Mornings can be chaotic and many people don’t have time to eat a healthy breakfast though it is one of the most important times of the day to fuel your body. There are plenty of good reasons to eat breakfast but there are also many barriers. Some people do not feel hungry in the morning, especially if they have had a late dinner or snacked before bedtime. Others cite time, responsibility of getting family members ready for the day, or a long commute as problems. With some creativity, you can make eating breakfast fun and simple, increasing your energy in the morning and all day long.
Eating something healthy in the morning is a habit some people need to develop over time. If you tend to feel foggy or have low energy in the morning or afternoon, consider making breakfast a priority. If you do not fuel your body in the morning, blood sugar dips low causing an irritated, tired feeling. A healthy, balanced breakfast can make you feel better and more alert. When you wake up, your body has been fasting for hours overnight. Your muscles are depleted of energy so consuming some fiber-rich complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats helps replenish that energy and fuel your day. Often when people say that eating breakfast makes them more tired, they are eating a morning meal too rich in carbohydrates and sugar – think cereal, pancakes, or waffles. Adding in protein and healthy fat is key for balance at breakfast.
There have been many studies linking breakfast eaters to healthier weights and higher energy. Reviews of studies on children and adolescents indicate that eating breakfast can improve cognitive function related to memory and test grades in school. Not surprisingly, a morning meal has also been linked to increased work performance in adults. For more energy and vitality, get in the habit of making a quick, healthy breakfast even if you eat it on your commute or when you get to work or school. Coffee or juice alone won’t cut it; choose a balanced meal even if it is small, to start your day.
5 Quick and Healthy Breakfasts for Busy Mornings
- Avocado and egg on toast: smash avocado slices on a slice of whole wheat toast and top with an egg of your choice. Add a sprinkle of salt, pepper or hot sauce for flavor. Consider hard-boiling eggs ahead of time and keeping them in the fridge to slice and go when you’re in a rush.
- Yogurt parfait: to keep it simple and pour granola, nuts or seeds directly into a yogurt cup for a morning on the go. Choose regular dairy yogurt or experiment with almond, soy, or coconut non-dairy varieties. Make your own granola in large batches and freeze it or purchase a lower-sugar variety from the store. Use unsweetened coconut flakes, chia seeds, or chopped nuts for added nutrition and crunch. With any type of yogurt, read the label to ensure a low-sugar variety. Some yogurts contain more grams of added sugar than a can of soda!
- Whole grain frozen waffle with nut butter: Toss a whole wheat or whole grain frozen waffle in the toaster while you get ready then grab it to eat on your commute. A smear of nut butter (think peanut or almond) will add protein and healthy fat to balance out the whole grain carbohydrates. Better yet, add some sliced banana for more vitamins, fiber and flavor.
- A Healthy Bar: Some granola or protein bars offer a balance of protein, fruits, veggies and plenty of fiber for a hearty start to the day. Perfect foods to grab and go, convenient bars do not need to be refrigerated or heated like so many other morning foods. Eat a bar on your way to work for a nutrition packed breakfast in a small package. Like other foods, beware of products with added sugars and instead, choose one made from a combination of whole foods.
- Leftovers: many people don’t care for traditional breakfast foods. Anything goes at breakfast so instead of eggs or oatmeal, grab some leftovers from dinner the night before if that speaks to you. Enjoy leftovers cold or warmed quickly in the microwave for a more savory start to your day. Bonus if you get some veggies into your morning meal!
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Breakfast Ideas for Busy Mornings. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/planning-and-prep/snack-and-meal-ideas/breakfast-on-the-go. Published 8/24/15.
- American Council on Exercise. Is Breakfast as a Weight-loss Strategy off the Table? https://www.acefitness.org/prosourcearticle/4875/is-breakfast-as-a-weight-loss-strategy-off.
- Rampersaud GC, Pereira MA, Girard BL, Adams J, Metzl JD. Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105(5):743-60.
Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, is GSDA’s nominating committee co-chair. Among her many endeavors, she’s a health writer and creator of the blog Champagne Nutrition.