Krista DuChene unpacks her nutrition tips with plenty of dairy for a mentally and physically healthy holiday season
With the long, cold and dark winter days ahead of us coupled with the uncertainties of our current situation, we must aim to help prevent potentially negative effects on our health. Physical activity, good sleep, drinking water, practising mindfulness, living with gratitude, enjoying daylight and the outdoors all while maintaining healthy relationships are ways to improve our health. Of course, what and how we eat can also have a positive impact on our overall health, particularly during this season.
Including dairy at breakfast can be one of the first steps—and best ways—to start nourishing ourselves for good health.
As a Registered Dietitian, I have counseled countless people over the past 20 years and have always started a session by asking how they begin their day. How their day starts often indicates how the rest of it will go. Most advise that they do not eat breakfast because they are not hungry, don’t feel like eating, are too busy, or do not have enough time. Convincing them to have breakfast is often more difficult than discussing with them what to have for breakfast.
We know the reasons for eating breakfast—it helps regulate blood sugars, aids in boosting energy levels and alertness, boosts our metabolism, helps with weight management, provides essential nutrients for good health and chronic disease prevention, and sets us up for success with the rest of the day.
Simply eating breakfast could have a significantly positive impact on the rest of your day, week, month and even new year like you never imagined. So why not give it a try?
To start, I often tell my patients to grab and eat a small piece of food on their way out and call it breakfast. They can keep it simple, repeating it until it becomes a routine, then begin adding other foods to build a complete breakfast. Tip: eat within an hour of waking and before you have that first coffee to better your chance of succeeding with eating breakfast.
Eat Breakfast Better
Once the habit of eating breakfast has been established, the second part is eating breakfast better. A breakfast is made better when it includes a whole grain, fruit, and protein. At breakfast, most people can easily eat a grain food like toast or a bagel, and a fruit like a banana or an orange, but they often omit the protein food—which is necessary to complete the meal. Including 20-grams of protein—a macronutrient—at breakfast will help satiate you, provide energy, make necessary enzymes and hormones for your body, and grow and repair muscle, skin and nails. More specifically, dairy protein contains leucine, a special type of essential amino acid specific for stimulating protein synthesis in the muscle. Dairy is one of the best and easiest food choices to add a high quality protein to your breakfast. Choosing nutrient dense foods like dairy protein will also lead to optimal levels of micronutrients, such as vitamin D, which is important for bone and muscle strength, immune function, and helping to reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. It’s important to remember that our bodies are less likely to get adequate amounts of vitamin D in the winter months, when we have less exposure to the sun as it aids with synthesis, and when we need to strengthen our immunity to help fight infections and viruses. The best way we can succeed with eating breakfast better is planning ahead.
Consider some of these nutrient dense breakfast ideas:
- Grab your overnight oats, packed with yogurt and berries.
- Enjoy whole grain cereal with slivered almonds, milk and strawberries.
- Drink a smoothie blended with frozen fruit, Greek yogurt and oats.
- Have whole grain toast or an English muffin with nut butter, banana, and cottage cheese.
- Eating breakfast, a better breakfast, may surprise you with how well the rest of your day may go.
Starting your day with a nutritious and satiating meal will give you the nutrients and energy your body needs. You will be more likely to stay fuller longer, be productive, feel good about yourself, and continue to nourish your body, mind and soul through the rest of the season. Go ahead, take my word for it and give it a try!
Krista DuChene is a Registered Dietitian, Mom of Three, Olympian, and Boston Marathon Bronze Medalist.