Focusing on the most important meal of the day will pay off with productivity
Do you wonder why you wake up feeling groggy and weak? Your body needs to re-energize after a (hopefully) long night of sleep. The first thing you eat should be healthy and good for you. Eating a good breakfast can make you feel better but also help you to perform well in school or at work.
First, let’s take a look at why breakfast matters in terms of your energy and overall health. If you’re skipping breakfast, you’re missing out on essential nutrients and other benefits that can improve your effectiveness. Then we’ll give you some ideas for quick morning meals that will get you ready for the day.
How eating a healthy breakfast will help you
You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s too easy when you’re rushing off to class or work to skip it, or eat something easy rather than something healthy. Here are some reasons why it’s worth it to work a good breakfast into your routine—and maybe set that alarm a few minutes earlier, so you have time.
Increase your energy. Part of the reason you may feel slow and sluggish when you first wake up in the morning is because your blood sugar is low. Food that gives you energy for the day includes:
- fruit—especially berries and oranges, which are high in vitamin C
- whole grains—these complex carbs take longer for your body to break down and process
- lean proteins—such as turkey sausage, grilled chicken, and eggs
These will also help your memory, as well as your alertness.
Perform better. When you sleep, your body becomes dehydrated. Part of the function of breakfast is to re-fuel yourself, and when you eat right you’ll be able to think more clearly and be more effective at whatever you undertake. One study shows that students who eat breakfast perform better in school.
Improve your skin. Eggs, lean proteins (like turkey), and fruits have lots of vitamins A and D, as well as the nutrient lutein, which helps maintain healthy skin. So fry an egg or add some fruit to your cereal. Too busy in the morning? Take time to cut up the fruit the night before, or a hard-boil half a dozen eggs over the weekend, so you have something to grab on your way out the door during the week.
Keep the weight down. Eating a good breakfast helps you prevent weight gain. It’s not the place to cut back on calories. If you get the calories and nutrients you need at breakfast, you’ll be less likely to over-eat later in the day.
Ideas for easy, healthy breakfasts
After a restful night of sleep, you need to give your body fuel to tackle the tasks you have ahead. A growling stomach is not what you want your patients, coworkers, or classmates to notice about you!
If you’re stuck in a breakfast rut, or don’t know what to have, here are some ideas, based on suggestions from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They will help set you up for a productive day:
- An egg-white omelet with veggies is a great choice. The eggs give you a healthy boost of protein. If you cut up the veggies the night before, this can be something you quickly mix up in a pan. Add a slice of low-fat cheese for extra flavor.
- If you’re craving meat, choose a low-fat option, such as turkey sausage. Add it to a toasted whole-wheat English muffin with a fried egg, and you’ve got a hearty and healthy sandwich to take with you.
- Try whole-grain cereal—one that’s low in sugar. Add some berries. (Blueberries are handy because you don’t have to take time to cut them up or cut off stems.) Use low-fat milk and maybe a dollop of low-fat yogurt for added creaminess.
- Toast a piece of whole-wheat bread, and then add a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter.
Reconsider the leftovers
What you ate last night or earlier in the week can be a great source of healthy food in the morning. You might not think right away of a bowl of soup or piece of fish as a choice for breakfast, but this is healthy—and it’s what the Japanese often eat! So give it a try. Leftover rice or whole-wheat pasta is also a good choice; just zap a serving in the microwave for a couple of minutes and you have a hot, comforting morning meal.
Focus on whole grains
Here are ways to work whole-grains into your morning ritual:
- Keep whole-grain cereal on hand and a container of almond, soy, or rice milk on the shelf, in case you run out of regular milk.
- Make several servings of steel-cut oatmeal at the beginning of the week, and then reheat an individual serving in the microwave in the morning. Add some berries or dried fruit for sweetness.
- Whole-wheat tortillas are a good choice if you add some nut butter and maybe slices of banana.
- Keep whole-grain waffles in the freezer, and top with fruit when they come out of the toaster.
Seek out the protein
You might not always crave it first thing in the morning, but protein often is the missing link at breakfast. You need this brain food to help you stay strong until lunchtime. If you don’t have time to cook in the morning, here are some good protein-rich options:
- a baggie full of almonds or cashews, mixed with raisins or other dried fruit.
- a couple of slices of lean deli meat (such as turkey) and/or low-fat cheese, rolled around a piece of avocado, which is a creamy, healthy fat.
- a smoothie made with milk, yogurt, fruit, and—most importantly—protein powder. Choose a powder made from vegetable or soy protein, without a lot of other ingredients added.
Choose your carbs wisely
You may have heard that carbs can make you crash. After all, they are a form of sugar! But if you eat the right carbohydrates, you can energize your body and brain. This will set you up well with nutrients to help you get through a busy day. Here are some ideas:
- a container of low-fat yogurt. Choose one without added sugar, and mix in your own flavor with berries, slices of other fruit, or a bit of honey.
- a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese.
- a piece of fruit. This is better than drinking a glass of juice, which is mostly sugar and has very little fiber. Choose one with vitamin C, like an orange or grapefruit. For quick eating, slice it into sections.
We hope you find these suggestions useful in planning your morning meals for the coming week. Eating a healthy breakfast that contains some essential nutrients can improve your overall health and well-being, and even help you do better in school or at work. It’s worth it to get up a few minutes earlier to eat, so you’ll have the energy you need to start your day off right!
This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Manchester, NH. We care about the health and well being of all our students. Visit us online to learn more about our Practical Nursing program, or reach out to schedule a campus tour by calling (603) 622-8400. We hope to hear from you!