Starting the day on a high note can be simple, with a filling, delicious, and nutritious power breakfast to rev your system and keep you satiated and alert. Some people can't even fathom breakfast first thing in the a.m.; however, breakfast can boost productivity and make us feel more energized, emotionally stable and more mentally alert if the right foods and beverages are consumed to allow us to reap those daily benefits.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on finding different foods to eat to give them more energy and to combat fatigue, and I often find that starting the day with a power breakfast can help clients feel charged and mentally alert for hours to come in the day. On days where they do not eat a hearty breakfast, where it is either skipped or they opt for a pastry or salty breakfast sandwich at a nearby coffee shop, their energy is often lower and they are less productive. When this happens, I ask them to write down their feelings in a journal, to keep track of how they feel in their minds and bodies on days where the breakfast is nourishing and on days where breakfast is filled with sugar, processed fats and sodium, instead. Here are 11 ways that you can make your breakfast boost productivity, and why you should be mindful of what you eat bright and early.
1. Make "Sweets" Savory
Instead of reaching for a donut, opt for a sweet potato instead, which offers sweetness in a savory direction, advises Birch Benders co-founder and COO Lizzi Ackerman over email with Bustle. “Studies suggest sweet potatoes improve cognitive function and contain lots of beta-carotene, a radical-fighting antioxidant. Our new Sweet Potato Pancake Mix is made with real sweet potato, offering a fun way to incorporate this delicious veggie into your breakfast," Ackerman recommends.
2. Balance Out Nutrient Ratios
“It’s important to start out your day with a balanced breakfast full of fiber, protein and healthy fats. This boosts your metabolism and replenishes blood sugars, increasing your energy levels to stay focused and productive during the day," advises Stephanie Perruzza, MS, RD, CDN and KIND’s Health & Wellness Communications Specialist over email with me. Perruzza recommends "pairing the Peanut Butter KIND® Breakfast bar with nonfat Greek Yogurt and sliced strawberries for a balanced breakfast."
3. Don't Avoid Carbs
Cutting out refined carbs and sugars, such as those found in pastries, cereals and processed goods, complex carbohydrates can help boost productivity and keep mental energy high, advises Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, and spokesperson for America's Better Sandwich, over email with Bustle. But you definitely don't need to cut anything in order to stay healthy. "For many of my patients starting their day with a well-breakfast is one step towards brightening their day. A combination of fiber, protein and healthy fat helps to fuel their bodies and give them more energy," says Gans. "Try this beautiful Caribbean Tomato-Pumpkin Breakfast Sandwich recipe made with Arnold® Whole Grains 100% Whole Wheat bread," Gans recommends as a recipe.
4. Eat Something
Skipping breakfast is a big no-no when it comes to boosting productivity in the day and maintaining sustainable energy levels for hours on end. Gans explains how not eating enough can affect our emotions and productivity. "Sometimes we get in a bad mood simply because we need food. The term 'hangry' - becoming angry, grumpy or frustrated because you are hungry - describes it well. Whether it be a snack or a meal make sure what you eat is balanced," Gans says.
5. Eat Some Fish
Over email with Bustle, nutrition coach Darin Hulslander says, "Vitamin D is so important to brain and mood function that it’s receptors are all over the place in our brain! A number of studies correlate vitamin D function to improved memory, mood and cognition. Unfortunately, it’s one we are most deficient in." Hulslander recommends, "fatty fish, canned tuna, mushrooms, and of course sunlight."
6. Have Natural Sugar, Only
Instead of having processed goods or adding artificial sweeteners to muffins and coffee, says running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer over email with Bustle, focus on consuming natural sugar, best in the form of "fresh fruit, instead of eating something artificial, like candy." Great options include berries, melon, kiwi, apples, and grapefruit, as these are typically lower in sugar.
7. Eat High Protein Foods
Lemmer suggests consuming a breakfast that is packed with protein, as it is a really important macronutrient that can "keep you satiated and fuller for longer," she explains. When you have enough protein, you're more likely to experience a reduction in cravings, and you'll have more mental clarity and focus, Lemmer continues. Thus, eating protein bright and early could help put you on the right track.
8. Get Cooking
Over interview with Bustle, Chicago-based therapist Chelsea Hudson, LCPC, recommends learning some new recipes that can bring joy and add wholesome, nutrients to your standard breakfast. Hudson says "set aside some time to scroll through a beautiful cook book and make a 'cooking wish list' by marking the pages of all the meals you'd like to make," perhaps the night before in preparation (for instance, you can cook oats or chia pudding the evening prior, so it'll be ready in a jiffy come morning). Hudson says that food you cook at home is often more nutritious and can power your day!
9. Be Mindful When Eating Breakfast
Hudson explains how being mindful when eating breakfast can allow you to check in with your body and appetite and prevent overeating (and subsequent fatigue). When you're eating mindfully, you can register fullness and eat to the point where you have optimal energy levels to be productive. Instead of rushing out the door with a bar in hand or grabbing a muffin on the way to work, "eat your meal slowly, savoring all the flavors," and "think about where the food came from."
10. Eat Probiotic Foods
In email with Bustle, Dr. Zelana Montminy, Suja’s Health and Wellness Expert and author of 21 Days to Resilience says "start your morning off with probiotics, like Suja Daybreak Probiotic, and get a jump-start on gut health. A healthy gut is connected to more stable mood with increases productivity long term." You can also get probiotic benefits from Greek yogurt, kimchi, miso, and sourdough bread, among other foods. Pairing the above beverage with a yogurt might make for a satisfying breakfast!
11. Break It Up Into Two Parts
Breaking up breakfast in the morning into two parts can be especially beneficial for those who aren't hungry first-thing, or who tend to crave food between breakfast and lunch, advises Montminy. "Have part 1 of your breakfast at home, like scrambled eggs or oatmeal, and part 2 at work or on-the-go, like a Suja Uber Greens," as recommended as a filling, portable blend of produce. "Studies show that the more fruits and vegetables people consumed (7 portions+), the happier, more engaged, and productive they are - so let breakfast start that for you, and add in extra easy boosts to help get all those servings in," Montminy adds.
When eating breakfast, it's important to remember that it's a critical meal of the day and can set you up for either a wonderful, energized, happy day ahead or a fatigued, moody, and craving-crazy type of experience. Of course, the former is more preferable! By choosing healthy foods and practicing mindful behavior, having a productive day after your very first bite can be achieved.
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