By: Kate Harrell, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
School days are fast approaching. In a timely fashion, so is Better Breakfast Day (September 25th). Breakfast is an often-contested meal. Some say they are never hungry in the morning or they simply cannot eat in the morning, while others say they can’t start their day without their breakfast. Some may aim to “save” calories for later in the day, and more recently, others may be skipping breakfast as part of current diet trends such as the Intermittent Fasting protocols.
What is the right approach?
As a dietitian, I am in the camp of building a better breakfast regimen to jumpstart your day.
What are the benefits of (literally) breaking the fast?
- Improved mental and physical energy for the active part of your day.
- This is especially important for children before they head to school.
- Reduced tendency to overeat later in the day.
- Improved GI function and regularity.
- Improved recovery from exercise, especially if you workout in the morning
- Boost protein synthesis, which can help with increasing lean body mass and maintaining or improving strength when paired with activity.
- Increased intake of nutrients we need to stay healthy.
- Skipping meals reduces the opportunities we have to reach our nutrient needs.
These are just a few reasons breakfast is an important jumpstart for the day.
Do you have to eat it right away? No, but aim for early to mid-morning to energize your morning. If you are “not a breakfast eater”, try a small meal or snack combination (apple or banana with peanut butter, small piece of fruit and a handful of almonds, 4oz Greek yogurt with berries, homemade granola bar etc.).
Shifting the size of your evening meal can also help you want more from breakfast. By eating breakfast, you may be less apt to overeat at night and more apt to be hungry for breakfast in the morning.
What foods should you include?
- Fruits and vegetables. There are many ways to integrate fruits and vegetables with breakfast. By doing so, you are one step closer to reaching your daily goals for each. Smoothies, omelets, egg bakes, yogurt parfaits, and oatmeal are easy vehicles for fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are also nutrient-dense, providing key nutrients to support energy reactions, boost mental focus, and more
- Protein. Overnight your body works to repair and restore optimal function. This process requires protein. We do not store protein long term, so including a source of protein with breakfast can provide the building blocks to continue repair and longer-lasting energy to get through your morning. Protein options might include: eggs, nuts and nut butter, seeds, low-fat dairy, tofu (egg alternative for scrambles or breakfast burritos), lean meat (added to omelets).
- Whole grains. Whole grains provide fiber which will leave you satisfied for longer. Whole grains also naturally contain B vitamins that support energy reactions. Whole grains are a source of carbohydrates which can be an immediate energy source. Breakfast whole grains could include oatmeal or quinoa, homemade granola, whole grain bread, and more.
What are simple and healthy breakfast options?
- Oatmeal or Overnight Oats
- Fresh fruits such as berries
- Healthy fats such as nuts, nut butters or seeds like flax, pumpkin or chia seeds
- Cooked pumpkin or applesauce
- Prepare with milk or a plant-based milk or mix your oatmeal with yogurt.
- Fruit of a variety of colors, greens, or other veggies (depends on the blender)
- Protein: Greek yogurt can supply quite a bit of protein, peanut butter, milk or milk alternatives (rice or almond milk are lower in protein), protein powder (avoid protein powders high in sugar or fat – stick to just protein and you can add the rest)
- Examples: muffin tin quiches, omelet, breakfast burrito or wrap, scrambles, egg sandwiches
- Additions: vegetables, avocado, lean meat, small amounts of flavorful cheeses
- Other Simple Pairings for a Quick Breakfast
- Slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter and a piece of fruit
- Yogurt with berries or a portable piece of fruit
- Banana with peanut butter
- Applesauce with chopped walnuts or pecans