Rise and Shine: Breakfast for Health and Energy
You have heard since childhood that eating a healthy breakfast is the best way to start the day. It turns out that your mother knew what she was doing as she chased you down with a bowl of hot oatmeal as you raced out the door to meet your friends. Eating a healthy breakfast really is one of the most important things you can do to start your day in the best way possible. People who make an effort to eat a healthy breakfast on a regular basis benefit in a variety of ways that affect their physical health, emotional health and cognitive performance.
Many of us skip breakfast because sleep is precious and mornings are hectic. How many times have you pushed the snooze button and walked out the door with just a cup of coffee? Or pushed aside your growing hunger during the daily morning rat race of getting yourself or your family out the door? Most of us have done this more than once, and many of us do it on a regular basis. What you might not realize is that by skipping breakfast to save a few minutes in the morning that you are not only hurting your health, but also reducing your ability to focus and be productive. That lack of mental clarity could actually end up costing you more precious time during the day.
Every night, after you have eaten dinner or an evening snack, you put your body through a process of fasting until the next time you eat the following day. For many people this period of time can easily reach twelve hours. That is half of an entire day that your body goes without fuel, and we do this every single day. Sleep is restorative and necessary, but so is refueling your body once you awaken. Along with supplying you with the necessary energy to begin your day, many traditional breakfast foods are high in vitamins and nutrients that are difficult to get in adequate amounts from other food sources throughout the day. Most nutritionists recommend eating a healthy, well rounded breakfast within two hours of waking up. Here are a few reasons why you should seriously consider their advice.
- People who eat breakfast on a regular basis have overall more nutritionally complete diets.
- Regular breakfast eaters are more likely to maintain a healthier weight. An early morning meal boosts your metabolism, and also prevents you from reaching desperately for high calorie snacks as your hunger reaches the tipping point.
- One of the most important things that eating breakfast does for your body is the regulation of blood sugar. After fasting for eight to twelve hours, your glucose levels have tanked. Breakfast helps to restore your blood sugar to the proper level. This makes you more alert, improves your mood, helps you focus and enables better memory function.
- Breakfast helps you meet your caloric needs in a nutritional way. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to lose weight or not, your body still depends on energy, in the form of calories, in order to function. Most women need approximately 1,800-2,000 calories a day, and children with their growing bodies, actually need close to the same amount. When you skip breakfast you put your body into a state of starvation where it must tap into other resources for energy. This can take a toll on your health. Also, if you are aware that up to one third of your daily caloric intake is being consumed in the morning, you are more likely to make conscious, nutritionally sound choices for your other meals of the day.
- Skipping breakfast can put you at a higher risk of developing serious diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Studies have shown that women who choose to skip breakfast, even one or two days per week, are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes when compared to peers who made a eating a healthy breakfast a daily priority. Additionally, men aged 45-80 who skipped breakfasts were at a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure than their breakfast-eating peers.
- Breakfast eaters have a natural glow and vitality. There is no amount of make up or coffee that can replicate the effects of a healthy breakfast. If you want to look your best and feel your best, breakfast needs to be a priority.
This may all sound great and you probably already know that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. However, it does not make it any easier to actually find the time or energy to fit in an entire meal into your already busy morning. The good news is that a healthy breakfast does not need to be complicated or time consuming. If you have had trouble making breakfast a priority, here are a few tips that can help you develop a breakfast routine that nourishes your body and your mind.
- Take breakfast into consideration when you do your grocery shopping and meal planning. Meal planning is a big thing right now, especially for busy families. However, most meal planning lists revolve around hearty dinners, salads or sandwiches for lunch and then just a few add-ins like cereal or toast for breakfast. You can begin to develop healthier breakfast habits by planning breakfast just like you would any other meal. Cereal or oatmeal can be great choices as long as they are not heavy in sugars. What makes these choices even better is the addition of fresh fruit or a smoothie. Buy extra vegetables for the sole purpose of cutting them up to put into a quick omelet or scramble. Prep ingredients ahead of time and save valuable minutes in the morning.
