When it comes to eating breakfast, many of us are creatures of habit. We reach for the same breakfast every morning, and often what we reach for isn’t the healthiest option for fueling our bodies for the day ahead. Worse yet, some of us skip breakfast altogether and set ourselves up for mid morning slumps that have us searching out the nearest vending machine.
After a lifetime of hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, maybe it’s time that we started paying attention to this age-old advice. Can a healthy breakfast really make that much of a difference and how can you break free of bad breakfast habits that have been formed over years, if not your entire life? Let’s take a look and find out.
The Science of Breakfast
We’ve all had those exceptionally hectic mornings. You know, the ones where you hit the snooze button one too many times, and then follows a domino effect of “everything that can go wrong will.” On these mornings, breakfast often takes last place in the line of priorities, especially when you’ve got other people depending on you.
The problem comes when mornings like these become the norm. Sure, it can be tempting to skip breakfast in favor of 15 minutes of more sleep, but trust that properly fueling your body is going to do more for you than a few minutes of low quality shut eye.
Science has shown that eating a healthy breakfast provides a number of benefits, not the least of which is a nice boost in metabolism.
When you’re sleeping, all of your physiological processes – including metabolism, slow down to a bare minimum. Your body needs all of its resources for the critical repair and renewal that occurs while you’re sleeping. Digestion and metabolism significantly tap into these resources, so your body redirects it energy stores to other areas.
Since your body is already in preservation mode, not eating in the morning signals to your brain that there is a risk of starvation. If you think about it, this makes sense. By the time morning comes, you might not have eaten in 12 hours. Your body thinks you must be hungry, so there must be a reason that you’re not eating.
This signals your body’s preservation mode and a sluggish metabolism. Your metabolism slows down in response to your body not being sure when a new batch of nutritional resources will be headed its way.
There are also other reasons that your body needs some nutritious fuel in the morning. We mentioned that your body goes into a mini “starvation mode” when you don’t eat breakfast. Just like it slows down your metabolism to conserve resources, it’s going to be conservative in other areas as well. Often, this manifests itself in the form of brain fog or a mid-morning slump that drastically cuts into your productivity.
But, what if you’re just not hungry in the morning? That’s ok, you don’t have to sit down to a three course meal in the morning, but it is important to break free of the bad breakfast habits that are having more of an impact on your health than you may realize. Let’s talk about a few effective ways of revitalizing your sluggish breakfast routine.
Making Positive Changes to Your Breakfast Routine
Eating a healthy breakfast every day provides some major advantages to your long term health. People who regularly eat a healthy breakfast benefit from the advantages of a lower average BMI, an overall improved quality of nutritional intake, reduced risk of obesity, generally consume less calories throughout the day, along with improved energy and cognitive function.
All of this sounds pretty good in exchange of taking a few minutes to fuel your body with a nutritious morning meal. Unfortunately, this is where many of us fall short. Our breakfast habits have veered so off-center that it’s hard to know where to even begin in making changes for the better.
As is the case with most things, small steps can be more effective than giant leaps. Mornings are frequently rushed, which can make it even harder to commit to major changes. Since the last thing you need is to take on another overwhelming challenge in the morning, here are few easy ways to break bad breakfast habits for good.
Don’t Focus on Quantity
You don’t need to sit down to a huge stack of pancakes, bacon and all the fixins’ every morning. When it comes to breakfast, the amount you eat doesn’t matter nearly as much as the quality – this is especially true if you’re someone who habitually skips breakfast.
Don’t worry about spending time making a big breakfast. A power smoothie that takes no more than 5 minutes to whip together can provide a great start to your day. If you think your only option is to fill up on a drive-thru breakfast, reach for a piece of fruit and handful of nuts instead.
The point really isn’t to eat “just anything”, but to start your day right by fueling your body with nutrient rich foods.
This one is for those of us who have no problem eating breakfast, but fall a little short when it comes to making the best choices. The solution to this is simple – out of sight, means out of mind.
Sugary breakfast cereals, pastries and other types of empty carbs offer little in terms of nutrition or energy. More often than not, choosing these types of breakfast foods will leave you feeling more sluggish and hungry than if you hadn’t eaten at all – and no, that’s not a better option.
