Did you know that brunch is America’s favorite meal? No? Well, I may be making that up, but if you asked me and some of my closest friends, I think you’d find brunch is pretty popular in my cohort. Plus, as the weather gets warmer across the US, who wouldn’t love sitting on a sunny deck, porch umbrella up, warm breeze passing by and a mimosa in hand? Hard to find the nay-sayers on that!
Regardless, we know that brunch can be an EXPERIENCE. It’s something you do with family and friends. It involves great food, conversation and atmosphere. But like many social settings where food is involved, it can sometimes be a challenge to fully enjoy the experience while also being mindful of your health and wellness goals. As a Registered Dietitian I often get asked for tips and tricks for eating well when eating out, so here are my tips for doing brunch better.
Allow yourself to enjoy.
So much of our relationship with food comes down to mindset. Are we putting intense restrictions on what and when we allow ourselves to eat? Have we set impractical boundaries or designated food as good or bad? The more we criminalize food, the worse we feel about ourselves when we don’t make the best of choices. “Allowing yourself to enjoy” shouldn’t be interpreted as “eat every item off the brunch buffet,” but rather, it means to give yourself grace and be present in the eating experience. Heading into brunch season with a refreshed relationship with food will ultimately allow you less mental stress and give you greater satisfaction in the foods you eat.
Balance your choices.
Moderation is key. The choices you make at one meal or in one day will not derail the progress you’ve made elsewhere. Your regular choices, over a long period of time, are what impact health and wellbeing the most. If today you feel like ordering biscuits and gravy, go for it! Know that this one meal is a small piece of the puzzle in the grand scheme of things.
We might need to talk about alcohol here too. “Brunch” is pretty much synonymous with “mimosas,” am I right? It’s completely fine to indulge in a breakfast drink, but balance and moderation are key here as well. It’s recommended that women should consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and men, two drinks per day. Be sure to stay hydrated and sip slowly to make it last!
Balance is also about movement. Are you mindful to balance out meals with physical activity? If the weather is great, why not add a walk after your brunch meal? Light activity after meals can aid in digestion (moving food from the stomach to the intestines), may promote weight loss, and potentially decrease risk for chronic diseases.
Build a better plate.
When it comes to selecting foods from the brunch menu, think about building a well-rounded plate. If possible, try to get food from all five food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and protein. Choosing whole grain waffles or oatmeal, over more sugary options such as Danishes or donuts, will help with blood sugar stability and give you extra fiber. Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and whole grain granola is a great option for a lighter choice. Protein-rich choices like eggs and ham will keep you full, longer. A quick note on breakfast meats: if possible, try for leaner options with less sodium. But I stress- don’t order something you won’t be satisfied with either (i.e. rubbery, dry turkey bacon). Remember that word we talked about…“balance.” For some MyPlate inspired breakfast and brunch ideas, check out these tasty recipes!
One thing I like to do when eating out – at any meal – is make sure I’ve got some veggies. Adding vegetables to a meal instantly provides more volume (think more food to eat), but less energy, aka fewer calories. Plus, veggies can be BEAUTIFUL! Just think of all the colors that come in a veggie omelet or hash: red tomatoes, orange sweet potatoes or bell peppers, yellow squash, green broccoli or spinach, purple onions, and maybe a side of blueberries for good measure. Did I just complete the rainbow? Yes, yes, I did. 😉
The color(s) and size of a meal affect us in reaching satiety, or that sweet spot of feeling full, but also being mentally satisfied with a meal. Plain, boring-colored food is immediately less appealing. And a small portion on a large plate can make us feel disappointed or even cheated. Adding vegetables to any meal is sure to bring a pop of color and pop the portion size. Plus, the more color in your diet, the more variety of nutrients you are consuming. Veggies (and fruit) really are a win-win situation.
When you’re out and about enjoying brunch this season, or maybe hosting a brunch gathering yourself, remember the AB(B)Cs to stay solid with your routine and enjoy this amazing midday meal.
- Allow yourself to enjoy your meal. Whether it’s a special occasion or a regular occurrence, your mental state impacts your relationship with food.
- Balance your choices. Your choices over a long period of time are what count, not the choices made at one meal, in one day. Moderate your alcohol consumption and add in some and in some physical activity for a well-rounded approach to brunching better.
- Build a better plate. Aim to get food from all five food groups to meet nutritional needs, stay full longer and balance blood sugars.
- Choose veggies! Vegetables (and fruit too) add color, volume and nutrients to your plate. These key components to reaching satiety- that perfect blend of physical fullness and mental satisfaction with a meal.