This post’s theme is simple, but given that it’s a breakfast-related one, it’s important for starting my day out on the right track.
If you’re like me, breakfast can be the biggest challenge of the day. Despite knowing how important it is to start with a solid foundation in the morning, I have the tendency to try and put off those first calories of the day as long as possible. Particularly on the weekends, I catch myself existing on nothing but coffee until lunch. I’m trying to change that. I don’t think I’ll ever trust myself enough to subscribe to the “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper” adage, and I’ve made my peace with that, but the truth is that I have to eat something in the morning and there’s no getting around that.
Also, this is a good nighttime hack as well, because I often tend to eat my bowl of cereal before bed instead of in the morning. (I do try to keep boiled eggs or low-carb shakes on hand for that first meal of the day as often as I possibly can, even if it’s not every day.)
I like to use cereal as my evening “I’m craving something sweet and crunchy and don’t want to eat five cookies” snack. But whenever you eat it, if you do, it’s important to know exactly how much control you have over your Points use. I use a couple of hacks for this, neither of which is particularly earth-shattering, but they’re both the type of thing that it helps to remind yourself of if you’ve fallen out of habit for a while.
To begin with, we all know a technical serving of cereal is far smaller than what many of us used to pour into our giant bowls when we were overweight. Once you learn what a serving actually looks like (in my favorite cereal’s case, it’s 3/4 cup), a good way to readjust to this serving size is by using a smaller bowl. I’m one of those people from the “Clean Your Plate!” generation, and I don’t like waste. Overcoming that tendency has been a long work in progress. So just like I try to eat off my salad plate for dinner rather than a dinner plate as often as I can to make my meal look bigger while reducing portions, I’ve started eating out of my kids’ plastic breakfast bowls when I have cereal. Not only does is look less like a tiny pile in the bottom of our regular adult-sized soup bowls, but it’s also easier for me to gauge my serving size without getting the measuring cup out every time I pour a bowl.
The second hack I use regards milk. I don’t like milk, generally speaking. I never have. It probably explains why I’m 5’0″ tall.
That said, I do use it on cereal to wet it down like most other people. I really like using Blue Diamond’s almond milk instead of regular milk, but just like cow’s milk it has calories and fat, too.
I usually only pour a little on to get the cereal moist, eat the cereal, and then dump whatever remaining milk is in the bowl down the drain. Knowing it doesn’t take much to wet my cereal down, it’s not really that wasteful in the end. But even doing that, I always tried to guesstimate how much I was actually using on my cereal, calculate those points, and go on. This weekend, I decided to try a quick experiment, and I’m so glad I did.
A serving of milk is listed as 1 cup on the nutrition label. I knew I wasn’t using that much, so I always just factored in 1/2 cup when I tallied my points.
But on Sunday, I prepared my serving of cereal, and then got out the measuring cup. When I poured 1/2 serving of milk into the measuring cup, I knew it was far more than I needed. After pouring 1/2 of THAT amount (1/4 cup) on my cereal, it looked like plenty so I poured the other 1/4 cup from the measuring pitcher back into the milk container.
From there, I ate my cereal, but when I looked down after the last bite, there was still a considerable bit of my 1/4 cup milk still in the bottom of the bowl, which I had no intention of gulping. So, with my measuring cup still on the counter, I poured what was left in my bowl back into the cup and lo and behold, there was still over 1/8 cup back in the measuring cup. Which means in the end, even with the cereal absorbing some of the milk, I only average 1/8 cup or less of milk (or almond milk) with my normal bowl of cereal.
So, I returned to the nutrition labels of my cereal and milk, used my favorite online points calculator to do the math, and realized that eating a dry bowl of cereal by itself was 3 PointsPlus, but eating that same bowl of cereal with 1/8 serving of milk on it was ALSO ONLY 3 POINTSPLUS.
My cereal bowl just got a lot happier, and I feel a lot better about eating it a little more often now.