We’re celebrating our month-long Summer Cereal Drive with a series of posts about breakfast, the most important meal of the day! This year’s cereal drive goal is to collect 4,000 boxes of cold cereal to supplement breakfast bags for clients in need of extra calories. Help us reach our goal by donating cereal (or virtual cereal) today!
Ever feel like you’re on an energy roller coaster? You wake up tired, but your morning coffee and a break room treat get you going. Then it’s 10:30 a.m. and you’re HUNGRY. Lunch time…ah, feeling good. But then there’s that boring post-lunch meeting and you find yourself getting verrry sleepppyyy…so you reach for a candy bar. Or an iced vanilla latte. Or a cookie.
You get the idea. You’re up. You’re down. It’s exhausting. And you’re tired of feeling tired.
How’d you get on this energy roller coaster, anyway? Blame your blood sugar and the ups and downs that come from rushed mornings and the carbohydrate-heavy standard American diet. But there’s an easy place to begin if you’d like to get off the blood sugar roller coaster and have sustained energy throughout the day…breakfast!
You’ve probably heard people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why is that?
For starters, it’s the first meal you get after a good night’s sleep. You’re breaking a 10-12 hour fast (break fast, get it?) from the night before. While you were getting some shut-eye, your body was still using energy (breathing, repairing cells, pumping blood to your organs, etc.). By morning, it’s ready for some fuel!
WHAT you eat matters
But what kind of fuel is best? Does it matter?
If you’re like most Americans, you start your day with a bowl of cold cereal. Or a bagel with cream cheese and a coffee. Or a fast-food breakfast sandwich. Maybe you skip breakfast altogether.
Perhaps you’re trying to “eat healthy,” so you have a bowl of low-fat granola with skim milk and berries. Healthy, right?
Hold on. While the breakfasts listed above have some good qualities, they’re all high in refined carbohydrates. Your body will welcome these refined carbohydrates (yea…quick energy!), convert some of it to glucose for fuel, and store the rest…as fat. Your blood sugar will spike. And then crash, setting in motion a pattern of spikes and crashes for the rest of your day.
Add protein for a better start to your day
To avoid starting your day off on the roller coaster, focus not only on EATING BREAKFAST (yes, it’s important!), but also on including adequate protein, a slow-burning fuel that helps you feel full longer and slows down the release of glucose into your blood. Ideally, try to meet one-third of your daily protein needs during breakfast.
Better Breakfasts 101
Need some ideas on how to incorporate protein into your morning? Here are a few simple ways to bring more balance to your breakfast:
- Add an egg. Eggs, once feared but now seen by most as a healthy, whole food, contain six grams of protein each. Keep a supply of hard-cooked eggs in the fridge for a quick and easy to-go option.
- Make a smoothie. Use high-quality, plain Greek yogurt, which generally contains 20-plus grams of protein per cup, as a base, then add your favorite fresh or frozen fruits and extra water or milk to get to the right consistency. For extra protein, sprinkle in a tablespoon of chia or hemp seeds.
- Give your cereal a boost. Love breakfast cereal? Look for a brand that has at least three to five grams of protein per serving, then increase the protein by eating it with regular cow’s milk or soy milk, stirring it into plain yogurt, and/or topping it with a tablespoon or two of chopped nuts or seeds. Or you can just serve it with a side of turkey sausage!
Think you don’t like breakfast? Does this sound like too much food in the morning? Try it. Start slowly. Commit to just four to five days of eating a high-protein breakfast. Your body will adjust. And you’ll start to feel better. Bye-bye, roller coaster. Hello, all-day energy!
Amy Daly is Project Angel Heart’s director of marketing and communications. While the majority of her professional experience is in nonprofit fundraising and communications, she also loves learning and talking about nutrition, which led her to pursue a certification in holistic nutrition from Bauman College in 2011. She’s psyched to be able to combine her experience in marketing and fundraising with her passion for nutrition at Project Angel Heart. Amy has a BA in journalism from Colorado State University and an MBA from the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. In her spare time, she enjoys inventing wild and silly stories for her 3-year-old daughter, reading (and occasionally finishing) a good novel, and exploring Colorado.