5 Simple and Gut Healthy Breakfasts You’ll Actually Enjoy
I love a proper American breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, fruit and coffee as much as the next girl (sorry, vegans), but it can definitely leave me feeling like a bowling ball just dropped into my gut.
Dragging around my bloated bowling ball stomach all morning? Not fun.
If you have digestive issues (read: bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, etc.), it might be a good idea to take a little more care with what you put in your body first thing in the morning.
If you have digestive illness (read: IBS, IBD, gallbladder or pancreas disfunction, etc.), you should definitely be thinking more constructively about your meals.
What’s going to make you feel good and fuel you up for the day? What’s going to energize you rather than make you want to sit on the couch and watch TV all morning?
Here are 5 go-to breakfasts that I find help my digestion and set me up with energy to tackle the day.
1. (Blueberry Banana) Smoothie
I know, you’re shocked that this the first item on the list. 😉
Seriously though, there’s a reason why dietitians, nutritionists, and health coaches alike often recommend smoothies as a healthy breakfast. Depending on what you add, you get a bunch of fruits and veggies in your first meal of the day, healthy fats, extra protein if you use powder, and it’s all pre-broken down into creamy deliciousness that’s a bit easier for your system to digest.
Here’s one of my favorite smoothies for any time of year:
- 1/2 frozen banana
- 1/3 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 scoop protein powder of choice, I use unflavored collagen powder
- a teaspoon each of chia and ground flax seeds
- a couple tablespoons of rolled oats
- a pinch of sea salt or Real Salt
- a dash of cinnamon and/or cacao powder
- 1/4 of a ripe avocado
- optional handful of greens (spinach usually works best)
- about a cup of plant milk, I usually use almond
The frozen fruit provides plenty of flavor and sweetness and drowns out the greens, if you choose to add them. Honestly, I don’t use greens in my smoothies too often and I usually eat a big salad for lunch, so I don’t worry about it. And feel free to swap out the fruit for whatever you have in your kitchen, but the frozen banana definitely does make a difference in the creamy texture.
The avocado makes the smoothie super creamy too, but if you have problems digesting fats you could skip it or use less. Even a little avocado goes a long way in a smoothie!
The oats, chia, and flax bulk up the smoothie and add even more fiber, which keeps you totally satisfied until lunch, no snacks required!
2. Overnight Oats/Oatmeal
This one can be a little tricky depending on your digestion. For some people, creamy oats move smoothly through their digestive system and keep them regular. For others (*raises hand*), see the above bowling ball analogy. But do I still love oatmeal? You bet I do. It just takes a little extra effort so that I can digest it better.
I’ve found that the trick with oatmeal is to adjust how much you eat, how you prepare it, and what you eat it with.
I’ve seen many recipes that call for 1/2 a cup of oats for one serving, and I’ve found that that’s just way too much for me. I usually have 1/3 of a cup, and add chia seeds, ground flax, and fresh or frozen fruit to fill it out a little bit. There may or may not also be plenty of almond butter and maple syrup involved. It still fills me up but doesn’t make me blow up like a sad balloon.
Soaking oats overnight with equal parts oats and liquid and a spoonful of yogurt, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar can also help break them down more easily. You just combine the ingredients and leave them out overnight (not in the fridge!) and cook them like you would normally the next morning.
You can also add a dollop of yogurt of your choice or kefir on top for some extra probiotic assistance in digesting the oats. If you’re dairy-free (which I definitely recommend if you have digestive issues), you can even make your own coconut yogurt with your regular probiotics!
More gut-friendly delicious toppings:
- fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, strawberries — all the berries
- banana slices
- chopped apple
- almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds or any other nut or seed of choice
- (non-dairy) yogurt
- a drizzle of maple syrup or honey
You could also go for a savory oatmeal recipe if you don’t feel like sweet foods in the morning. Try adding:
- sriracha or another hot sauce (if you tolerate it)
- nutritional yeast
- steamed veggies
- hard-boiled egg
- basically anything you would add to a grain bowl
Either way, digestible oatmeal is delicious oatmeal.
3. Just fruit
We commonly think our meals have to include multiple categories of foods and flavors, but sometimes, simple is best.