Instead, eliminate all the less than healthy options from your refrigerator or pantry, and make a commitment to stocking your shelves with more healthier options. Sugar is a highly inflammatory food, and inflammation is the precursor to many of the chronic diseases our society suffers from today – including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
If you have a morning sweet tooth, indulge it with nutrient dense fruits. Also, a little nibble of dark chocolate in the morning never hurt anyone.
Rethink What Breakfast Is
Many of us have some hard set ideas about what breakfast is. What happens when you’re not someone who likes traditional breakfast foods, or the ones that you do like are loaded with sugars and empty calories? This means that it’s time to change how you think about breakfast.
For instance, if you don’t like eggs, there’s no reason that you can’t enjoy a make ahead breakfast burrito packed with high protein black beans and lots of veggies. If coffee and a bowl of fruit isn’t your thing, why not try an energizing turmeric latte and a steamy bowl of mushroom broth?
Leftovers from the night before can also easily be refurbished into a satisfying breakfast that prepares you for the day ahead. Push aside your preconceived notions about what breakfast should be and create your own rules about your morning meal.
Timing Is Important
This is one that is hard for a lot of people. Time is often a scarce commodity in the morning, and readjusting your schedule to accommodate a healthy breakfast can feel like a lot of work. While the goal is not to put any additional stress on your morning routine, timing does matter when it comes to breakfast.
It’s not always best to jump right out of bed and eat breakfast with your eyes half closed. At this point your body and your mind haven’t acclimated to being awake and you could be setting yourself up for digestive distress and metabolism that isn’t quite where it needs to be. Plus, how can you really enjoy your breakfast when you’re mind is still halfway in dreamland?
The general consensus from science and health communities is that the best time to eat breakfast isn’t immediately after you wake, but you also shouldn’t wait more than two hours after waking to take in your first meal.
This means that you might need to give yourself some extra time in the morning to accommodate a healthy breakfast. It also means that if you wait until you get to the office or until after you drop the kids off at school to eat something that you’ve probably missed the prime time window for getting the maximum benefit from a nutritious breakfast.
Make It Easy on Yourself
If you’re someone who normally doesn’t invest a great deal of time into breakfast each day, you don’t want to start out with some elaborate plan that involves too much cooking and preparation in the morning.
In fact, simpler is better. Thankfully, when you’re using fresh and healthy ingredients, “simple” is pretty easy to do.
For instance, you can prepare a whole week’s worth of whole-wheat, veggie breakfast burritos and keep them in the freezer. Take one out and thaw in the refrigerator before you go to bed or warm it up real quick in the microwave. You can do this with just about any breakfast food, like quinoa pancakes, steel cut oat “pucks” or a high protein breakfast casserole that’s been pre-portioned.
If you’re a fan of smoothies, try having all your fruits cut up and packaged into individual portions in the freezer so all you have to do is toss it in the blender and go.
Make Produce a Priority
In the morning, we have a habit of grabbing whatever is most accessible. Having fruits and veggies front, center and ready to grab increases the odds that you’ll choose a healthy option over a typical breakfast convenience food.
If you’re someone who has a problem with uncontrollable cravings for sweets in the late morning or early afternoon, try packing your breakfast full of nutrient dense greens. Avoiding anything too sweet in the morning will help your body reset its sugar seeking pleasure triggers that can be activated by a sweet breakfast. Try a spinach and dill omelet or a coconut milk and kale smoothie, sweetened with a fresh pear or pineapple.
A Great Start to Your New Breakfast Routine
Hopefully, you’re excited about making positive changes in your breakfast habits. If you need a little extra incentive, here are a couple of tasty, unique and satisfying breakfast drinks that make for an easy, nutritious start to your day.
Winter Morning Turmeric Latte
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated turmeric
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise pod (optional)
- 1-2 teaspoons raw honey to taste
Place all the ingredients in saucepan. Heat over medium to medium high heat until a soft boil forms. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Carefully strain the liquid using a mesh sieve. Pour into a mug and enjoy.
Easy Jade Smoothie
- 1 cup kale, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh mint or parsley, chopped
- 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks or frozen banana
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth and creamy. Pour into a chilled glass and serve, garnished with a sprig of mint or parsley. You might also experiment by using coconut milk and plain greek yogurt for a creamier texture.
A beautiful start to your morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. You deserve to be healthy, happy and to feel a calm content with the life you’re living. It might seem like a small move, but a healthy breakfast can help make all of this possible. Respect your body, respect nature and greet each new day as if it’s going to be the best day of your beautiful life.