We’re often told by experts and concerned family members that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Indeed, the clue to why breakfast is generally considered vital could be present in its name itself: we are advised to break our overnight fast with a healthy, nourishing meal.
However, it’s estimated that nearly a quarter of individuals in the United States skip breakfast. Meanwhile, in the UK, around 10 per cent of the population fail to eat brekkie, claiming that it coincides with some of the busiest hours of their day. Among those who usually do eat breakfast in the UK, a third prefer breakfast cereals, while 20 per cent opt for toast on-the-go.
This suggests that our busy lifestyles seem to lure most of us into believing that we simply don’t have the time for a wholesome breakfast. But failing to have a supercharged breakfast often results in some unhealthy snacking throughout the day which can fail to keep us energized for long durations and negatively affect our mood and performance.
However, many of us those who normally skip breakfast due to time constraints may have been working from home ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means many of us could now find it possible to squeeze in some time to fix a nutritionally balanced or supercharged breakfast.
Aside from not wanting to start the workday feeling a familiar grumble in the tummy and then impulsively reaching out for the first sugar-laden snack that catches the eye, there are several reasons why you should consider breakfast as an important meal.
Firstly, breakfast as a habit is associated with a relatively lower BMI and lower probability of obesity. A review by Rachel Galioto et al compared 38 studies centered on the cognitive effects of breakfast. It concluded that adults who consume breakfast regularly tend to exhibit robust improvement in memory power, attention span and thought processing speed.
Stack avocado and salmon on sourdough for a healthy breakfast shutterstock/Andrej Rutar
Furthermore, regular consumption of a balanced breakfast has been shown to boost macronutrient and micronutrient intake in children and adolescents. Research also suggests that viewing breakfast as a good habit and not a boring, repetitive custom helps induce better diet quality and improved food choices during one’s early development stages and throughout life.
A study by Rosario Ferrer-Cascales et al also revealed that a good-quality breakfast is associated with lower stress levels and depression, and improved levels of well-being and happiness.
Furthermore, breakfast being the first meal of the day is likely to set the tone for the decisions we make and tasks we perform through the day. This is why we can benefit from getting our day off to a great start with supercharged breakfast ideas. This is especially true for the days when we have a lot on our plate, like a series of important tasks to check off, a goal to accomplish, or an important meeting.
Contrary to common belief, healthier breakfasts need not require expensive and rare ingredients or involve tedious preparation. In fact, supercharged breakfasts can be made with easily available ingredients, are fun to prepare, and can taste delicious when compared to heavily processed, factory-made breakfast options.
The basic formula for a supercharged breakfast remains the same: pairing complex carbs such as whole grains and fibre-rich seeds with good quality proteins and healthy fats. This mix helps to power the brain and body to take on the day and keep us feeling satiated till the next meal time.
So, here are some ways to keep your energy levels flying high through the day while also fulfilling your nutritional needs with a supercharged breakfast.
While most commercial breakfast cereals are often delicious and easily available, they are also usually the worst possible choice for breakfast. A 2016 study by World Action on Salt and Health found that 55 per cent of the surveyed breakfast cereals contained over half the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of sugar for a three-year-old, while 34 per cent of the products contained 20 per cent of the RDA of salt per 100g.
Not only are refined grains stripped of most of their valuable nutrients during processing, the high starch and sugar content in ready-to-eat breakfast cereals can lead to a quick surge in blood sugar levels, contributing towards weight gain, a rise in cholesterol, and inconsistent energy levels.
Wholegrains could be the most efficient way to supercharge your breakfast, as they contain more slow-digesting fibre, which can keep you satiated for longer while maintaining a steady blood sugar level to keep you going throughout your whole day. Try including a variety of diferent grains like sorghum, amaranth, oats and quinoa to supercharge your breakfast.
If you can’t avoid breakfast cereals altogether, swap the likes of puffed rice or chocolate-flavoured wheats with wholegrain muesli, low sugar granola bars and quick oats. These usually have a higher fibre content and keep you feeling full for longer.
Oats are versatile and can keep you satiated for a long time due to their high fibre content. Oat bran is also rich in beta-glucan, a soluble fibre and gut-friendly prebiotic that provides a host of benefits like preventing constipation, alleviating inflammation and controlling plasma cholesterol levels.
There are several ways to supercharge your breakfast with oats. Try it in the form of overnight oats, where rolled oats are soaked overnight in milk or dairy-free nut milk variants such as almond milk. Then top it off with a variety of nuts, seeds and/or fruit. If you are short on time, instant porridge oats can be a nutritional option as well.
Porridge oats keep you fuller for longer shutterstock/Vladislav Noseek
As a coffee aficionado, I understand how difficult and even absurd this may sound, but indulging in caffeine immediately after launching yourself out of bed is a bad idea. That’s because caffeine intake on an empty stomach can cause a sharp surge in blood sugar – meaning you may feel an impending crash in energy levels and mood before your day has even begun. On the other hand, sipping your coffee after a nutritionally-balanced breakfast can help sustain the effect of the caffeine – in terms of improved productivity and mood – throughout the day.
“Wholegrains could be the most efficient way to supercharge your breakfast, as they contain more slow-digesting fibre, which can keep you satiated for longer while maintaining a steady blood sugar level.”
