Breakfast has long been considered the most important meal of the day. However, this is a relatively modern sentiment in the course of human history. The meal became more of a morning staple with the advent of the workday during the Industrial Revolution. As many people can attest to, working nine-to-five requires fueling up for the day, especially when it’s preceded by eight hours of rest.
In the twenty-first century, there’s a clear downside to breakfast. The convenience of pulling up to a McDonald’s or a Starbucks before work can be a costly habit—for both your wallet and for your health.
This convenience tends to be even more magnified during the holidays. For example, making and eating a healthy meal often isn’t the top priority on Christmas morning, for obvious reasons. And even if making a feast is a holiday family tradition, the spread probably features foods like French toast, croissants, cinnamon buns, or even monkey bread.
So now’s a great time to rethink breakfast. As we head toward the holiday season, try to start implementing healthier breakfast choices into your daily morning meal so you can start each day on the right foot—and, more importantly, give your family the gift of healthy eating.
It’s always worth taking a moment to understand what is in the processed foods you’re consuming. If you’re incorporating anything into your breakfast that has a nutritional label, read the copy carefully. For example, if a cereal sounds healthy by all accounts but lists sugar as one of its first or second ingredients, you should probably reconsider it.
Choose whole grains
What’s not to like about whole grains? They provide a host of minerals as well as antioxidants and fiber, the latter of which can help keep you full longer through the day, as a good breakfast should. Enjoying some whole-grain pancakes topped with bananas or some whole-wheat toast with avocado is a great way to start your day. Just keep in mind that if you’re buying your whole grains, you should still be mindful of the nutritional information and make sure the ingredients list includes whole-wheat flour to maximize the health benefits.
This one’s a no-brainer: add as many fruits and veggies to your breakfast as possible. Best of all, there are endless ways you can get creative about it, from adding peppers to an omelet to whipping up a breakfast salad to making pancakes with Santa’s face made from berries and whipped cream.
Pack in the protein
Yes—bacon! Well, not quite. Protein helps with fullness and muscle mass, but foods like eggs, nuts, nut butters, and unsweetened Greek yogurt are healthier options to incorporate into your breakfast. If you want to include a meat protein, opt for a lean variety such as turkey. Just be wary of the sodium content, and search for a nitrate-free version.
Fill up on fiber
Consuming adequate fiber is a healthy, natural way to maintain good digestive health while preventing overeating since fiber also keeps you satiated. In addition to their nutritional benefits, fiber-rich foods like avocado, oatmeal, and nuts are good breakfast choices because they can help prevent you from wanting to snack between meals.
Steer clear of fatty and sugary staples
Perhaps the trickiest aspect of breakfast is the sheer number of unhealthy options available—there’s a reason the term “breakfast bomb” exists. And it seems like the holiday season is an especially tempting time for unhealthy goodies since there’s no shortage of ways to make goodies enticing with cute holiday-icing artistry. Resist any grab-and-go foods or, at most, let yourself indulge only occasionally.
Count on coffee (in moderation)
The health hazards of coffee have been floating around for years, but there’s good news on the coffee front as well. Your cup of java is likely swirling with antioxidants, among other benefits. The key is to keep your caffeine consumption in check and avoid adding excess sugars, such as those you’ll find in the omnipresent pumpkin spices and peppermint lattes during this time of year. It’s best to keep it simple: plain black coffee minimizes calories and fat.
Eat your produce
Research shows that if you eat a food item rather than drink its liquid counterpart—say, chomping on an apple versus drinking apple juice—you’re more likely to reap its full nutritional benefits and feel full for longer. As a bonus, by eating the real deal, you can avoid any added sugars in the drink version.
Take it slow
Finally, perhaps the best way to prevent poor breakfast planning and eating habits is to not rush through the meal. After all, if you make a meal plan for dinner, it makes perfect sense to do so for breakfast as well. Put together your breakfast the night before for the next day. This will allow you to create a healthy breakfast that you can grab if you’re rushing out the door.
Breakfast is considered by many to be the MVP of the meal world, yet, because of the nature of our fast-paced society, it’s also often the most overlooked and neglected. However, if you get into the habit of having a healthy breakfast every day, especially as the holidays approach, the odds are you’ll feel better, have more energy, and experience better days ahead.