6 Signs your Breakfast Isn’t Working
Since breakfast is the first meal of the day it can either set you up for a day of success or a day full of hunger and cravings. Opting for the right breakfast can help set the tone for the entire day by balancing your blood sugar, maximizing energy and minimizing hunger cues. Although popular breakfast items like smoothies, yogurt and toast can be considered healthy choices, they might not be the right choice for you. Factors such as sleep, activity level, and stress can all affect our individual needs so it is important to pay attention and consider how your breakfast choice might be affecting the rest of your choices throughout the day. So if you think you are choosing a healthy breakfast, but are just not sure, here are the 6 common signs your breakfast choice isn’t actually working for you and what you can do instead.
1. You need a mid-morning snack.
If you eat a well-balanced breakfast, the body should easily be able to go 4 or more hours without eating, so if you are constantly looking for a snack after your breakfast, it’s probably a good sign your breakfast choice isn’t ideal. One of the most common causes of being hungry within one or two hours of breakfast is eating a breakfast rich in carbohydrates, specifically refined carbs, which includes popular choices like cereal, bagels and granola. These types of meals can spike your blood sugar first thing in the morning and give you a big boost of immediate energy, but will only cause your blood sugar to crash within hours of eating, leaving you in search of a mid-morning snack. Combinations like cereal and milk, toast and jam, flavoured yogurt and granola are loaded with refined carbs and added sugar, so they don’t work well to balance your blood sugar or keep you full. In order to alleviate the need for a mid-morning snack, opt for a breakfast with a good source of protein and fat, and ensure you are eating a portion large enough to help keep you full until lunch.
2. You struggle to make it to lunch.
If you are constantly watching the clock and counting the minutes until the clock strikes 12:00pm it might be a good sign you need to revisit what you had for breakfast. Many people, especially women, opt for a ‘light’ breakfast because they think it’s the ‘right’ thing to do, but here is the deal; that light breakfast is not working for you if you are itching to eat your next meal all morning! A green smoothie, egg whites or a piece of fruit might seem the right choice if you are trying to lose weight, but they are not the right choice if they leave you distracted and hungry all morning! Instead, focus on eating the volume of food that makes us feel full and satiated (not stuffed and uncomfortable) to keep you energized for the day. Simply opting for a larger portion of what you are already eating, or adding more protein and fat, can help you go comfortably all the way to lunch time and actually further support your health and weight loss goals.
3. You drink multiple cups of coffee.
Look, I love my coffee too, but if you’re drinking multiple cups during the day it’s probably a good sign that something isn’t working right. At the end of the day, coffee is delicious but it is also a stimulant, and if you need it to get through your morning you might be using it to pick yourself back up from that blood sugar crash. Remember, if your breakfast is very carbohydrate heavy that immediate spike in blood sugar will cause a big crash in energy later on and leave you looking for that second cup of java to help get your energy levels back up.
4. You’re “starving” in the afternoon.
We’ve all been there, 3:00pm rolls around and you’re so hungry that you are verging on angry (i.e. hangry) and you are willing to eat just about anything you can get your hands on. So, you either rush out to the local coffee shop and grab yourself a treat, or you raid the pantry when you get home and eat everything in sight. People often ask what to eat as an afternoon snack to help avoid this raging hunger, however, the cause of this hunger is often due to what you ate earlier in the day, not in that exact moment. If your breakfast, or your lunch, were not large enough or did not contain enough protein and fat, it can lead to an afternoon crash which will leave you eyeing up every snack you can find.
5. You’re sleepy during the day.
Of course, there are many factors that can contribute to fatigue during the day (poor sleep, starring at your computer screen, busy schedule, etc..), however, your breakfast can also be a contributing factor. If you find yourself spacey during your meeting or just want to take a nap after lunch it’s important to take a look at how your meal choices might be contributing to this. Opting for a savoury breakfast over a sweet one is a good way to avoid that afternoon crash in blood sugar which can leave you feeling overly fatigued.
6. You always need a late night snack.
I know what your thinking; “How is my late night snack in any way related to what I ate for breakfast?”. The truth is, it might not solely be related to your breakfast, but it is certainly related to what you ate earlier in the day. It is important to remember that your blood sugar is affected by all of your meal choices, and your breakfast sets the tone for the entire day. Your breakfast choice will affect your blood sugar, which will affect your lunch choice, which will affect your blood sugar again, which will affect your dinner choice, which will affect your blood sugar again, which will affect your need for a late night snack. When you start your day with a high sugar breakfast or a breakfast rich in simple carbohydrates, such as a smoothie, cereal and milk, bagel and cream cheese, or yogurt and granola, you can set your blood sugar on a roller coaster that will affect your food choices all the way to your evening snack.
The Bottom Line
By ensuring that your breakfast is a well-balanced meal with carbohydrates, protein and fat you will better set yourself, and your energy levels, up for success. Although your breakfast choice might be made of real food and considered healthy (i.e. a smoothie or bowl of oatmeal), if you are experiencing one or any of the issues, it is a good sign that your breakfast choice is not working well for you. Remember, there is no perfect meal or perfect diet, so what works for one person might not work for you. Instead, it is important to take a step back, look at the big picture and see what is, or is not, working for you individually. Often just switching up your breakfast to something savoury with extra fat and protein, or simply eating a bit more, can help address many of these common issues that people struggle with on a daily basis.