- Use your slow cooker. Find a great recipe for overnight oats or a breakfast casserole, prepare it in the evening before you go to bed and wake up to a breakfast aroma that you will be unable to resist. Simply serve and enjoy with no fuss needed.
- Breakfast doesn’t have to be a sit down affair. You can make or even buy, healthy portable options such as healthy muffins, breakfast bars, smoothies, yogurt parfaits or breakfast wraps. A sit down breakfast is nice, but the act of just eating something nutritious is more important.
- If you are lost for breakfast ideas just think “Protein, carbs, fiber”. A breakfast such as a hardboiled egg, a handful of almonds and some blueberries is nutritious and easy, even on the busiest of mornings.
- A healthy breakfast doesn’t mean giving up your coffee. Studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption has health benefit. Just keep it at one or two cups per day.
- When you plan ahead, breakfast really doesn’t need to take more than an extra fifteen minutes of your day, although a more leisurely breakfast can be a restorative way to start your day. Make these few extra minutes a priority by setting your alarm a little earlier to give yourself the time you need to properly nourish your body. Skip the snooze button and make your health a priority.
- If you feel that you are just not a breakfast person, or that eating too early in the day actually upsets your stomach, look for ways that you can change this to include at least a small breakfast. You can start with something that soothes your stomach and provides gut-friendly bacteria, such as low fat yogurt. A piece of toast with protein-rich nut butter is another simple way to start. You do not have to dive in with stacks of pancakes, but making the effort to eat something, no matter how small, is an important first step to starting your day in the healthiest way possible.
If your ideas of breakfast revolve around childhood cereals, toaster pastries and donuts, then it might be time to revise how you view this most important meal of the day. Providing your body with calories to start the day is important, yes, but it is equally important to take the opportunity to start your day with the best possible nutrition. Here are a few healthy breakfast ideas that are easy to make and enjoy:
- Steel cut oats made with coconut or almond milk and topped with fresh berries and walnuts for a powerful punch of fiber and protein.
- Coffee smoothie made with chilled brewed coffee, low fat greek yogurt, dark cocoa powder, vanilla, nutmeg and raspberries. This tasty type of smoothie provides protein, antioxidants and a little caffeine boost to start your day.
- Green Chia Smoothie made with low fat Greek yogurt, avocado, pineapple, kiwi fruit, and chia seeds. Avocado adds an extra creamy texture to smoothies and compliments the sweetness of different fruits very well. Chia seeds are filling and add protein and gut-healthy fiber.
- Cottage cheese with fruit and whole grain toast. Cottage cheese provides the type of protein that will sustain you through lunch while the fruit and toast provide additional nutrients and help you to feel satisfied.
- For a breakfast that supplies a good portion of your daily fiber and keeps you satisfied until your next meal, try whole grain or sprouted grain toast spread with all natural nut butters such as almond or cashew. Add sliced apples and drizzle with a little bit of honey for extra sweetness and crunch.
- Wrap it up. For a filling, healthy breakfast that is great for your on the go mornings, scramble up an egg or two with your favorite vegetables, a sprinkling of cheese and even a few beans and then wrap it up in a whole wheat tortilla or pita.
- Take advantage of convenience foods when time if of the essence. Presliced fruits and vegetables, packaged cheese sticks, frozen whole grain waffles and premade breakfast drinks can be fast and nutritious options as long as you read the label and make sure that you are not eating spoonfuls of hidden sugar, fat and sodium.
- Use what you have. Do you have extra fruit or vegetables hanging around that need to be used before they go bad? Chop them up and enjoy a big bowl of vitamins and fiber. Add a little cheese or toast with nut butter to add protein.
- Get a little creative and think outside of the box. Breakfast doesn’t need to be eggs and cereal. Your breakfast can be a protein packed salad, a warm soup, or even last night’s leftovers.
The bottom line is that breakfast is too important to skip - the benefits are so many they simply can’t be ignored. A healthy breakfast does not have to be time consuming or be viewed as an extra morning chore. With a little planning, almost anyone can fit a wholesome breakfast into their morning routine. Eating breakfast every day will protect your health and provide you with the physical and mental energy you need to get through your day. Now that’s something to get out of bed for!