Lately, I’ve become more aware of the utter impossibility of achieving perfect dietary requirements and fulfilling – but not exceeding – every imaginable quota, every single day. Or any day. Really, there are just too many things to keep track of in the health world, and so many health concerns overlap each other that I think most individual health nuts choose the factors to be nutty about and the ones to ignore.
For instance, random health-obsessed Michelle might extoll the natural benefits of coconut oil/milk/cream for the skin and hair and all its fiber, and bathe her daily diet in coconut. However, Michael avoids coconut at all costs due to its sky-high saturated fat content. Mikayla might choose to go vegan since meat and dairy are common causes of food-borne diseases. On the other hand, Mitchell eats fish often in the hopes of reaping the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein, choosing to risk the parasites that are often found in fish. While some facts, such as the idea that consuming a ton of sugar on a daily basis isn’t healthy, are accepted by the general population, there are others that are highly contested, and mentioning some of these touchy subjects to the wrong health nut can result in an unhealthy anger attack.
After spending some time angsting about how to get enough protein without eating too much dairy, how to avoid processed foods without spending a ton of time and money on fancy organic products, how to get variety while avoiding any food that didn’t fit into my swiftly swimming guidelines for what quotas of this and that were permissible, I came to the conclusion that it’s impossible to do it all. Sure, I could consume low levels of sugar every day for the rest of my life… but it’s likely my sodium consumption would rise as a result. And yes, I could eat mostly fruits and vegetables to avoid processed foods… but think how high my grocery bill would be from replacing cereal and yogurt with that amount of calories and protein in the form of fresh produce! (Not to mention, it’s a well-known concept in the health world that a long-term nutrition plan needs to be doable in the long term. In today’s world, it would be difficult socially, emotionally, and financially to avoid microwave dinners, grandmother’s cookies, and one’s own wedding cake over the entirety of a life, so choose a diet you can stick to.)
So what I’ve decided to do, personally, is to try to keep things as balanced and varied as possible. I am fortunate enough, living in the USA in the 21st century, to have access to a rainbow of nutrients from sources of all different form, taste, and texture. So I load up my grocery cart with items of reasonable merit – no garbage, but not all $50 superfoods either – from a range of departments.
My personal choice currently (and for the past year-and-a-half or so) is to be a vegetarian, so no meat or fish goes in the basket, but I’ll pick up some Greek yogurt like Dannon Light & Fit (fewer calories and less sugar than many flavored yogurts) and eggs are a staple (the perfect protein, though they do contain fat and cholesterol). As for carbs, I always make sure to have some whole wheat bread in the house, and there’s some brown rice just waiting in the cupboard for me to spend an hour waiting for it to cook. For busy days, I pick up some Amy’s frozen meals to have anytime: they’re a smart choice because not only are they convenient, they’re also organic and vegetarian, and many fit certain health specifications like lower sodium, lower calories, dairy- or gluten free. Of course, fresh produce is a must-have. And, as I explained in this post, sometimes I change it up with frozen or dried fruits too, knowing not much nutrition is sacrificed for this frugal change.
Every day, I make choices about what to eat, knowing everything I’ve bought has some health benefits, but many also have disadvantages to be aware of. I don’t obsess over meeting every quota every day, but strive for balance: if I know I’ll want to eat a So Delicious coconut milk frozen dessert later on, I might avoid the grilled cheese sandwich and have a salad instead to keep the saturated fat in check. However, some days I will choose to indulge in a dense peanut butter smoothie in the morning, and then I might go with a low fat yogurt or some cereal and almond milk for dessert instead. Either way, I throw in plenty of high-fiber fruits, veggies, and whole grains, with some days including more processed grains than others. A varied diet, within reason, is the best bet for overall health, in my opinion. Furthermore, it just makes eating more interesting to rotate options and have something different every day! Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, be it the low-fat basket, the low-carb basket, the sugar-free basket, or any other idiosyncrasy the food world throws at us. I’d advise anyone to cut out extreme bad-guys (whatever you simply can’t stand for – for me, it’s meat) and from there, simply provide yourself with a spectrum of acceptable choices, each one fulfilling certain dietary needs, even at the expense of others.
This breakfast bowl I made today was an example of balance – I made a concession or two to make this both healthy and convenient, as well as a delicious way to kick off the day. The mashed potatoes that are the foundation of this bowl aren’t the most fiber-rich or low-sugar of grains. I chose a store-bought brand, likely to contain lots of cream and be highly processed. In the future I might make my own from scratch as I love to control what goes into my recipes, but for a quick microwaveable breakfast the store-bought stuff sufficed. I added plenty of protein with MorningStar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips as well as a sunny side up egg, which I cooked without butter, mindful of the truckload likely in the potatoes. For added vitamins and fiber I threw in some flavorful grape tomatoes. A hypocritical tip: don’t be as lazy as me. Add greens for even more texture and fiber – maybe wilt them in the pan before/while/after cooking the egg?
This balanced breakfast bowl is a great start to a productive morning. Whether you’re off to school, work, or any other meaningful pursuit, this tasty and savory single-serving recipe is a great compromise between convenience and nutrition. And the golden yolk running down your mountain of potatoes like the sun on the alps will bring some optimism to your day. Enjoy!
Sunny Side Up Breakfast Bowl
- 1 cup mashed potatoes (use leftovers or a pre-made store-bought brand – look for one with modest saturated fat and calories if possible; I used garlic mashed potatoes for flavor
- 2 strips of MorningStar Farms brand Veggie Bacon Strips (found in frozen aisle of grocery store)
- 3 Naturesweet Cherub grape tomatoes
- 1 egg
Cook vegetarian bacon strips according to package directions. Then break the strips into smaller pieces.
Use a sharp knife to quarter Cherub tomatoes.
Spray a small pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cook an egg sunny side up/over easy (what’s the difference?)
Meanwhile, place a scoop of mashed potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl and warm in microwave until temperature is to your liking.
Pour veggie bacon strips and Cherub tomatoes into bowl with potatoes, and mix in gently. Place sunny side up egg on top.
Break into that egg and let the golden yolk color your potatoes – and your morning – a cheerful, sunny yellow. Bon appetit!
You Might Also Like:
Image Sources: (in order of appearance excluding sunny side up breakfast bowl photos which are my own):