Each morning before I leave for work I run through my mental checklist: Did I pack my lunch? Did I feed the cat? Do I have my phone? Did I shut that window? Sometimes the questions on my mental checklist are silly, sometimes they are serious. In either case, they are helpful and remind me to take care of things that I consider to be important. One important question on my mental checklist is perhaps one that we all should ask ourselves before we walk out the door: Did I eat anything this morning?
Breakfast can be an easy meal to skip, but it is an important meal that can offer a number of health benefits. First and foremost, the food you eat in the morning will provide you with the “fuel” you need to get a strong start to your day. It takes a lot of energy to get up and moving each morning. Our bodies get this energy from glucose stores (blood sugar), which are often low when we wake up because they were used while we slept. By eating breakfast, you provide your brain and your body with a much needed boost that will help you feel more alert, active, and energetic than you would have if you had chosen to skip breakfast.
Eating breakfast can also help you meet the daily recommended intake of a number of important nutrients. Eating the recommended 20-35 grams of fiber each day and 5-6 cups of fruit or vegetables may seem like a lofty goal, but if you were to eat a balanced breakfast that included a serving of whole grains and fruit; you could potentially consume as much as 5 grams of fiber and 1 cup of fruit. That’s up to 20% of your recommended daily intake right there! The benefits don’t stop with fiber and produce though- a balanced breakfast can provide protein, calcium, and a host of vitamins and minerals.
Sometimes in the rush of the early morning, it is easy for us to either forget about eating or simply run out of time to eat before we have to run out the door. Now, as far as I know, no one has come forward to say that they have found a way to mess with the time-space continuum and add an extra thirty minutes to our mornings. Since we’re not going to be given more time, we have to make the most of those precious minutes, right?
Here are some easy breakfast ideas to help you start the day on the right foot without taking up too much of your valuable time:
- Smoothies- combine low-fat milk with low-fat yogurt and frozen fruit to create a delicious “on-the-go” treat. Some people even add oatmeal for a whole-grain component!
- Trail mix- combining whole grain cereals, dried fruit, and nuts or seeds is a simple way to enjoy a serving of whole grains, fruit, and protein.
- Parfaits- much like a smoothie, you can layer yogurt, a favorite fruit, and low-fat granola (or another favorite crunchy cereal) for a well-balanced breakfast.
- Fruit + peanut butter (or your favorite nut/seed butter) – This is great way to combine fruit and protein. Dipping apple slices in peanut butter or spreading peanut butter on a banana are two combination options.
- Leftovers- Contrary to what your grandmother may have told you, there is no law against eating leftovers for breakfast. If you have leftovers that you would enjoy eating in the a.m., simply reheat to an internal temperature of 165° and enjoy!
- Work ahead. Many of the things we eat for breakfast can be prepared the night before. Consider slicing fruit, assembling a parfait, or creating a trail mix before you go to bed.
Adding breakfast to your morning routine may take a little effort, especially if you’re used to skipping breakfast or if you have a hectic morning schedule. Set a goal for yourself, using the following questions as a guide: How many days would you like to eat breakfast this week? What practical steps can you take to make this a reality? With a plan and some determination, you’ll likely find that you are able to make a lasting change in your morning eating habits!