You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal, but what makes it so important? Jane Reagan, a registered dietitian (RDN) at Nutrition Services, explains why breakfast is essential and shares a few breakfast recipes to try.
How does eating breakfast affect learning and memory?
When you get up in the morning, you’ve usually fasted for 10-12 hours, so you will have lower levels of blood sugar. Eating first thing in the morning raises your blood sugar and helps keep it steady, which can improve your mood and help you have more energy throughout the day.
In addition to raising blood sugar levels, having breakfast can improve cognitive function and memory. Studies have shown that when people eat breakfast, things like concentration, memory and energy improve.
What kind of foods do you recommend?
It’s important, whenever possible, to eat a balanced meal with fiber, a fruit or vegetable, calcium, protein and whole grains. Getting a serving of each of these nutrients can help you feel more energized without the mid-afternoon crash.
Protein is especially important. It makes up every enzyme, hormone and muscle in your body, so starting your day off with one serving of protein is essential. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, also play an important role as neurotransmitters in your brain, which help you feel more alert, happy and relaxed.
Carbohydrates with fiber, such as whole grain cereals, oatmeal whole grain bread are also important to help you sustain energy for longer periods of time. Fiber keeps blood sugar steady and can make you feel fuller for longer.
What recipes are good to try?
Breakfast No. 1
Berry protein smoothie with 1/2 bagel
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 1/3 cup protein powder (vanilla or unflavored)
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- 5 walnut halves
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 1/3 cup ice
- ½ bagel, toasted, with 1 tablespoon cream cheese
- Protein: 39 g
- Fat: 14 g
- Carbohydrate: 61 g
Breakfast No. 2
Fruit and overnight oats
- ½ cup dry rolled oats
- 1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 peach, cubed or apple or ¾ cup berries
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Protein: 15 g
- Fat: 16 g
- Sat Fat: 4 g
- Carbohydrate: 56 g
Breakfast No. 3
Peanut butter Greek yogurt, granola and banana parfait
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
- ¼ cup granola
- 1 banana
- Protein: 32 g
- Fat: 20 g
- Carbohydrate: 54 g
Breakfast No. 4
3-minute breakfast burrito
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
- ¼ cup black beans
- 1 whole grain tortilla
- 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/5 avocado, sliced
- 2 tablespoons salsa
- Coat a microwave safe coffee mug with cooking spray.
- Add eggs and milk to the cup, beat until blended.
- Microwave on high power for 45 seconds; stir.
- Add in black beans and stir again.
- Microwave until eggs and beans are almost set, about 30 to 45 seconds longer.
- When the egg and bean mixture is hot, spoon it onto the tortilla and top with shredded cheese, avocado and salsa.
- Wrap tortilla into a burrito.
- Protein: 26 g
- Fat: 23 g
- Carbohydrate: 35 g
About the expert
Reagan studied for her RDN at the University of Northern Colorado and received her Masters in Counseling from Boston University. Her favorite thing about working for Medical Services is getting the chance to do what she loves and feels passionate about. She loves helping students better understand the relationship between the food they eat and the way they feel physically, mentally and emotionally. The students she works with inspire her daily with their life stories, struggles and accomplishments.
Medical Services offers nutrition counseling services as well as free consultations at the Nutrition Resource Clinic.