Your Breakfast Blueprint: How to Set Yourself up for Success
by Amy Schlinger
If you want to start your day on the right foot and set yourself up for success, maximizing your morning is key. And your first meal of the day is a big part of that.
“After an overnight fast, the body is in a state of depletion,” explains Leslie Bonci, a registered dietician and the owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie. “Glycogen in the liver has been used to fuel essential organs; fluid levels are lower, because we don't drink while we sleep; and muscle protein synthesis does not occur in a fasted state.”, Therefore, the morning is the perfect time to replenish and refresh, she says.
But it’s not about simply consuming breakfast—it’s about optimizing this critical meal and making it work for you. So, we tapped our experts to help provide some breakfast tips and other morning routine hacks to ensure you’re setting yourself up for the best day possible.
Morning Routine Hacks and Breakfast Tips
1. Make sure your breakfast contains protein, carbs, and fat—and produce if you can get it in
Just because breakfast is the first meal of the day, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be hearty or consist of all your key macros.
“Protein can support satiety between meals, while carbs are a quicker source of energy and can also help add a feeling of fullness,” explains Bonci. “Both soluble and insoluble fiber can support a healthy gut, and fat can help add good texture and mouth feel, resulting in a more satisfying meal.”
Adding in some produce is a great idea, too, since most people don’t eat enough of it. Only one in 10 adults gets enough fruits or vegetables daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Produce helps provide fiber, fluid, and the fill-up factor,” says Bonci.
Jennifer Silverman, a nutritionist, holistic health coach, and the owner of Jen Silverman Nutrition LLC, recommends three scrambled eggs, two heaping handfuls of sautéed spinach, and hot sauce or fresh salsa on top as a go-to breakfast option. “If I’m super hungry, I’ll also throw in a quarter of an avocado,” she says.
2. Drink at least a full glass of water when you wake up.
Think about the number of hours you spend in bed. That’s the same number of hours you go without hydrating.
So, it’s important that you start getting your fluids in immediately upon waking, and drinking a glass of a water is a great way to do that, says Bonci.
“We need to fill up the tank after several hours without fluid,” she says. “Fluid balance is necessary for digestion, thermoregulation, , bowel regularity, and to transport nutrients throughout the body.”
3. Get up as soon as your alarm goes off—the first time.
You’ve heard the old saying: “You snooze, you lose.” Well, that actually has some truth to it.
When you get in the habit of hitting snooze, you’re not only disrupting your REM sleep—the most restorative phase; you’re also breaking a promise to yourself.
“When you went to bed and you set your alarm clock for 6 a.m., you were fully conscious and you decided that 6 a.m. was the time you needed to wake up,” explains Rob Dial, a motivational speaker and the creator of the Mindset Mentor Podcast. “Now, when you’re not as conscious, you’re turning your alarm clock off and trying to go back to sleep. If you’re starting the very first waking moments of your day with a loss, you’re setting yourself up for failure from the very beginning.”
“Can you still win the day after hitting your snooze button 17 times? Of course you can,” says Dial. “But you’re starting your day with a loss.”
Instead, keep your promise to yourself and begin your day by getting up at whatever time you planned to when you went to bed.
4. Whip up a protein shake.
You may not always have time to sit down and enjoy breakfast at a leisurely pace, so commit to at least mixing up a protein shake. “You can add whatever you want, so it’s like one-stop shopping for protein, fluid, carbs, and produce,” says Bonci.
“It’s a great way to use up bits and ends of fruit and veggies, too,” adds Bonci, “and you can vary the taste and flavor, depending on what you like.”
Silverman adds that a morning shake can also be a good way to get in an extra serving or two of vegetables, since so many adults don’t get the full amount needed. “A favorite recipe of mine is water, a scoop of protein powder, two handfuls of raw spinach, half of a banana, one tablespoon of peanut butter, and one teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon.”
5. Add some collagen to your coffee.
There’s a lot of research out there about the various health benefits of coffee. But why stop there when there are things you can add to your coffee to plus it up, like collagen.
“Adding collagen protein to your coffee can be beneficial because, depending on the type, it may support healthy skin and joints.” says Silverman. “We already have collagen in our bodies, but it breaks down as we age, so getting more can be highly beneficial.”
6. Stay away from email for your first hour after waking up.
When you first wake up, try your best to prioritize doing things for yourself. This is your time to set the tone for your day.
As soon as you reach for your phone or laptop to check emails, you’re shifting into a “reply” mode, and just like that you’re now doing things for others. People will always have demands for your time, and you are the only gatekeeper of your schedule.
Of course, depending on your line of work or whether you have an important deadline, sometimes it’s simply necessary to get online right away. That said, research has found that checking email can increase anxiety. So unless you really have to get started, try to put some distance between yourself and your inbox for the first hour or so after waking up; you could lower your stress, and who wants to begin the day on a stressful note?
7. Spice up your plate.
It’s ok, we know: Sometimes healthy food can be bland an unappealing. But it can also be something that you look forward to, and the difference is all in a little creativity.
Do away with plain oatmeal or basic egg whites by adding some spices to your breakfast dishes. We’re talking about everything from turmeric and cinnamon to ginger and even garlic!
“Certain spices can have antioxidant properties”, says Bonci, who recommends turmeric as an addition to a savory breakfast. “Sweet spices, meanwhile, can bring the flavor without adding any calories. Ginger can help with an upset stomach, and cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or cloves can really elevate the flavor profile of a dish.”
8. Save the sweets for later.
Muffins, pancakes, or a sugar-laden parfait might sound like tantalizing options in the morning, but they won’t do you any favors.
“I don’t recommend starting the day with something sweet, because it can lead to spikes in your blood sugar throughout the day, leaving you even hungrier later,” says Silverman. “If you love sweet dishes, be sure to pair them with fiber and protein to help slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream.”
Bonci recommends oatmeal made with pumpkin as an example of a sweet yet hearty option; or vanilla Greek yogurt with a few cranberries and pecans, which tastes sweet but also provides protein and fat. Another delicious option: a slice of whole-grain toast with ricotta and apple butter. Or, of course, a smoothie, which will supply the sweetness along with protein and fat, instead of just carbs.
9. Bump up your antioxidant intake.
Your body is incredibly intricate, and it’s actually very good at taking care of itself on a cellular level. But that doesn’t mean you can’t lend it a hand from time to time.
Antioxidants, for one, can help protect your cells from free-radical damage, and they’re easy to add to virtually any meal.
“One simple way to do this is by including fruits and veggies at breakfast,” explains Bonci. “Dark leafy greens provide Vitamin C, carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which all have health benefits.”
Silverman suggests adding beets, kale, spinach, or blueberries to a smoothie, or pairing your scrambled eggs or omelet with a bunch of leafy greens on the side.
10. Prep your breakfast in advance.
If you never have enough time to get breakfast ready in the mornings, at least answer this: You have some time right now, don’t you?
There’s nothing stopping you from planning and making your breakfast meal ahead of time.
“Give overnight oats a go, prep egg bites on the weekend, or make up a yogurt bowl with healthy toppings the night before,” suggests Bonci. “Breakfast could be dinner leftovers, too. Have some rice and veggies left over from dinner? Fry an egg and toss it all on top for a well-rounded meal and solid start to your day."