Breakfast is referred to as the most important meal of the day for good reason. Research suggests that eating breakfast can enhance metabolism and energy, making the body more efficient at burning calories throughout the day and increasing stamina. Multiple studies have also shown that breakfast can improve mental clarity and focus.
The catch is you can’t just eat any breakfast food and expect to enjoy these benefits. What you eat and how much you eat makes a big impact. Typical American breakfasts are high in refined sugar and unhealthy fats, and low in fiber and lean protein. Starting the day with sugar-laden cereals or pastries and processed meat can result in a short burst of energy followed by sluggishness, brain fog, and irritability. It can also lead to weight gain. Many breakfast foods perpetuate snacking during the day because they cause large blood sugar fluctuations and tend to keep you full for just a few hours.
A true breakfast of champions includes nutrients that give you energy for the day ahead. If you want to get the most out of your morning meal, follow a few basic principles:
- Load up on fiber-dense foods. These include whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and legumes. Avoid refined carbohydrates, such as pastries and white bread.
- Add lean proteins and healthy fats. These further stabilize blood sugar and enhance satiety. Aside from lean animal proteins like eggs and low-fat dairy, plant-based proteins and fat sources are great options to include. Legumes, soy products, nuts, all-natural nut butters, and seeds provide ample protein. In addition to nuts and seeds, avocados and olive oil are good sources of healthy fats.
- Limit sugar-filled items. Breakfast cereals, flavored yogurts, and donuts tend to contain lots of sugar.
Incorporating plant-based food into breakfast and other meals and snacks is an important part of a healthy eating plan. A plant-based diet can help prevent many serious health conditions—from heart disease to type 2 diabetes. It can also help individuals who already have a disease reduce their symptoms. Try viewing breakfast as a chance to stretch your cooking creativity and enjoy the nutritional benefits of plant-based eating.
Check out the below list for ideas on how to swap out a typical breakfast for a healthier one:
|Instead of:||Try this:|
|Eggs with bacon and buttered white toast||Tofu scramble with mixed vegetables, diced potatoes, and avocado
|English muffin sandwich with egg, sausage, and cheese||Breakfast burrito with whole-grain tortilla, black beans, mixed vegetables, guacamole, and salsa|
|Cold cereal with milk||Old-fashioned oatmeal topped with
fresh fruit and chopped nuts
|Plain bagel with cream cheese||Whole-grain toast with all-natural peanut butter and banana slices
|Store-bought smoothie||Low-fat plain Greek yogurt topped with
low-fat granola and fresh berries
|Cold meat-topped pizza on
|Cold vegetable-topped pizza on a
whole-wheat or cauliflower crust
Natalie Leustek is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Vancouver Clinic. She enjoys helping patients use nutrition to become their healthiest selves.