I don’t know about you, but when I read the most recent statistics that one American out of four starts his day without eating breakfast, I almost swallowed my paddle in amazement. I just couldn’t believe that roughly 55 million adults deprive themselves of the intense aroma of a steaming bowl of oatmeal cooked in creamy milk and sprinkled with dry fruits, toasted pecans and maple sugar. Boy! How about the frothy latte that is the perfect match for a grilled whole wheat English muffin spread with luscious almond butter and orange marmalade? Do these people realize that breakfast is supposed to be a treat, not a trick, notwithstanding the fact that in this age of mass media-and-health-conscious-communication everybody acknowledges the importance of the first meal of the day? What a simple pleasure they miss for no reason other than claiming lack of time... But to address this specific problem I have a very simple solution: use the snooze button of your alarm clock one time instead of two every morning and you will suddenly find yourself with plenty of time to fix breakfast… Because it is much more important than one might think.
To keep weight and cholesterol in check
Not only is breakfast the ideal start to a good productive day, but recent research from the Universities of Colorado and Massachusetts shows that eating breakfast on a daily basis is one of the most effective ways to keep your weight in check in the long term, to lower bad cholesterol (or maintain an already low level) and to reduce the risk of developing hypertension and type-2 diabetes. Researchers believe that the main reason for this is that our body needs to be fuelled regularly, at least every 3 to 5 hours. So you can imagine how much it craves to “break fast” after 8 to 12 hours without any food supply.
Of course, I don’t expect any paddler to be part of those alarming statistics because, clearly, no normal human being could burn 600 to 800 calories an hour on an empty stomach, right?… But the essential question remains: what kind of an early morning meal do you need to eat before hitting the water with a lot of energy without feeling stuffed?
The magic combination of carbs, proteins and fat
Not all breakfasts are created equal. Just like snacks. Many of those who do eat in the morning could certainly improve their food choice because the typical breakfast of two white toasts with butter, fruit jelly and a glass of orange juice is high in refined carbohydrates and low in fibers, proteins and good unsaturated fats. This is the perfect recipe to leave you hungry and grumpy by mid-morning because carbs are the first to be digested and transformed by the body as fuel, especially the refined type. That’s why whole grain cereals and fresh fruits that are high in fibers and nutrients are a better choice. Another key component for a breakfast that will stick to your ribs is a good balance of proteins (low fat milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, lean meat or soy) and a little bit of fat (ideally the unsaturated kind from nut butter, canola or olive oil). This will help you feel full much longer by avoiding a steep rise in blood sugar levels followed by a vertiginous drop, which leads to cravings, loss of concentration and fatigue. Proteins and fats regulate the appetite because they are released in the blood stream and digested more slowly, especially if mixed with good quality unprocessed carbs.
Also keep in mind that a balanced breakfast should account for 25 % of your daily caloric intake. For instance, a 35 year old man who is moderately active and eats 2800 calories a day through three meals plus one late afternoon light snack could use as many as 700 to 800 calories for breakfast. This is the equivalent of 2 whole wheat toasts spread with 2 tsp of butter, one 12 oz non-fat latte, 2 poached eggs served with some lean ham, one orange and a bit of fruit spread. Or a banana with a big bowl of traditional oatmeal cooked in soy milk, a handful of toasted almonds, some dry cranberries, apricots and maple sugar sprinkled on top.
For the early bird with no appetite
If you like to paddle early in the morning but have a hard time eating a full breakfast when you wake up, just divide it into three or four mini-meals: start your morning with a latte and a banana while you get ready for your much-anticipated kayak or canoe ride. Follow it with a bowl of whole grain cereals just before you leave home with your boat tied on your roof top. Then bring two small “snacks” with you for on the water. The first one could be a whole grain bun spread with natural peanut butter and an apple, and the second one some low-fat cheese with a granola bar (choose a brand with no hydrogenated fat) or some dry fruits, unsalted soy nuts and a yogurt beverage. Each of those 4 mini-breakfasts contains 200 to 250 calories, which is what you will need to refuel efficiently throughout the morning.
But if you are like me and love that first meal in the morning, then go for a robust low fat breakfast one to two hours before you start paddling and bring a light snack (fruit, granola bar, cheese, nuts). You will certainly need this extra supply of calories before lunch time if you paddle with a bit of enthusiasm...
Favourite breakfasts for a kayak or canoe trip
- With a Tex-Mex flair: Large whole wheat tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, scallions, some Monterey Jack cheese and a few tablespoons of salsa served with a glass of tomato juice and an apple
- My homemade maple protein-rich granola (see recipe below) mixed with 1 cup of plain low fat yogurt, sliced bananas and strawberries
- Vegetarian pigs in a blanket: 2 large buckwheat pancakes each filled with one soy breakfast sausage, some sharp shredded Cheddar cheese, slices of fresh ripe pear and a bit of honey.
- Special French toasts: one fork-split whole wheat English muffin spread with a mixture of 2 tbsp cream cheese and 1 tbsp concentrated orange juice. Dip this sandwich in one beaten egg with 6 tbsp of milk. Let stand a few minutes. Grill it in a slightly oiled skillet on medium heat 5 minutes on each side. Top with fruit compote.
- Quebec cretons toasts: two thick slices of artisanal whole grain bread spread with 4 to 6 tbsp of my homemade Quebec cretons (see recipe below). I serve it with a fruit salad made of fresh kiwis, oranges and grapefruit sections.
- Breakfast couscous for 4: in a pot, mix 2 cups of whole wheat couscous, 3 cups of boiling salted water, 2 tbsp of organic canola oil, 1 tsp cinnamon, chopped dates, currants and dried mangoes. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until water is absorbed. Use a fork to separate the grains and the fruit. Serve in a bowl with cold soy milk and some pistachio.
- Multigrain waffles with fruit smoothie: grill two multigrain waffles made without hydrogenated fats. Top with fresh blueberries and a bit of maple syrup. Serve with a smoothie for two made of one banana, one cup plain low-fat yogurt, 4 tbsp of concentrated orange juice and 1 tbsp of honey.
My protein-rich maple granola (makes at least 16-20 portions)
- 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oat
- 2 cups kamut flakes
- 1 / 4 cup organic canola oil
- 1 / 2 cup maple syrup
- 1 / 2 tsp of salt
- 1 / 2 cup unsalted soy nuts
- 1 / 2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 / 2 cup dried chopped apples
Heat the oven to 350 F. On a baking sheet, spread evenly the rolled oat, the kamut flakes and sprinkle with salt. Mix the oil and the maple syrup together and pour over the cereal. Toss well. Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, stirring once to prevent burning. Add the soy nuts and the pumpkin seeds, mix well and put the mixture back in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the dried fruit, let stand a few minutes and serve. Will keep for weeks in a sealed container.
Quebec traditional Cretons (a meat pâté made with pork) (8 portions)
- 1 pound lean ground pork (or ground veal)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup whole wheat fresh bread crumbs
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1 / 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 / 2 tsp clove
- 1 tsp dry parsley
- 1 / 2 tsp dry marjoram
- salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in a pot and mix well. Simmer uncovered (low heat), stirring often, for at least half an hour or until most of the milk has been absorbed. (If you want a very creamy texture, put the cretons in a food processor for a few seconds at low speed.) Pour in a pyrex or plastic bowl. Let cool. Spread on your morning toast or make a delicious sandwich on a whole wheat bun with gourmet mustard, fresh tomatoes and crisp lettuce.