You hear it time and time again: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But the fact remains that breakfast remains one of the most frequently skipped meals. Understanding why breakfast is so important and developing strategies to break down barriers to eating it can help you to kick off your day with a healthy start.
Why breakfast is so important?
Why is it that people who eat breakfast score higher on academic tests and tend to have healthier body weights? It is because breakfast gets our metabolism and brain started! Breakfast also helps to curb appetite at subsequent meals and snacks. In addition, breakfast food, if selected wisely, provides essential vitamins and minerals, enabling us to reach our daily requirements.
Barrier 1: Not hungry
RD tip: think about what you ate the night before
Typically people wake up full if they overate the previous day, especially the previous night. Try reducing portions at dinner or evening snack time. Here are a few tricks to reduce the caloric density of late night snacks: eat from a smaller bowl and avoid eating out of the bag; try melting 2 squares of the chocolate on ½ banana instead of having an entire chocolate bar; take 1 scoop of ice cream between 2 thin wafers instead of having a bowl of ice cream.
If you are not hungry regardless of what you ate the night before, try having something small in the morning like half an avocado with a squeeze of lemon or lime over it, half a sweet potato or a smoothie. See below for quick tips on how to select healthy smoothies and other prepackaged items.
Barrier 2: Not enough time
RD tip: be smart about your prep and what you grab on the go
There are so many ‘grab and go’ options these days, but you need to be smart about what you choose. Use the tips below to help you make a healthy decision:
Yogurt: Aim to minimize sugar and maximize protein. Look for plain Greek yogurts and add your own vanilla extract, cinnamon, cacao nibs, and fresh or frozen fruit for flavor!
Bars: Check out the fiber and sugar content before making a purchase. Aim for more than three or four grams of fiber and fewer than seven grams of sugar. Some of my favorite options include: Kind Bars, Raw Revolution Bars, Health Warrior Dark Chocolate Cherry and Coffee flavored bars, and Oatmega bars
Smoothies: Look for options high in fiber and low in sugar (even if the label says no added sugars or all natural sugars, check out the nutrition facts panel). Look for vegetables as the first ingredients and fruits as the last. Aim for no more than 12-13 grams of sugar per serving, and stick with the serving size. Suja Mighty Greens is one of my favorites, but it has minimal fiber or protein, so bring a bag of nuts with it to keep you satisfied. Dole Shakers is another option, but I would recommend mixing it with protein powder plus water or soy milk instead of juice since this product also has little protein or fiber.
Muffins: Muffins can be tricky. Always read the serving size. Sometimes one serving is just half a muffin. Avoid “low fat” claims. These will often be packed with sugar. Look for muffins with three to four grams of fiber per serving and eight grams of sugar or less like Trader Joe’s Apple Cranberry Bran Muffins. You may need a tablespoon of natural almond butter or a plain Greek yogurt to make the meal more satisfying. There are also tons of healthy muffin recipes such as the following for egg muffin cups and pumpkin spice muffins:
If you’re in a major rush, a piece of fruit and quarter cup of nuts is always a quick and simple option!
Also, prepping the night before can help. Use these quick tips to shorten your cooking time in the morning:
- Steel-cut oats: Bring the pot to a boil the night before, put the lid on it, turn off the heat, and simple re-heat in the morning.
- Overnight oats: Mix half a cup old fashioned oats with one to two tbsp chia seeds. Add fresh or frozen berries, almond milk and cinnamon, and leave in the fridge overnight. This will be ready to eat in the morning.
- Make a bunch of boiled eggs ahead of time and leave them in the fridge to go
- Make an sandwich with almond butter and sliced banana or strawberry on Ezekiel bread, and keep in the fridge for the next day
- Or one of my favorites, pumpkin bread in a bowl: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/09/29/pumpkin-bread-in-a-bowl/
Barrier 3: I just don’t like breakfast foods
RD tip: think outside the typical breakfast
- Breakfast does not have to be pancakes and eggs. In fact, sometimes switching up what you have for breakfast can help you to feel more satisfied throughout the day and reduce consumption of empty calories. Try some these savory options:
- Quinoa bowls (prep ahead of time 1-2 times per week)
- Moroccan quinoa salad: http://www.thehealthymaven.com/2014/09/moroccan-quinoa-and-chickpea-salad.html
- Quinoa chickpea salad: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Quinoa-Chickpea-Salad-Recipe-36784338
- Roasted sweet potato, spinach and grain salad: http://naturallyella.com/roasted-sweet-potato-spinach-and-grain-salad/
- Or, simple defrost peeled edamame the night before and grab a cup to go
Barrier 4: I want to cut calories or I feel hungrier if I eat breakfast
RD tip: eat something small for breakfast and bring a little snack for mid-morning
Many of my clients mention that they feel hungrier when they eat breakfast versus when they skip it. This makes perfect sense. It is called breakfast for a reason…you are breaking the fast! When you do so, you get your metabolism started, making you feel hungrier. Before you break your fast, your metabolism is moving at a slow rate to conserve energy; your body does not know if your next meal will be in one hour or three days. Starting your day with breakfast will help get you going and start your day off right! Bring a small snack for mid-morning in case you start feeling hungry again!