One of the easiest and often overlooked ways to maintain our mental health is through the role of nutrition — there’s no denying that what we choose to put in our bodies directly affects how we look, feel, and function overall. Luckily, the best way to set ourselves up for a successful day, both mentally and physically, starts with one healthy habit: a consistent breakfast routine.
While it’s no secret that what you consume first thing in the morning can drastically affect your mood and productivity levels throughout the day, recent studies show that what you eat for breakfast can even affect your mental health longterm.
While we’re all spending more time at home during the quarantine, why not challenge yourself to create healthy habits that will benefit you both mentally and physically, long after all this is over? Whether you are a regular breakfast skipper, or feel like you don’t have enough time to make a decent meal for yourself before starting your work day, now is the perfect time to change your ways — and improve your mental health in the process. Here’s 5 reasons why you should be eating breakfast every day for a happy head and heart, and a few of our favorite ways to jumpstart your day in the kitchen.
1. Improved Concentration
Choosing the right foods to properly refuel when you wake up can improve your focus and memory. Science shows that the foods we eat first thing in the morning can improve our short-term memory and provide our bodies with the energy we need to focus and concentrate throughout the day. But, there’s a fine line between refueling your brain with proper nutrition, and eating a breakfast that will leave you feeling sluggish, rather than alert (more on that below). If you have a big day ahead where you’ll need to be sharp or focused, loading up on a healthy breakfast is one of the best ways to set yourself up to be the best version of yourself, all day long.
2. A Balanced Mood
Research shows that a healthy breakfast can also lead to a better, more positive and even-keeled mood. Missing meals, especially breakfast, can cause blood sugar, which causes irritability, fatigue, and brain fog. It can even cause your brain to produce excess cortisol, making you feel stressed and anxious. By starting your day on a positive and happy note, you’ll feel ready to conquer anyone, and any obstacle that comes your way.
3. Increase your metabolism.
Eating breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism, and actually helps you burn more calories throughout the day.
When you eat breakfast you’re telling your body that there are plenty of calories to be had for the day. When you skip breakfast the message your body gets is that it needs to conserve rather than burn any incoming calories.
Studies have found that although people who skip breakfast eat slightly fewer calories during the day, they tend to have higher body mass index, or BMI, says Christy C. Tangney, PhD, a clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center. A healthy breakfast not only replenishes brain energy, but it also helps kick start your metabolism, reduces hunger levels, and can also help you make smarter food choices throughout the rest of the day.
4. Can Help Lower Stress
Realistically, we all endure a bit of stress first thing in the morning — especially during these weird, crazy days quarantined at home. From needing to all-of-a-sudden homeschool your kids, while simultaneously WFH, while also needing to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner — mornings can be an extremely stressful time. Our hectic and rushed days can lead to an increase in stress hormones in the bloodstream, which can seriously affect your behavior throughout the day. By eating a breakfast filled with a combo of complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein from whole food sources — you’ll set yourself up to be the best version of yourself for the day ahead.
5. Improves Brain Development
The old saying “you are what you eat” couldn’t be truer, according to Roxanne Sukol, MD. “When we eat real food that nourishes us, it becomes the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body,” she says. This means that what we consume throughout the day plays an integral role in how our brain operates, grows, and functions overall — which is why you may want to reconsider eating that drive-thru breakfast sandwich… (Unless it’s Chick-fil-A…)
So, what should you eat?
Remember, it’s not just about eating breakfast – it’s about eating a healthy, balanced meal to jumpstart your day. And with so many proven health benefits, this needs to be a priority for each and every one of us — now more than ever. Here’s our favorite go-to healthy breakfast options:
This raspberry chia yogurt pudding is my current fave, and can almost not even be called a recipe because it’s basically just throwing things in a glass jar and letting them hang out in the fridge overnight. I make the chia pudding the night before, and in the morning I layer it with the yogurt, granola, and berries in a mason jar. Easy peasy, and so delicious!
This ultimate avocado toast topped with roasted tomatoes and a soft-boiled egg is an incredibly easy breakfast solution that takes about 5 minutes from start to finish. Don’t forget the ‘Everything but the Bagel’ seasoning sprinkled on top!
These oven-baked copycat Starbucks egg white bites are a great way to prep a ton of low-carb, healthy breakfast items all at once. They are seriously the most perfect and easy meal prep breakfast. I like to make a batch of them on Sunday night and keep leftovers in the fridge.
This Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal gets crowned the favorite by everyone at my house. Apples, walnuts, and oats get baked in cinnamon and sugar, and the results taste, well, pretty much like apple pie. It can easily be made gluten-free (just use “gluten-free rolled oats”) and vegan (use almond milk and sub coconut oil for butter) so everyone can dig in, regardless of dietary restrictions.
Since smoothies check all the healthy boxes, I make one for brekkie a few days of the week, but sometimes I just don’t want to drink my breakfast, ya know? Enter: the smoothie yogurt bowl …aka my new favorite breakfast solution. This combines all the healthy superpowers of a smoothie, but also requires a bowl and spoon (and therefore, feels a little more hearty. Even if it’s only in my imagination.)
In my eyes, this power bowl is the perfect breakfast meal: it’s warm and filling, vegetable forward, and also conveniently happens to make use of some common dinner leftovers. I love topping my bowls with avocado, hot sauce, or leftover pesto. You can also add extra grilled veggies or meat, or smoked salmon on top.