Toast is not a meal: Part 1

Before you have my head over this one, hear me out.

Sure, toast as part of a meal is fine now and again.  If you don't have any isues with gluten, you can find a relatively quality bread or make your own AND the meal hits the macros and calories you need then it can fit just fine.  But we're living in an age obsessed with Instagram-ready avocado toast and all the misconceptions that come along with what constitutes a healthy breakfast.

It's not really about the toast

You could sub a lot of foods in here: low-protein yogurt, trail mix, granola bars, cereal, a giant heaping scoop of peanut butter.  They might have their place here and there but as a "meal" they pretty much suck.  I chose toast because I have lost count of the times someone has handed me a food journal, confident in their protein intake and each morning is avocado toast, almond butter on toast, one egg on toast or some iteration of that.  In a time of advertising where we have products called "protein cheerios" and no one is laughing out loud at that concept, I get worried.

So if a tiny breakfast made out of mostly carbs and very little protein isn't really optimal, why are so many people choosing it?  I guess we could ask the same of most cereals, juices or granola bars.  Why are these foods chosen by so many people for breakfast when they wreak havoc on your blood sugar, lack in protein and don't fill you up?

Convenience.  And of course, good advertising.  Nothing appeals to a busy person like being able to pour your breakfast out of box or pull it out of a bag.  And something like avocado toast seems like a great idea if you choose Ezekiel bread (because you've heard it is PACKED with protein - it's not) and avocado is "good fat".  So lets cover the good here.  Most Ezekiel bread is lower calorie than the junk lining the shelves out there.  I've been checking out bread labels lately and whereas most bread used to be around 12-15g carbs per slice, they are almost all now 25g carbs per slice!  Check the ingredients and you'll see lots of added sugar, added gluten, stabilizers, preservatives and enough filler to make your gas clear a room. So a lower calorie, sprouted bread with whole ingredients, more fiber and more protein is a better choice.  But the best Ezekiel bread is still 5g protein per slice, less than an egg. 

Now avocado is a fantastic fat source and an amazing fiber source.  It sucks for protein though.  I have no idea where the idea that avocado was a protein came from but wipe that idea from your head right now.  Thank you.

Lets not mince words, we all love bread.  I love bread.  Your grandmother loves bread.  Your dog loves bread.  If we hear that a certain kind of bread is GOOD, it will fit our narrative of the kind of breakfast we want to have anyway.  Nothing throws a stick into a client's craw like hearing I want them to have 35g protein for breakfast.  That many eggs, that much yogurt, a protein shake or "gasp!" chicken in the morning is unappealing.  So if I say toast is just fine, it fits your narrative and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.  Trust me, I like to hear things that fit MY narrative too so I know why this is appealing.

What happens next

I'm not demonizing these foods or bashing that combination of food.  But when someone has loftier goals then just "drag through the day" we have to addres nutrition and I am going to have to mess with your breakfast choices.  Sorry but it's just the way it is.

If you don't have an issue with gluten, we can keep bread in here and there.  And if you have room for additional fat then I am going to include plenty of avocado as well.  I'd take avocado over oil, butter or cheese any day because it is more food volume and high fiber so you'll be more satiated.  Winning!

However, if you want to gain muscle, lose fat or feel better....then you are going to have a daily protein goal I set for you.  And if we are going to hit that protein goal then we need to spread it out over each meal.  That means breakfast too and this is where people start squirming.

Be flexible

Before we dive into how to have the foods you enjoy AND hit your goals (in part 2), I need to explain why flexibility is required.  It can be hard for anyone to have a coach start messing with their choices and their routine - some people want you to get all up in that and control everything they do.  But most are protective of their choices because their choices reflect who they are and if you attack the choices, you attack them.  My approach is never to attack a choice.  I like to address what someone is doing right, understand WHY they made that choice and then see how I can bridge the gap to something more optimal.  Honestly it can hurt your feelings to have someone say "your nutrition sucks" and it's generally not a good jumping off point in a working relationship.

So, as always, I explain to clients and I'll do the same for you here.

Lets choose a 160 pound woman looking to lose 20lbs.  She's exercising three times per week, works full time and is relatively active. 

Here's her current diet (and I am pulling this out of food journals I have received from real people):

Upon waking: 20oz Coffee from Starbucks with cream and sugar

Breakfast: 1 slice ezekiel bread with 1/2 avocado smashed onto it with a drizzle of olive oil

Lunch: Caesar salad with 2oz chicken breast

Snack at work: protein bar(the kind advertised to women) and a handful of almonds

Dinner: Indian food

Late night snack: Apple with "only 2 tablespoons almond butter" on it

So we've got some good things happening here but also some holes to fill.  I'll leave you with her sample food journal for 1 day and see if it resonates with any choices you make.  Do her portions seem OK?  Is she getting enough protein and fiber?  What kind of effects are these foods having on her cognition, energy and recovery?  Isn't avocado toast just an incomplete sandwich? We need answers - I'll lay them out in Part 2 next week.

Stay tuned!