As a busy college student, newspaper section editor and part-time junior copywriter, eating breakfast is vital to my survival. I have finally found the hack to a productive day.
Growing up, I could only tolerate chocolate chip pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Cooking took way too long for my mother with a full schedule and me being notoriously late to leave, so I opted for a cup of coffee and maybe a granola bar (only if they had chocolate chips).
Now that I’ve finally grown the hell up, I’ve learned the benefits of a good breakfast, but “good” doesn’t mean large quantities containing every food group. It means eating nutritious meals that fill you up just enough to begin your hectic day. Large breakfasts can make you sluggish since your body focuses on breaking them down instead of dispersing blood flow to your brain.
After a few late-night research adventures, I found foods that boost your immune system, brain function and energy levels. Cereal and breakfast bars don’t do enough for your morning routine. Raisin Bran cereal offers health benefits with fiber, but it just won’t kickstart your day.
Since I’ve never been a morning person, I race around in the mornings to prepare for classes or work. However, even when crunched for time, you can crunch on easy, quick and healthy meals. Throw out those Cocoa Pebbles and Nutrigrain bars because when I tell you these meals made me more alert and focused in the mornings than ever before, I’m not pulling your leg.
According to the Public Library of Science, omega-3 fatty acids – which are found in salmon, walnuts and cranberries – are crucial for brain development and improve memory function. Salmon for breakfast might sound insane, but when paired with multigrain toast and cream cheese, it’s more appetizing than it seems.
Walnuts and cranberries go perfectly on top of greek yogurt, which provides protein and probiotics while keeping you full and satisfied until lunchtime. A healthy gut equals more energy throughout the day. What I like most about this meal is that it’s easy to prepare the night before or even after I wake up.
If you have a few extra minutes to do some light cooking, try pairing eggs with spinach and avocado. Eggs provide protein and two nutrients called choline and lutein. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, these nutrients aid brain development and help prevent cognitive decline.
Spinach provides iron, protein, vitamins and minerals. These nutrients make spinach great for women like me who have low iron levels due to chronic blood loss (AKA the menses). Contrary to popular belief, spinach can actually taste good when cooked with butter (or olive oil) and topped with spices.
Before you call me a typical Millennial for obsessing over avocados, I’m technically Gen Z – though I respect them for knowing what’s up. Avocados are an excellent plant-protein alternative to eggs, promoting healthy blood flow to the brain and lowering blood pressure. They’re also great snacks on the go; pre-cut an avocado, sprinkle salt and pepper on it and ziplock it for a mid-afternoon snack.
Last but not least, I have to mention the wonderful blueberry. It is rich in antioxidants which relieve stress by preventing brain cells from oxidizing. It also aids memory, boosts communication between brain neurons and strengthens your immune system with vitamin C and potassium. Add these blue guys to your yogurt, or pop them in your mouth while driving to work.
Once I set aside 20 minutes every morning to fuel my body and mind, I became happier and healthier. Preparing and consuming food that nourishes my body is enriching in more ways than one; it gives me instant self-gratification and fulfillment for satisfying an essential human need with organic and clean ingredients.
Eating better transformed the way I perform and function, and I can’t recommend it enough. So dig out some coupons, hit the grocery store and discover why “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”