Breakfast is one of the best ways to jumpstart your day and fuel your body. The difference between eating breakfast or not can be drastic – and it can either set you up for a day of success or a drowsy, sluggish one.
But many of us don’t have a lot of time in the morning, and breakfast is one of the first parts of a healthy morning routine to fall to the wayside. Kids take precedence, dogs need to be walked and alarm clocks snooze longer than they should – and before you know it, you’re headed out the door empty-handed – or worse, with something unhealthy.
So what should you be eating? And why is this meal really so important anyway? Health professionals from Henry Ford Health share what they eat in the morning and tips for you to make breakfast a priority in your life, too.
Usamah Mossallam, M.D., Emergency medicine physician
Breakfast routine: Depending on when the day starts, I eat between 6:30 and 8 a.m. I usually eat a bran cereal with low-fat milk and a banana or orange. Occasionally, I’ll eat a New York bagel with jam.
Why is breakfast important? For me, it gets my day started and keeps me going. I won’t get hungry mid-morning and snack on junk food if I eat a good breakfast.
What are some good, healthy (and quick) breakfast options you recommend? A bowl of high fiber, low sugar cereal is best with some fruit or yogurt. Be careful about breakfast bars – they may be quick and easy, but many contain unhealthy ingredients.
Pradeep Prabhu, M.D., Pediatrician
Why do you eat breakfast every day? I have a long working day, and eating breakfast gives me the mental and physical energy I need to be sure that I’m focused, alert and able to take care of my patients the best I can.
Why is breakfast so important for kids? Eating breakfast every day helps kids maintain a healthy weight, regulate metabolism and provide sufficient energy. It also helps them focus in school – without breakfast, kids tend to lose focus quicker and lack the energy to do schoolwork, play and partake in other activities.
Why is it important for families to make this meal a priority? Children follow the habits of their parents, so it’s important to lead with good behaviors. Making the time to eat breakfast every morning – by planning ahead or even waking up just a few minutes earlier – sets everyone up for success.
Bethany Thayer, M.S., R.D.N., F.A.N.D., Registered dietitian nutritionist
Breakfast of choice: My breakfast generally includes an egg sandwich (egg, cheese and English muffin) and fruit for easy eating in the car on my way to work. If I don’t have time to make an egg, a peanut butter sandwich and fruit is a second option.
Do you notice any changes in your mood and energy if you don’t eat breakfast?: Absolutely! On the rare occasion I leave the house without something to eat I am definitely not at my best. I’m distracted by the hunger pains from my stomach.
What are the health benefits of eating breakfast? There are so many benefits! Improved weight management, better concentration and performance, greater strength and endurance. Studies show that those who eat breakfast are more likely to have a more nutritionally complete diet that is higher in nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Suchitra Behl, M.D., Internal medicine physician
Breakfast of choice: For many years now I have found that a smoothie is the ideal breakfast for me. I add at least two fruits, something green like spinach leaves or avocado, and some nuts and seeds, and blend with either milk or almond milk. This ensures that I have met at least some of my daily requirements of fruits as I am a poor fruit eater. Also, adding nuts and seeds — like almonds or flax seeds — provides fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and important nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Why do you eat breakfast every day? I tend to run low on energy and feel hungry before lunch if I skip breakfast. Also, eating breakfast prevents me from snacking on the wrong foods, which often happens if we are hungry and unprepared with healthy foods.
What would you say to someone who is “too busy” to eat breakfast to get them to change their habits? If you can spare even a couple of minutes to have a healthy breakfast, you will find the quality of your day will improve, and most people have better efficiency and energy.
M. Elizabeth Swenor, D.O., Functional medicine physician
What type of diet do you follow? I am vegan (whole food and plant based) and gluten free. I have chosen this type of diet for spiritual reasons and also because of the evidence-based medical science supporting the health benefits which include reduced overall body inflammation, decreased risk of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease, decreased obesity and decreased risk of dementia.
How do you feel if you skip breakfast? If I skip breakfast, I notice that I have a difficult time concentrating and my work production is slow. I get super tired mid-morning or early afternoon. I also notice that I end up snacking and eating more throughout the day and that my skin is puffy and my muscles fatigue easily with simple activities like walking up and down stairs.
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Yes. It literally means to “break the fast.” Upon awakening, our bodies have just spent several hours working hard to repair, replete and rejuvenate from the past 24 hours. Our body is like a machine, constantly going, and needs to be refueled to keep providing us with energy to function and do our day jobs, exercise, communicate, think and problem solve. All of these tasks have a heavy energy demand on the body. Breakfast starts the body out with the fuel that it needs to get all the organs running.
What foods should people avoid eating in the morning? High carbohydrate foods like breads, bagels, doughnuts, processed breakfast cereals, and sugar loaded breakfast drinks, coffee drinks, soda, and fruit juices. And do not add artificial sweeteners to your drinks and foods as these can lead to weight gain and whole body inflammation.
Paul Edwards, M.D., Ophthalmologist
Breakfast routine: I usually eat within an hour of waking up. While my food routine varies from day to day, I usually have a protein-rich breakfast. I also always start with 6-8 oz. of water. Water wakes up the system and starts to raise basal metabolic rate.
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Short answer: Yes. During the night, our bodies go into a “starvation mode” and our metabolic rates start to slow. Breakfast is important to get calorie consumption up so our bodies can perform basic functions. Not having breakfast keeps the metabolic rate down and makes you feel much more sluggish.
What would you say to someone who is “too busy” to eat breakfast to get them to change their habits? Overall, skipping breakfast is a bad idea. It’s actually more harmful to our bodies and causes more weight gain. Missing and skipping meals puts us in a starvation mode and prompts the body to store our food as fat. Fats cause an increased retention of water, and hence the weight gain.
Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, M.D., Pediatrician
If you had to choose only one breakfast meal, what would it be? Oatmeal! It’s very filling, and you can add other ingredients, like nuts, fruit or milk to make it more nutritious.
Do you notice any changes to your mood/energy if you don’t eat breakfast? Yes, especially because I eat breakfast most days. When I don’t, I feel sluggish, have a lack of energy and I usually have difficulty focusing. I often end up with a headache, too.
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? All meals are important, but breakfast is especially important because it helps you start the day. If the day starts off wrong oftentimes it can be difficult to get it back on track. I tell my patients skipping breakfast is like driving a car without gas.