In short- it depends, here is what Ayurveda has to say about breakfast.
All meals are important
Breakfast is a polarizing subject- you either love it or hate it. Some love it so much they eat it for dinner, and lunch, and snacks…but I digress. The most important thing about breakfast is whether or not it works for you. Do you feel better when you eat early? Are you energized for the day ahead, workout, or laundry list of, well laundry? Does it set you up for a balanced day ahead? If none of those are your breakfast experience then it’s time to take a look at your first meal.
Breakfast is your opportunity to set the tone for your whole day, often what you choose at breakfast is going to determine your mindset around the rest of the day. Would you rather be set up for a series of mindful and healthy choices or spiral into a remorse filled free-for-all?
In order to nourish and fuel both body and mind, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind when planning your meals:
- Lots of plants! Fruits and vegetables should be your priority when meal planning. Choose produce that is in season and fits with your unique needs. Avoiding hard to digest fruits and veggies in the morning and evening meals are suggested by ayurveda guidelines. Stewed apples work well for breakfast, steamed veggies at dinner, and save the raw produce for your mid-day meal.
- Grains- preferably whole- are your energy source and should be appropriately sized. Small to moderate portions like a slice of whole grain toast with avo in the am suits most people. Oats, whole grain breads, and rice or quinoa are examples.
- Lean proteins for balance. Plant proteins like beans and lentils are a good way to get more with less, but can be hard to digest in the morning. Eggs, dairy, and even seeds might feel just right.
- Bring on the healthy fat! A small amount of fat is important at every meal. Add a little ghee, fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, nuts, or seeds to all of your meals, even breakfast.
Try to incorporate at least two of the above categories in your first meal and notice how you feel all day.
Ayurveda has very specific recommendations around portion size because size matters and agni (or digestion) changes throughout the day. You can track your own digestion and notice if this tracks for you as well:
- Eat like a queen for breakfast- a moderate and well balanced morning meal to give you energy for the day and wake up your GI system
- Eat like a king at lunch- digestion is at its peak in the middle of the day so take advantage. This is the meal to plan harder to digest foods, larger portions, and even the occasional indulgence.
- Eat like a pauper at night- this one is hard, because it’s counterintuitive to how we have come to think of dinner. Experiment with a small to moderate sized dinner and notice if you sleep better, wake with less bloating, and have better digestion.
When you eat is more important than what you eat
What you eat is important and it’s easy to see why most people spend their energy on creating the perfect meal plan, but the truth of the matter is that if you don’t have the supportive pieces in place then what you eat is going to have the least amount of impact in your life-long wellness.
Your meal plan should be the last thing you work on- get a good schedule in place first!
How to create a sustainable schedule
Before you can create your perfect eating schedule you need to know your limitations, strengths, and goals. Get out your trusty food journal and keep track of when you normally eat for about a week, then you’ll notice patterns that may or may not be working for you. I recommend using a daily planner or digital calendar and simply writing in when you eat as you go through your day.
Once you know what your typical day looks like, compare it to the ideal eating pattern that looks like this:
- 1st meal between 6am and 8am. Ideally this is about an hour after waking up. You can adjust somewhat if you workout first thing, or are slow to get hungry- but don’t wait too long.
- Mid-day meal between 12-2pm. This is when your agni (digestion) is highest, so take advantage of this by planning your biggest meal here. Lunch is the best time to have harder to digest foods like raw veggies or heavy meals like stew.
- Dinner before 7pm as often as possible. Close down the kitchen about 3 hours before bedtime, and try not to snack after dinner.
- Use snacks as in-case-of-food-emergency only and give yourself time in-between meals to fully digest your last meal. It’s ok to get a little hungry before the next meal. If your circumstances don’t allow you to eat in the next 6 hours or you are more than a little hungry go ahead and have a snack, just try not to plan one “just in case.”
Use these guidelines to tailor your schedule to meet your needs as much as possible and remember to be flexible! It may take some uncomfortable days to get into the groove, but once you do you’ll feel better for it.
Ayurveda guidelines encourage aligning your meals with the arc of the sun. Small meals for breakfast and dinner, and your main meal for lunch. Most people struggle with that due to modern work schedules, so play around with what works best for you.
Keep in mind that the space between meals is time for your body to metabolize and digest the nutrition that you’ve taken in. So plan meals to fill you up for the next 3-6 hours and use snacks only if you’re going to have an extended period between meals.
The bottom line is to be flexible and explore patterns that work best for you with your current situation and needs. Let go of complicated meal plans and frustrating counting apps and trust that you know what you need if you pay attention. Once you have a good schedule in place, then you can start to dig into food lists and guides.
If you want to explore meal timing and ayurvedic nutrition on a deeper level contact us to schedule a free clarity call.