Dear Timaree: I can’t believe that school has started already! Do you have any tips to share to help our family enjoy better health as life seems to be busier than ever?
If your family is anything like ours, life has been crazy and the start of the school year has snuck up on us! So, how do we “hit the pause button” and begin this school year on the right foot?
Start will a very simple, but extremely powerful change that can monumentally improve your quality of life: set morning alarms for everyone in the family 15 minutes earlier! You may think that I am overreacting, but see this through… We have all had mornings when we run late, but when you start off in a rush, you can end up “paying for it” all day long!
Whether you are racing to get the kids off to school or yourself to work or a meeting, cell-damaging stress hormones flood your system, patience is immediately in short supply and many of the healthful habits, like enjoying a balanced breakfast, (or any breakfast for that matter), or packing a lunch, often fly out the window. While some seem to be holding it together quite well, operating in “crisis response mode” most of the time, a few extra minutes could be the difference between skipping breakfast, inhaling a Pop Tart, or enjoying a homemade “break-wich” (see recipe ideas below)!
While those extra minutes are yours to do with as you wish, if your breakfast routine could use some help, you might want to start there. After an extended “fast” overnight, our bodies will respond best when properly fueled in the morning. This one little change in your alarm setting can give you the time needed to eat a nutritious breakfast in a relaxed manner, which supports optimal digestion and absorption, growth (especially for children/pregnancy), improved concentration and productivity and a more positive mood/outlook (hunger = irritability!). A good mix of carbs, protein and fat will leave you feeling satisfied longer, and able to focus on tasks at hand, rather than be preoccupied by a low blood sugar-related headache or temptations for crummy snacks! When your body has the fuel it needs, you may be surprised how different you feel! Research shows that it takes most of us 21 days to turn an action into a habit, so all I ask is that you set the alarms 15 minutes earlier (a mere 1% of your day), at least until my September article is published, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised…
Extra tip: To optimize your time in the morning, doing a small amount of advanced preparation (which can be delegated to family members of all ages) can go a long way. A 4 year old can set out breakfast napkins and silverware, an older child can fill snack bags full of crunchy veggies for lunches, while a teenager or adult may assemble breakfast plates.
Note: Some of you may resist my breakfast suggestions, as you may have succesfully “trained” yourself to “get by” without any breakfast, but may not realize how productive you could be and how good you could feel! Start small, with a few bites of something that you enjoy (it does NOT have to be a “breakfast” food). Just be consistent and see how you feel after 21 days…
While you don’t have to get fancy in the morning, you can get a balanced source of fuel by mixing and matching ingredients below to make your own “Speedy Break-wiches”:
Any whole grain “bread” of your choice, toasted: English muffin, sandwich thin, pita, bagel, sliced bread
Nut butter: peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter… OR
Soy, Almond or Coconut yogurt or silken tofu blended with cinnamon, a splash of maple syrup and citrus zest
Berries (of any kind) or sliced fresh fruit: bananas, nectarines, cantaloupe, plums, apples, pears, mango…
Spread the nut butter, yogurt or tofu mixture on the toasted bread and top with the fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Cook Smart, Eat Smart Tip
You can even go the savory route with the “Break-wich” and use hummus or other bean spread and shredded carrot and cucumber with halved cherry tomatoes in place of the fruit, and a sprinkle of fresh parsley for a boost of antioxidant power!
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.