If you’re looking for something light and refreshing but still full of fiber and hydration and easy on the gut, it’s totally cool to just have a bowl of fruit.
I love watching vegan YouTubers’ “what I eat in a day” videos, and Miles from Healthy Crazy Cool regularly just eats half a watermelon for breakfast (in the summer), and it’s a totally healthy, delicious, and nutritious breakfast. I’m not saying you should eat that much, (half a watermelon is A LOT of watermelon, at least for me) but you do you.
Watermelons (which are technically berries??) are relatively low in sugar compared to other fruits (and it’s natural sugar we’re talking ‘bout here), is high in the antioxidant lycopene, has tons of vitamin C, and is of course, super hydrating — perfect for your first meal of the day.
If you’re into the Ayurvedic principles of food combining, you’ll know that melons should always be eaten on their own for proper digestion — as the saying goes “melon alone or leave it alone.”
I’m just starting to experiment with food combining myself, but the principles are worth keeping in mind — and it’s more evidence that it’s totally okay to have a bowl of melon for breakfast to maintain a happy and healthy gut.
Alternatively, you could snack on a bowl of berries or maybe an apple or two.
One of the things I like the most about this option is that it’s so easy. Just apply fruit to face, as Miles would say.
4. Yogurt/Kefir/Fermented Foods
I’ve already mentioned that you can make your own coconut yogurt at home with probiotics, but you could also experiment with kefir (basically drinkable yogurt) and other fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi as part of your regular breakfast.
I know, if you’re used to eating a bowl of cereal or even a smoothie for breakfast, breaking out the kimchi in the morning might seem a little strange. But it is delicious, and it might help keep the friendly bacteria your microbiome happy and healthy.
I’ve found that fermented foods are extremely individual to each person, so they might not be for you. I can’t handle fermented foods at all.
But I that know others have completely balanced their microbiome by consuming them every day, so you never know. You just have to experiment. If you’re just starting out, yogurt or kefir is a good way to go. Try making your own with probiotics that you know work for you, and see what happens!
Again, if straight up yogurt is a little boring, you could add some berries or other soft fruit, chia or flax for extra fiber and maybe some almond or peanut butter, if you can tolerate it. Delicious!
5. Steamed veg and protein bowl
And last but not least, we have the savory option. Again, it might seem a little strange if you’re used to sweet breakfasts, but it’s good to switch it up now and then, and you can’t go wrong with steamed veggies.
I find steamed broccoli, squash or cauliflower delicious with scrambled or fried eggs, or even some baked chicken, to be a really satisfying and warming meal at any time of day. Add a dash of hot sauce of your choice or tamari/liquid aminos to jazz up the flavor, and my favorite topping for added crunch, sunflower seeds.
This breakfast follows food combining rules as well — the steamed veg is still packed with nutrients and fiber but easier for your system to digest, and it helps your system break down the protein as well. You can experiment with the ratios, but in general I would say aim for more veg than protein for a happier gut.
I also find that because it feels more substantial, this meal is guaranteed to keep you full and satisfied throughout the morning, so you aren’t snacking and giving your digestive system more to take on.
Key Ideas to Keep in Mind
If you want a healthier, more balanced gut, eating more plants is the way to go. Fruits and vegetables provide more and different kinds of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that our bodies crave. In general, the more plants you consume, the healthier you’ll be. (You know this already.)
But, preparation is definitely a factor. There are some vegetables and fruits that may be too difficult to digest on their own, so they either require cooking or combining with another food that will help you digest it.
So for example if you love oatmeal (like I do) but you find it difficult to digest (like I do) try soaking the oats and/or blending them to make it easier for your gut to break down. Don’t rule out a food before you try different ways to prepare and eat it that will work for you!
Also, make sure to encourage the “rest and digest” state by sitting down to eat your meals slowly and mindfully, and taking deep, slow breaths before and during the meal. A smoothie can be super-gut friendly, but if you’re drinking it while in your car in crushing traffic on the way to work, your gut is still going to have problems digesting it because it’s busy freaking out about that truck that just cut you off on the freeway. Yikes.
Take the time to eat mindfully and with gratitude for your meal; you deserve it.
Otherwise, it’s about finding the combinations that work for you, give you energy, and keep your gut healthy. Keep experimenting!
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