Mornings are full of promise; after a decent night’s sleep, you’re ready to tackle anything. But what happens to all that energy a few hours later? How can a day start so well and turn into drudgery by noon?
I caught up with registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), Megan Ware, who owns “Nutrition Awareness”—a team of nutrition consultants who offer on-site, off-site, and even online dietary coaching. According to Ware, people often unwittingly sabotage the day’s potential by making common mistakes in their morning routine.
Thankfully, she was able to iron it out for me with some simple do’s and don’ts. Here are three things you can do each morning to make sure your energy stays up throughout the afternoon, plus a few common tendencies you should avoid.
Start with Water
“Most people aren’t drinking nearly enough, or when they are drinking, it’s coffee, tea, energy drinks, sodas, and the like,” says Ware. “Make it a mandatory rule that the first thing to hit your lips is at least eight ounces of water.” Even before coffee? “Yes,” she smiles, “Even before coffee!”
“Every morning does not have to include an elaborate breakfast,” says Ware. “Have ready-to-eat foods on hand so you won’t be tempted to run out the door without eating or hit the drive-through on the way to work or school.” Her go-to tips for prepping ahead include:
- Make a big batch of overnight oats that you can eat all week.
- Prepare parfaits with Greek yogurt, chopped walnuts and berries.
- Hard-boil a few eggs on a Sunday to last a few days.
- Throw spinach and tomatoes in your omelet instead of meat and cheese.
- Have strawberries washed, chopped, and ready to throw on your oatmeal.
Eggs will probably always sit atop America’s list of iconic breakfast items, but it matters what kind you’re getting. Says Ware: “When chickens get access to grass and bugs instead of a steady diet of corn-based grain, they get a whole lot more vitamins and minerals, which means you get a whole lot more vitamins and minerals.” So . . . you buy free range or cage-free, right?
Wrong. “Cage-free used to mean that the chickens were free to roam, but ever since the big food manufacturers figured out that people were willing to pay more, they’ve been able to manipulate the system and their packaging . . . to make us think we’re paying for a better product and a nicer life for the little chickadee,” explains Ware. Same with the free-range label: “In Europe,” she says, “the term ‘free range‘ has a legally binding definition,” to mean free access to outdoor areas covered with vegetation—about forty-three square feet per bird. “Here in the US, it doesn’t.”
Her recommendation? Know your farmer. Buy local, and visit those pastures. Make a point of seeing how much sunshine and fresh air the mother hens are actually getting.
What Not to Do
Once I was clear on what to do to sustain my energy, I wanted to know which common morning routine habits could sap it. What’s counter-productive? What should you cut out? What should you stop doing? Ware was eager to share.
After your morning workout routine, the RDN points to one’s typical breakfast choices as a potential energy-killer.
“Don’t fill up on carbs and skimp on protein and fat,” she suggests. “The usual American breakfasts—like cereal, muffins, toast, a banana, and bagels—are all high in carbs but lacking in the other two essential micronutrients. This leaves you hungry two hours later.” If you do enjoy a piece of toast, compensate by slathering on avocado and sliced boiled eggs for your rich, healthy fats, and protein (not to mention flavor).
It’s when we cave into cravings first thing in the morning that we tether our metabolic potential. “By eating mostly carbs for breakfast, you are likely to crave fat and protein by the time lunch comes around,” says Ware. “What is high in fat and protein? Fast food.” No wonder our resolve is mush by the time we get a break in the workday.
As a last tip, Ware emphasizes balance. “I’m not saying avoid carbs; you definitely don’t want to do that. Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred source of fuel and we need that fuel to get the day started,” she says. “Pick the right kinds of carbs (fruits, whole grains, milk) and balance them out with a healthy fat and lean protein.” Then, monitor your energy levels throughout the day.
What changes do you plan to make in your diet this season? Have these choices made a difference? Let us know in the comments!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.