Breakfast of Caregiving Champions

One of my favorite memories from childhood is coming downstairs early in the morning to find my grandfather, his comfortably faded flannel bathrobe knotted over his blue pajamas, his feet cozy in fleece-lined slippers, stirring a pot of something on the stove. What the something was would vary – sometimes rolled oats (never “oatmeal”), sometimes farina (cream of wheat). In the warmer months he might be poaching eggs or soft boiling them for presentation in adorable ceramic egg cups. But the point, other than that he often expressed his love for us by cooking, was that he knew what we so often forget: breakfast is important.

ART - Breakfast of Caregiving Champions

We’ve all been reminded that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many of us have also been told that a cup of coffee – no matter how expensive or rare the beans – is not breakfast. Perhaps, however, we don’t all understand why it’s so important that we feed ourselves in the morning.

Here are five reasons caregivers must eat breakfast:

  • Breakfast gives us Morning Energy:
    The main source of energy for the human body is glucose, which is broken down from the carbohydrates we love to hate. A lot of that glucose is stored in the form of fat, but some of it becomes glycogen, which is stored in our muscles and livers. When we need energy, the glycogen in our livers is broken down to release glucose, which provides energy. Breakfast factors into this because our glycogen levels are lowest after not eating (and hopefully sleeping) all night. Taking just five minutes to have a protein bar, a hard-boiled egg, or even a slice of toast with peanut or almond butter with our coffee restores our glycogen levels and gives us the energy we need to care for those we love.
  • Breakfast is Brain Food
    I remember my teachers sending home notes to our parents on the nights before important tests, reminding them to feed us a healthy breakfast. Why? Because eating in the morning feeds our brains, and that nutritional support allowed us to give our best. As caregivers, we often feel sluggish or foggy in the morning, and this can affect our cognitive abilities – ever felt like you just can’t think? – and our moods. (“Hangry” is probably the least productive emotion a caregiver can have). That glycogen that fuels our bodies powers our brains as well, and breakfast provides it.
  • Breakfast Makes Healthier Choices Easier All Day
    Eating in the morning isn’t only about energy. It also sets up healthy patterns and wise food choices for our entire day. When we have breakfast, we’re less likely to crash before lunch, less likely to choose easy snacks or quick meals instead of opting for healthier ones. By the time the dinner hour arrives, we’re at a nutritional deficit that not only affects what we eat for that meal, but can also lead to poor sleep habits, late night snacking, and repeating the same thing the next day.
  • Breakfast is a Source of Key Nutrients
    While there are tons of commercially available vitamins and supplements to help boost our nutrition, the food we eat remains the best source of essential vitamins (A, B, E, D, and K) as well as calcium, iron, and fiber (no, it’s not just found in leafy greens, though those are also important.) Common breakfast foods like eggs, hot cereals,. Greek yogurt, berries, and the ever-popular avocado toast are loaded with all of those essential nutrients. Wouldn’t you rather have something you can savor and enjoy, rather than getting all of your nutrition in capsule form? I know I would!
  • Breakfast Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight
    While our  size is not a measure of our abilities as caregivers or our worth as people, maintaining a healthy weight makes some of our more physical responsibilities easier. It’s also better for our own bodies – our spines, joints, hearts, and liver, are all more robust when we are less heavy. When we eat breakfast, we don’t go into the day feeling hungry and sluggish because our bellies are empty, and our blood sugar is low. Starting the day with a healthy meal helps us fight cravings, resist the urge for larger portions, and choose healthy food options all day.

The bottom line is that as caregivers, we’re responsible for other people, but we can’t give our best if we don’t care for ourselves, as well. Eating breakfast is part of the intentional self-care we talk about so frequently here.

It’s commonly believed that it takes twenty-one days to start a habit, so as we move into fall, and face down the demands of school schedules, cold weather, and the holiday seasons, let’s challenge ourselves to eat breakfast. For the next twenty-one days, eat healthy food before you have your morning coffee.

I’m challenging myself to do the same.

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