What you eat (or don't eat) first thing in the a.m. can impact how you feel throughout the day and how mentally sharp, physically agile, and performance-ready you can be. Thus, knowing how breakfast can be decreasing productivity during the workday can help you decipher which foods and habits are best to be preserved and which should be eliminated in order to start feeling healthier, motivated, and energized once you reach the office, as explained by Lisa De Fazio, a healthy-lifestyle expert and registered dietitian, over interview with Business Insider.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on finding healthy breakfast staples to boost performance and mental awareness during the day. We often discuss the foods and habits that can promote positive outcomes, such as eggs, lean meats, and healthy fats for satiety and protein, berries for antioxidants, and whole grains, such as quinoa, whole grain bread, and oatmeal, for immediate and sustainable energy. “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," says Stephanie Perruzza, MS, RD, CDN and KIND’s Health & Wellness Communications Specialist to Bustle over email. However, it's important to discuss the harm in not having a good breakfast, as well, as they definitely exist. Here are 11 ways that breakfast can be messing with your productivity.
1. When You Eat Nothing
Over email with Bustle, personal trainer and running coach Susie Lemmer explains how skipping breakfast can make us more tired, irritable, hungry (hello cravings later on!), and less physically and mentally alert than a nice bowl of oatmeal with PB and berries might provide. "We need to give our bodies fuel to work," Lemmer says, "such fuel is needed first thing."
2. When You Feast On Sugary Pastries
Refined carbohydrates found in sugary breakfast pastries, such as donuts, muffins and croissants, lack fiber, and complex ingredients that provide satiety and long-lasting fuel, explains Dr. Zelana Montminy, Suja’s Health and Wellness Expert and author of 21 Days to Resilience over email with Bustle. Instead, "complex carbs are digested more slowly so you’ll get a steady dose of those happiness inducing hormones rather than a short lasting surge. Plus they’ll help stabilize your blood sugar so you don’t feel as jittery." Montminy recommends consuming whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, instead.
3. When You Don't Have Proper Nutrient Ratios
"For many of my patients starting their day with a well-breakfast is one step towards brightening their day," says Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, and spokesperson for America's Better Sandwich, over email with Bustle. "A combination of fiber, protein, and healthy fat helps to fuel their bodies and give them more energy," Gans says. "Try this beautiful Caribbean Tomato-Pumpkin Breakfast Sandwich recipe made with Arnold® Whole Grains 100% Whole Wheat bread," Gans offers as a recipe.
4. When You Avoid Greens
Eating green veggies for breakfast offers many benefits, and there's nothing wrong with adding in some extra antioxidants and folate to complement protein and starch. Thus, Montminy suggests adding leafy greens to breakfast foods, such as eggs, smoothies and juices, and breakfast sandwiches, and bowls. "Dark leafy greens like spinach are great for combating stress because of their folate content which produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, helping you stay calm," says Montminy.
5. When You Skip Vitamin C
Montminy warns against skipping vitamin C early on, which is found in "citrus, kiwi, and bell peppers," as it "reduces stress and boosts the immune system." Montminy recommends trying Suja's Mango Magic or Fuel for breakfasts that are on the go, as beverages are portable and packed with lots of vitamin C power to boost productivity and energy levels and reduce sick-days.
6. When You Aren't Getting Enough Fiber
"Carbohydrates with little to no fiber, such as white bread, provide us with quick energy in the form of glucose, but this can cause a crash in energy," explains Gans. "To sustain our blood sugar and prevent feeling sluggish, your best bet is to choose foods that are high in fiber," Gans says. High fiber foods include beans and legumes, whole grains and oatmeal, fruits (with skin especially!), vegetables, and chia seeds.
7. When You Rely On Caffeine
While having a cup or two of morning joe can boost concentration and productivity, relying on caffeine, instead of opting for whole foods and protein, can make you feel anxious and jittery, if you happen to find that you react to caffeine, advises Lemmer. Plus, since coffee is acidic, it's generally better to pair it with some food, rather than having plain, for digestion.
8. When You Go To Drive-Throughs
Not only is eating fast food often a poor choice for breakfast, due to high-nitrate meats (sausages and patties), flaky, buttery pastries and high-fat, greasy foods that are available during that time, but eating in the car can also cause you to not register fullness, advise experts and Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD at Cleveland Clinic. Be mindful when eating and opt for healthier menu items.
9. When You Think In Terms Of Quantity For Calories
As explained by Rania Batayneh, MPH, author of The One-One-One Diet in interview with Reader's Digest, people often eat only a non-fat yogurt (which is a great idea!), but don't pair with fruit, nuts, oatmeal, or something else that is substantial enough to provide a full nutrient ratio and satiety. Likewise, a small muffin might look small, but it actually can be loaded with calories and sugar, and still not fill you up! Consider eating between 250-400 calories for breakfast, and choose healthy foods.
11. When You Eat Too Fast
According to Lemmer, eating too quickly and not being mindful of your food and intake can make you feel more hungry later on, as your body doesn't have enough time to register those feelings of fullness. Such cravings later in the day can take you away from doing work and being your utmost productive, explains Lemmer. Slow down, chew, and swallow to register fullness.
12. When It Lacks Protein
Over email with Bustle, certified healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines says that not getting enough protein in the morning could lead to cravings later in the day and less energy and productivity at work. "Eating a breakfast high in protein can keep moods balanced and energy high in the day," Traines recommends. Thus, opt for eggs, protein pancakes, nuts, Greek yogurt, and lean proteins, such as beans or fish, in order to get enough nutrients.
Breakfast is a key moment in the day, as that meal can you set you up for a day filled with positive mental and physical performance, energy, and productivity, or a day that is lacking in awareness, focus, and stamina. By not letting a poor breakfast dictate your day, you'll be happier and feel more in control.
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