleo shortly before losing my job about 18 months ago. I was able to keep it (and actually dial it in further, i.e. tighten things up and have better compliance) when I had a very limited budget of short term savings, then I had food stamps, yes food stamps and paleo works very well. When those benefits ran out I had to make do with a tiny tiny food allowance budget from help from loved ones while I try to get back on my feet (I work temporary and free lance here and there).

      the results? well with no health insurance I have not gotten sick, my training has progressed wonderfully (I’m less susspetible to injury so no er visits for me thank you), and my body comp is at an all time best, i’m stronger than every, adding muscle and have been able to run with between 6-10 percent body fat (leaner in the summer and a little less in winter but always have better muscle definition than most even at my ‘chubbiest’)

      I have been able to maintain paleo eating despite spending roughly the same or less (many times half!) of what I used to before paleo and even post paleo before the income stopped. when every dollar has to scream it’s paleo purpose you get very creative and strategic about what you need and what you want and get very good and cutting all the psycho food baggage dialogue out.

      sorry if the tone of this reply is a little aggressive but your statement is utter rubbish.

      • Robb Wolf
        July 14, 2011 at 11:58 am

        I’m honestly not a fan of the “apelo is too pricey” schtick either. I’ve done it on a shoe-string and made appropriate mods elsewhere.

        • Paul
          July 26, 2011 at 4:57 am

          I think that it’s an easy excuse. If you look around the shelves in the UK supermarkets you will find that the ‘fat free’ (carbs added!) or sugar rich junk is very pricey when just round the corner there is a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables, much of which can be found in ‘Basics’ packaging, and very reasonably priced. A recent consumer test found that ‘Basic’ carrots were just as nutritious and tasty as the more expensive ‘Taste the Difference’ higher priced variety – just as an example. I have to say though, that beating the breakfast dilemma was my greatest challenge, but I now eat 2 boiled eggs a handful of blue berries and maybe a tomato for breakfast and find it last me well.

          • Ana
            June 18, 2012 at 6:51 am

            I don’t think saying that Paleo is expensive is an excuse. It is expensive. Grass fed beef, free range pork, cage free eggs, etc. all that stuff is more expensive than the regualar meat/eggs, and it is smaller portions too. I can not feed a family of four with one package of the cage free chicken for example. I would have to buy at least two packages, or more if I want left overs for the next day.

  11. Anthony DiSante
    July 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Interesting comparisons here. I realize some people think that the time of day dictates what kind of food they should eat, but that just makes no sense whatsoever to me. I do understand the time issue, but eggs and bacon, or eggs and sausage, is such an easy meal to make; and egg yolk is just about the healthiest thing you can eat. So that’s definitely one of my go-to meals that I eat a few times per week.

    I do have to take issue with your “wild Atlantic salmon” for under $4. First of all, I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as “wild Atlantic salmon” anymore; if it’s Atlantic, then it’s farmed. And if it were wild, I don’t think you could get it for anywhere near that cheap.

  12. Linda
    July 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Great ideas. I was hoping for a good option for grab and go but that “Paleo” jerky is pretty marginal – contains cane juice, sugar, two forms of vinegar, and “natural” smoke flavoring (whatever the heck that is). I’d rather pick up a Lara bar.

    • Steph Greunke
      July 12, 2011 at 10:39 am

      We can definitely work on a post of ideas for grab and go options for readers if they’d like! I needed to cut myself off at some point because I started to get a little lengthy with the post. There are always going to be a variety of the best, better, good, and marginal options available and your choices are completely up to your degree of strictness. It’s key to look at the overall diet. Thanks for the comment!

    • Amy Kubal
      July 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      Linda –

      For some quick ideas right now – try hard boiled eggs, ‘egg muffins’, pre-cooked meats (I cut steak and chicken into strips and portion it into containers) or even leftovers from dinner. Pre-cooked frozen shrimp and packets of water-packed tuna and salmon are always nice to have on hand. Grab some pre-cut raw veggies or a bag of frozen to heat in the microwave to go with the protein. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil or grab some avocado for fat and you’re set! I hope that helps!

    • Nutritionator
      July 14, 2011 at 5:34 am

      Linda I have to suggest making your own grass fed beef jerky as an alternative. It’s so SO much cheaper than buying it pre-made anywhere and you get to control exactly what goes into it. I made a 2 pound batch of jerky last night for less than 20 bucks. 2 oz of PaleoBrands Jerky for $5 vs. 32 oz. of homemade for $20. I might still buy the packaged stuff in a pinch but give it a try, you won’t regret it!

  13. Mark
    July 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I struggled with breakfast for around 8 weeks when I started Paleo, but now it is a lot easier to eat meat for breakfast. Today I had some leftover chicken skewers with a small amount of satay, an orange and an espresso with no sugar. I use to need 100g of cereal, milk and a capuciino with sugar. No wonder the abdominal fat is going! I have gone from 20% bf to 14% in 10 weeks following Paleo and without being hungry. Amazingly I have lost no muscle and am a lot stronger in the gym. Usually when I have tried to lose bf with a restricted calorie diet the muscle reduces quickly on me.

