Eating what you should vs. what you can is a daily battle for most of us, even nutrition experts. As most of them are fond of telling us how important breakfast is, Healthista have challenged nutritionist Charlotte Watts to show us what she actually ate for breakfast for six days
No. 1: Breakfast in the Summer
I’ve always absolutely loved food and this was a driving force behind becoming a nutritional therapist when I signed up to study way back in 1998. How fantastic that exploration, experimentation and playing with our food could actually help improve the way we feel.
At that point, I was at the height of exhaustion in the true style that got me there (a tendency to over-subscribe myself) decided to take on three years of study. But at the time, I had never eaten breakfast. It may be a rewriting of history, but I really have no memory of breakfast before 1996.
This was the time that nutrition as a life factor that could either help or hinder our health first came into my sphere of consciousness and I had attempted some kind of breakfast habit like a newborn lamb taking its first steps. Again, little memory to serve but I suspect that bran flakes featured.
It was only when I learned about the importance of blood sugar control (it was one of the first lectures by the inimitable Australian naturopath Xandra Williams) that my breakfast epiphany happened. Since then, I haven’t looked back. Learning to not just eat, but take time for, prioritise and respect this first meal of the day has since become my most important habit and one where I work very deeply with clients. Surely just telling them to eat breakfast is enough? Nope…breaking down our morning routines; how we wake, attitudes for greeting the day and creating space around nourishing food is highly personal and needs to be got right and adapted to the differing morning demands, metabolisms and tastes of my different clients.
For me, that personal style features aspects that set up key needs; dense energy supply as I have tended to fatigue in the past, savoury not sweet as I flip to sugar cravings easily and foods I like so much that the anticipation of them actually helps me get up.
I follow a mostly hunter-gatherer/ Paleo type diet, which features avoiding grains, beans and potatoes that our Stone Age ancestors would not have been growing or eating. This helps address energy lows, digestive issues and acne that I had before I found I discovered this plan. You’ll notice my breakfast does feature some grain often, but I’ve played around to find that the right choice here helps rather than hinders energy and sugar cravings late in the day for me.
My ideal breakfast has a large protein part for sustained blood sugar balance and adrenal (stress) support, balanced out with a vegetable part for alkalising and sometimes a grain part for energy, but only in a form I digest well such as traditional bread or non-wheat grain – rye sour dough is a favourite.
Here are six days’ of my real typical summer breakfasts with scenes set for each; these are within the context of a feisty toddler waking me up before I would ideally like and I could never be described as a natural morning person…
Goat’s cheese and cucumber on rye
This is a favourite default breakfast of mine – easy to do, totally delicious and my daughter will share (although will not have the cucumber touching the other food). I get most of my food from Abel & Cole as I love their malted sourdough rye, so we buy three loaves a week and freeze in halves. I don’t eat many grains but my digestion can handle this one no problem. The goat’s cheese is the soft one (organic of course) that comes in the little round plastic tubs and provides my necessary protein. I need the salad part (could be watercress) to make the meal feel clean and refreshing and the green also alkalises my system to start the day detoxifying well.
Turkey, houmous and avocado on rye
Getting to sit around a little more with this one; gives the feeling of my own buffet on a plate and truly satisfying. The turkey (Waitrose organic slices) settles any possible sugar cravings and adding the dense healthy fats from the avocado really keeps me in control of my food choices later on. Also this breakfast demands you sit and give it your full attention or quite frankly it can explode all over clothes. I have trained myself to eat slowly and this meal signals that time needs to be taken to chew and arrive into the day.
Just toast with butter
Ooops, this is my default ‘I got up late, our world was chaos and my routines got thrown out of whack’ breakfast. As I said, we always have a supply of this bread in (unless someone forgets the getting-out-of-the-freezer rule) and I don’t really mind the excuse to slather it in even more butter than I might usually add. I am a huge butter fan; there is much goodness there for vitamins A and D, fats that help metabolism and feed good bacteria in the gut. It must be organic as that makes it less likely to contains hormones and additives. Doesn’t quite set me up for the day though, I’ll probably be turning to the cashews by 11am but they’re still savoury so I know they won’t set off my sugar cravings.
Poached egg salad
Clearly this one had a little more time taken; I’m always looking for gaps when I can recreate the queenly fast-breaking ceremonial feasts I used to concoct almost daily before I had a child. The time wasn’t in the preparation – thrown together in the minutes taken for the egg to poach – but the sitting, savouring and revelling in actually getting to eat peacefully alone. This kind of start really suits me, no grains but plenty of carbs in the form of salad veg and I’ve just noticed that I forgot to add some seeds for more healthy fat. The dressing as olive oil, a little rock salt and plenty of pepper really made this for taste, alongside a generous dollop of houmous and feta for yet more healthy fats – am a big fan of healthy fats! – as they help start the day with fully satisfied tummy and get brain neurotransmitters firing for concentration and focus for the day.
Mackerel pate on a train
Oh dear, another chaos day! The breakfast itself didn’t really suffer, as the main component is Abel & Cole’s fantastic mackerel pate, which I always keep on hand as a delicious protein source and freezes very well. I used to make my own mackerel pate and always intend to start again, but you know… The scenario here was a confused morning time-wise culminating in me just making my train to London and then having to sit on the floor, but I managed to prioritise my cleansing cucumber on my pate. I always sit down when no seats so that I can create a little oasis of calm for myself and eat in the manner that my digestive system needs. I also rather enjoy being the eccentric on the train!
Charlotte Watts is an award-winning nutritional therapist and yoga teacher. She is the co-author of The De-Stress Diet (Hay House £12.99) with Healthista Editor Anna Magee now available from amazon.co.uk. Find out about Charlotte’s nutrition clinics, yoga classes and workshops at charlottewatshealth.com
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.