You hear the morning alarm and roll over absent-mindedly to hit the snooze button. When the alarm sounds again, you jump out of bed panicked. You are late and frantically trying to make up for lost time. You do what you can to get out of the house as soon as possible. And once again... you’ve missed breakfast.
Breakfast is often quoted to be 'the most important meal of the day', and there is good reason for this. It's the first meal that literally "breaks" the overnight "fast". Having breakfast gives your body and brain the fuel it needs to start the day. Eating breakfast has shown to contribute to a healthy weight, as well as reduced weight gain over time. When you skip breakfast, you are more likely to overeat later in the day to satisfy hunger cravings. Eating breakfast also helps with brain function, attention span, concentration and memory, and can even reduce irritability and tiredness. And it doesn't end there, having a balanced and nourishing breakfast improves your body's ability to intake key nutrients such as Vitamin D, potassium, calcium and fibre. For children, breakfast is especially critical to help with focus, concentration, better school performance and fewer behaviour problems.
But, breakfast usually falls victim to the rush of waking up and getting the day started. Ideally, breakfast should provide around 20-25% of your daily nutritional requirements. When you skip it, inevitably it leads to a rushed pickup of an over-caffeinated drink, with a bagel or a sugar-loaded item. Remember, it's not just about having breakfast, but having a healthy and balanced breakfast - based on the main food groups. Good breakfast choices include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy, eggs, beans, fish, meat or another protein source.
With all the benefits of a nourishing breakfast to your body, it's importance is clear. So, how do you make it a priority?
- Start early: Waking up even 10 minutes earlier can make all the difference for those rushed to get to work. You will not only have time to make a quick breakfast, but also give your body the time to wake up
- Prepare ahead of time: If you're like many who value every second of extra sleep, you can prepare breakfast ahead of time and either refrigerate or freeze it. For example, make a 10-egg omelette with spices and vegetables (think spinach, peppers, tomatoes, onions) when you have time, and refrigerate it. That way you and your family are set for the week.
- Get creative: Dinner leftovers can turn into a great breakfast meal. Got some leftover vegetables from last night? Wrap them up in a chapati so you can have a grab-and-go breakfast. It's surprising how many healthy breakfast ideas require little effort when put into practice.
- Try something new: Part of the reason you want to skip breakfast might be because you're tired of the same old, egg-and-toast. Mix it up with some new ideas (see our table below) and different cuisines. When you look forward to a meal, you're more likely to make it a priority.
- Allow yourself a treat: Every once in a while, it's ok to indulge in that sweet pancake, muffin or doughnut. Try to portion it out instead of eating it whole. Better yet, accompany it with some eggs and vegetable to give your a more balanced and nourishing meal. Remember - moderation is key!
It takes time for any new habit to settle, so be kind to yourself and give yourself that time. Take baby steps: if you never eat breakfast, start with at least one breakfast meal per week and increase it from there. Every little bit counts, and every morning is an opportunity to make a positive change to your lifestyle... starting with breakfast!
You don't need to limit these healthy breakfast ideas to the morning hours, they work equally well as either a lunch or snack option.
- Dietitians of Canada, Eating 9 to 5, 2015
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Breakfast Ideas for Busy Mornings, July 31, 2017
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Breakfast Basics for Busy Families, August 1, 2017
- The Association of UK Dietitians, Food Fact Sheet, February, 2016