  14. Matt
    July 8, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks Stephanie, do you see any problem with eating a couple dozen eggs a week?

  15. Jeff
    July 8, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Great post. Breakfast is something I’ve been battling with since I went Paleo 5 months ago. On a good morning (when I have time and am not rushed) the standard is 3 egss scrambled with spinnach and red pepper. Delicious!

    But when I’m in a rush…it’s hard not to reach for something (non-paleo) quick. I’ve kept almonds at my desk at work, as those are filling and better than reaching for a bagel or blueberry muffin.

    I’d love to see more ideas, of quick…on the fly…ideas for breakfast, that still fit the paleo model.

  16. Melissa
    July 9, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Great tips for the grab and go breakfast. We usually do up breakfast the night before. It can be left overs from dinner, or a fruit and protein smoothie, or 2 boiled eggs with smoked salmon (sprinkled with ground dried dill) and cherry tomatoes. We put in a rubbermade dish and grab it in the morning on the way to work. Weekends are usually scrambled eggs and bacon. I’ve tried to find “quaility” pre-cooked morning sausages to heat and eat but have had no luck.

  17. Judy
    July 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    What’s for breakfast? That WAS my first question after I decided to go paleo. Yes, I read the books, looked online for receipes, and got some ideas. But coming from very structured “plans” before, I did need some guidance. I really enjoyed your blog post on a sort of “Eat This Not That” approach. Having you break it down this way is very helpful for this paleo newbie. Too bad the pictures did not turn out. I can hardly wait to see what is next. Great job.

  18. Marky C
    July 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    awesome take on contrasting foods. ive always been a fan of “big meals” for breakfast and i’ve heard first hand from people saying what i’m eating for breakfast “isnt right” and the typical arguement im sure most of you have gone through continues.

  19. Foster
    July 10, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I’ve recently gotten over my aversion to avocados, and for the last couple of week’s I’ve been having the following breakfast:

    2 hard-boiled eggs
    1 avocado
    Coffee

    Boil the eggs Sunday night and breakfast is only as long as it takes to brew coffee. Plus, this is a very satisfying breakfast, with no hunger pains through the morning period. A nice change from the grain-based breakfast with the ‘Chinese food’ effect.

  20. Amy B.
    July 11, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I’m glad you mentioned the salmon, veggies, and fruit. I usually stick with the old standby of loaded veggie omelets for breakfast (cooked in coconut oil or home-rendered beef tallow…YUM), but I also turn to leftovers now and then. There’s nothing wrong with, say, chicken and veggies for breakfast, or leftover pot roast, etc.

    Hehheh…people who think nothing of having cold pizza or Chinese food for breakfast all of a sudden think *you’re* the crazy one for having some kind of “dinner food” at breakfast.

    I was a MAJOR cold cereal junkie. Not just for breakfast, but as a snack, dry, right out of the box, any time of day. (Especially late at night!) Do I miss some of my old favorites? Maybe a little, but I’ll tell you what I *don’t* miss — my old size 16 pants!

  21. Scott Engelstad
    July 11, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I don’t mean to be that guy, but I think you meant wild Alaskan salmon instead of Atlantic salmon. I believe there is no such thing as commercial wild Atlantic salmon. A lot of farmed salmon is marketed as Atlantic with no mention of it being farmed. Once again I don’t mean to be the nit picky guy but it is confusing for newbies.

  22. Celeste
    July 11, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Amy, I am with you on the cold cereal! That was my daily breakfast for DECADES, and a not-infrequent snack. Now breakfast is (pastured) eggs and various veggies almost every day, all yummy and much more sustaining. I can eat an entire pan of sautéed greens by 8am!

  23. Brak
    July 12, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I enjoy a tablespoon of beef gelatin warmed (dissolved) with 8oz water added to 8 oz coconut milk, a scoop of whey protein and a few oz of whatever juice is around (organic pear, tart cherry, etc.) Yummy.

  24. FitChutney
    July 18, 2011 at 5:30 am

    Hi Guys

    Just a question relating to grass-fed meat which the friendly paleo community here may be help with? I don’t often see meat labelled as grass-fed here in the UK, rather meat is labelled as organic. What is the difference? I’m assuming that organic means that food producers must adhere to strict standards including not using medication for the livestock and also they must have to comply wiht certain soil and water conservation methods? Is this the same as grass-fed?

    Thanks!!

  25. Lance
    July 22, 2011 at 12:04 am

    heres a paleo grab and go for you thats cheap: down 4 raw egg yolks and some nuts / fruit etc.

  26. Heather
    June 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve found a great way to have a crunchy breakfast.

    Unsweetened, shredded coconut from Bob’s Mill
    Unrefined, virgin coconut oil, Bronner’s Magic All-in-One has the most excellent taste
    Raw almonds
    Cinnamon
    Truvia (I can’t live without Truvia, sorry!)

    Combine shredded coconut and coconut oil (liquified) in a blender. Pour into a bowl. Layer with cinnamon and almonds. Sprinkle with one packet of stevia or trivia if you must have sweetener.

    It’s crunchy and will keep you regular!

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