Do you want to have consistent energy and stable moods throughout your day? Eat breakfast! All meals are important, but we sometimes prioritize our meals based on time and convenience and skip breakfast due to the morning rush. However, studies have shown people who eat breakfast regularly have more consistent energy and are less likely to overeat during the rest of the day. Breakfast is a great way to start your day and live a better quality life.

Breakfast is important because of how your brain responds after a night of sleep. Did you know that your stress hormones are naturally highest in the morning? A balanced breakfast is vital for lowering these hormones and preparing your body for the day ahead. A nutritious start will boost your metabolism and increase your energy throughout the day. It improves memory, focus and productivity.

Skipping breakfast can put a tremendous strain on your body. The side effects of high stress levels can include weight gain (that spare tire around your middle), suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, memory problems and mood swings. It can also lead to overeating later in the day or have you reaching for processed convenience foods. You may end up feeling exhausted and less productive all day long.

What you eat for breakfast is important. Grabbing a donut and coffee, or sugary cereal and a glass of fruit juice, leads your body to crave more sugar throughout the day. So what is a nutritious breakfast? To start your day right, include a serving of protein to keep you feeling fuller longer, a high quality whole grain such as oats or quinoa, and 1 or 2 colorful fruits and/or vegetables to pack in the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In addition, include a small amount of healthy fat, found in foods such as olive or safflower oil, nuts, avocado or butter, to help you absorb those important fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.

Labels on breakfast products can be confusing or even misleading. Cereal and instant oatmeal boxes convey the message that you’re getting lots of vitamins and minerals, but these products usually contain some form of sugar as well as other processed ingredients. Breakfast bars are another item we are led to believe are a good start to the day. Watch out for wrappers that say in large print on the front “high in fiber” and “no high fructose corn syrup”—they likely list other forms of sugar, refined flours and artificial additives in fine print on the back!

Think real foods—fresh, not packaged. A few ideas:

  • Scrambled eggs with spinach and tomatoes, a slice of whole grain toast and a bowl of berries or a banana
  • Hard-boiled eggs for grab-and-go protein
  • Smoothies—a good option if you are short on time
  • Oatmeal (long cooking or steel-cut oats) topped with fruit
  • Pancakes–a favorite with kids. Try making whole-wheat pancakes or adding steel-cut oats and ground flax seed to boost the nutrition.
  • Yogurt, which is high in protein and contains probiotics that improve your immune system. These friendly bacteria have a powerfully beneficial effect, because they help destroy the harmful bacteria that enter our bodies. Most fruit yogurts are high in sugar, so look for plain regular or Greek yogurt and sweeten it with fresh fruit.

Don’t forget that it is essential for kids to start their day with a balanced breakfast, too. This is true not only from a nutrition standpoint but also because it provides academic and behavioral benefits. Taking the extra time to ensure the kids head out the door with a good breakfast will lead to improved memory, focus, mood and behavior. Try to avoid the many food products marketed directly to kids, including sugary cereal, frozen waffles/pancakes and granola bars.

So, start eating breakfast every morning—and make sure it’s a nutritious one. It will have a positive impact on your energy and productivity all day long!