If you're one of the many people that believe they need caffeine to function efficiently, pairing it with a supercharged breakfast may help you kickstart your day the right way. Meanwhile, if you can do without a caffeine-fix, swapping it for a herbal tea can aid your digestive health, alleviate stress and even prevent depression.
While simple carbs create a short-lived energy boost followed by an instant spike and crash in blood sugar, protein is digested at a more sustained pace by the body, thus keeping you energized and productive during your whole day. Increasing your protein intake can result in easier weight management, in addition to lowered triglycerides and blood pressure.
Including protein-rich grains like buckwheat, quinoa or amaranth in your breakfast can keep you going through your working day with consistent energy levels, preventing the tendency to reach for sugary snacks a few hours after you’ve had your breakfast. Lean meats, free-range poultry, wild salmon, tuna, and plant-based options like chickpeas, lentils and tofu also offer high-quality protein to supercharge your breakfast.
Nuts and seeds are considered good mood foods owing to their tryptophan content, which upon digestion synthesizes into serotonin, which is also known as one of the ‘happiness hormones’. These foods can also boost the omega-3, fibre and protein content in your breakfast, thus gearing you up for the day at a sustained pace.
Topping your plain-looking porridge/oatmeal bowl with nuts (pumpkin, sunflower, almond flakes, cashews, pecans, etc), and seeds like amaranth, chia or sesame can create a supercharged breakfast with minimal effort and prep. Adding superfoods like goji berries, blueberries and/or quinoa seeds can enhance the flavour, in addition to upping the antioxidant content and micronutrient profile, thus boosting your heart health and reducing your risk factors for chronic diseases. However, these foods are often calorie-dense, and you should mind the portion size to prevent excess consumption.
Smoothies are a great way to get your daily fibre and antioxidant intake while you’re on the go. Freeze the fruits and veggies of your choice the previous day, add in a preferably dairy-free milk option or yogurt in the morning and blend together for a quick, delicious and healthy breakfast.
If you’re in a hurry and can’t find the time for an elaborate prep, a simple protein shake with a scoop of high-quality whey powder with spinach or a banana can make for a protein-rich, supercharged breakfast that will keep you satiated for hours.
There are unlimited ways to jazz up plain toast, whipping up a delicious and supercharged breakfast toast being one of them. Start stacking toast with healthy fats like avocados or nut butters, and layer with good-quality proteins like smoked salmon, poached eggs, or an omelette. Add in a fibre component with chia or pumpkin seeds, and vegetables like spinach, kale, tomatoes or bell peppers.
Opting for a slice of wholegrain sourdough or multigrain bread instead of white bread aids slower digestion, thereby keeping you active and productive throughout the day.
The Glycemic Index (GI) of a food relates to its ability to affect blood sugar and, according to Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, “plays an important role for people trying to follow a healthy diet”. High GI foods like white rice/bread and corn can cause a sudden spike in blood glucose and insulin levels. This, in turn, can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and pancreatic cancer.
In contrast, low GI foods can help you feel fuller for longer while maintaining consistent blood sugar, aiding weight management. It’s easy to supercharge your breakfast with swaps for lowering GI, such as choosing brown rice and wholegrain breads over their white equivalents.
Have you ever felt the impulse to grab a soda and a doughnut for lunch instead of fixing yourself a healthier, supercharged breakfast, yet felt the urge receding when you thought it over calmly? A study by Adrian Meule established a strong connection between one’s pace of breathing and the corresponding effect on their eating behavior, suggesting that slow-paced breathing can pacify one’s food cravings.
“If you’re in a hurry and can’t find the time for an elaborate prep, a simple protein shake with a scoop of high-quality whey powder with spinach or a banana can make for a protein-rich, supercharged breakfast.”
Practising conscious breathing enables you to slow down and be aware of your feelings, thoughts and reaction to various stimuli. Set aside at least two minutes each day before you proceed to eat your meals, drawing awareness to your breathing pattern. Taking slow, deep breaths can go a long way to curb unhealthy cravings or impulsive food decisions on a repeated basis, thus potentially preventing the onset of eating disorders like food guilt and binge eating.
Supercharging your breakfast – and in fact – all your meals becomes easier when you’re paying attention to the various cues from your brain and body, and are mindful about your choices. Take the time to practise some mindful minutes each morning with rituals like journaling, daily intentions and body scan meditation.
Furthermore, mindful eating involves paying attention to the moment-to-moment experience around eating without judgement. It encourages you to take pleasure in the process of planning and prepping your meals – as well as consuming them. A randomized control trial on 194 obese adults from the University of California concluded that introducing mindfulness rituals like daily affirmations to one’s diet and exercise routine can result in better food choices and reduced cravings, in addition to improved fasting blood glucose levels.
“One should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast,” as Robert A. Heinlein famously once said. Indeed, there’s no reason to avoid a nutritional, supercharged breakfast that will set you up for the day because, in reality, it requires minimal effort and time.
Saying that, supercharging your breakfast may require some patience and dedication at first. However, once you start noticing the positive changes regarding your mood, energy levels, productivity and overall health, incorporating my suggestions above into your daily schedule might come more naturally to you, even taking the form of a healthy habit. •
Main image: shutterstock/Jacob Lund
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Fitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict and future self journaler. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her daily pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.
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