My clients often share that they skip breakfast for a multitude of reasons each morning, including lack of time, lack of appetite for an elaborate meal, or lack of energy to prepare something nourishing. It can feel overwhelming to put together a meal for you or your family, but it doesn’t have to! If you’re someone who skips breakfast (yes, this includes drinking a cup of coffee in place of breakfast!), heads to the drive through, or listens to their stomach rumble until lunchtime, you’re certainly not alone! Today, we’re going to break down the importance of eating a balanced breakfast and how to build a simple, nourishing meal that satisfies your taste buds and keeps you energized all morning long.
Why does breakfast matter?
You may have heard that breakfast is the “most important meal of the day;” this clever marketing campaign has stuck with us for decades! As a Registered Dietitian, I don’t prioritize any one meal over the other; rather, the goal is consistency in our eating patterns. Breakfast is generally the first meal we consume each day, and it can help to shape our energy levels, blood sugar levels, and cravings for the remainder of the day. Building a balanced breakfast helps to keep our blood sugar levels consistent throughout the morning, minimizing any dramatic spikes or drops in blood sugar which can negatively impact the way we feel. When our blood sugar spikes and then drops, our energy levels tend to follow suit! Have you ever enjoyed a sugary coffee drink or a large pastry, felt on top of the world, and then felt that “energy crash” shortly thereafter? Eating consistently throughout the day, and choosing the right kinds of nourishment can make all the difference in energizing your body!
Not only does a well-built breakfast keep us feeling energized, it can also shape our cravings throughout the remainder of the day. When we start off the day with a balanced meal, we’re more likely to stick with nourishing lunches, dinners, and snacks that leave our bodies feeling good. That positive energy can trickle into the remainder of our day! To the contrary, on days where we skip breakfast, we may find ourselves feeling ravenous hunger in the afternoon or evening. Often, when we feel “out of control” with our snacking, it simply means we need more fuel throughout the earlier part of the day.
The Components of a Balanced Breakfast
We know that building a nourishing breakfast is important, but how do we actually put one together? I like to think of breakfast as having 2 components: Fiber and protein/healthy fat. We simply want to pair a high-fiber food with a high protein or healthy fat food. This combination helps to stabilize our blood sugar levels, keep us feeling satisfied for longer, and keeps things simple. Remember, a meal never has to feel elaborate to “check the boxes” that make it nourishing! Also, remember that you can prep ahead to make mornings less stressful, as well.
Fiber helps us to feel comfortably full for longer, as it tends to move through our digestive tract slowly. Fiber also helps to prevent spikes in blood sugar that lead to that “energy crash” we’re trying to avoid. Many foods contain fiber, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose a high fiber food as your first component of a balanced breakfast. This can be as simple as a piece of fruit, a piece of 100% whole wheat toast, a bowl of old fashioned oats, or some pre-chopped vegetables.
Protein or Healthy Fat
If we enjoyed the high-fiber food alone, we likely wouldn’t feel satisfied for long. That’s where protein or healthy fat comes in. When we pair our fiber with one of these nutrients, our blood sugar is further stabilized, and we’ll likely feel more satisfied for longer. Protein and healthy fat foods may include eggs, plain unsweetened greek yogurt or skyr, nut butters, nuts and seeds, avocado, or lean poultry.
Putting it All Together
When we pair fiber with protein or healthy fat, we can build a delicious, simple breakfast in a matter of minutes! Here are some examples to get you started:
- 100% whole wheat toast with nut butter and blueberries
- Scrambled eggs with chopped veggies or baby spinach
- Plain greek yogurt with strawberries and walnuts
- Overnight oats with fruit, chia seeds, and greek yogurt (pro tip: make enough for 3 days for an instant breakfast in the fridge)
- A piece of fruit and 2 hard-boiled eggs
- Make-ahead egg and veggie muffin frittatas
- A smoothie with protein powder/greek yogurt, fruit, baby spinach, and chia seeds
- Breakfast burrito with eggs, veggies, and salsa on a high fiber tortilla (pro tip: make ahead and freeze for a 1 minute microwave breakfast)
- Rye toast with ⅓ mashed avocado, handful of spinach, and a sliced hard-boiled egg
The list could go on and on! Feel free to get creative, prep options ahead of time, and involve your family to make the prep more fun! Remember that nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated to get the job done!