We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but just how important is it for your productivity?
By the time you wake up you likely haven’t eaten for 10 or 12 hours, which is where breakfast got its name — it means “breaking the fast,” Lisa De Fazio, a healthy-lifestyle expert and registered dietitian, tells Business Insider.
Your first meal of the day is what kick-starts your metabolism and replenishes blood-sugar levels so you can focus and be productive throughout the day. When blood-sugar levels are low, she explains, it’s much harder to focus and you’re more likely to feel tired, irritable, and impatient.
Starting your day off on the right foot is all about balancing high-fiber carbohydrates with lean protein, De Fazio says. While all carbohydrates raise your blood-sugar levels, high-fiber carbs like fruits and whole-grain products do so at a steadier pace than sugar and low-fiber carbs like processed grain.
While you may be tempted to grab something quick and sweet like a doughnut or double-chocolate muffin, De Fazio says these baked treats tend to be full of processed flour and sugar, which will spike your blood-sugar levels and lead you to crash by mid-morning. “It’s like injecting sugar straight into your bloodstream,” she says.
Luckily, whether you make your breakfast at home, buy it, or keep something in the office kitchen, there are plenty of healthy and tasty options that will keep you from passing out at your desk.
“Oatmeal is the ideal carb in the morning because the fiber will fill you up and keep blood sugars steady, since the fiber takes longer to breakdown and digest,” De Fazio says.
Thanks to instant oatmeal, you can enjoy the benefits by simply adding hot water. And if you don’t want to make it at home or in the office kitchen, many fast-food retailers like McDonald’s offer oatmeal as a power-packed breakfast option.
Low-sugar cereals are OK to eat for breakfast. De Fazio advises looking for cereals with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving, like Rice Chex or Shredded Wheat. Serve with milk for added protein.
Egg sandwiches or wraps with or without lean turkey bacon are a great source of protein, which will help slow down the blood-sugar rise that comes from the carby bread.
De Fazio says to skip the cheese and suggests mixing it up with spinach or avocado.
Not everyone loves eating breakfast. If you’re one of these people, De Fazio suggests trying to at least drink a smoothie before 10 a.m.
She suggests a recipe of yogurt or almond milk, a banana, and protein powder. Or if you don’t have the time or a blender, you could try a ready-made protein smoothie.
Fruit and yogurt parfait
Greek yogurt is a lower-fat source of protein than regular yogurt, while berries and a little granola on top bring the fiber.
You could also opt for cottage cheese instead of Greek yogurt, De Fazio suggests.
You can enjoy your coffee without guilt — as long as you don’t pile on the added fat, sugar, and expense with extras like caramel swirls, chocolate pumps, and whipped cream.
“Excessive calories from beverages turn to fat just like food,” De Fazio warns.