How Your Morning Coffee Could Be Sabotaging Your Day

What is coffee trying to compensate for? Find out how this simple change in your morning routine can make your day a whole lot better.

Signs you are drinking too much coffeePhoto: Shutterstock

Skip the coffee and start eating breakfast (even if you’re not a breakfast person)

Wish you could start eating breakfast but always resort to that same old cup of coffee to fuel your mornings?

There is no meal harder for me to stomach than breakfast. There. I admit it. While nutrition experts urge us to eat when we get up and my own family members eagerly munch bowls of cereal and buttered toast, I’ve never willingly taken part. Instead, you’ll find me sipping my mug of coffee, or when I was a kid, my glass of juice.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one skipping breakfast because of lack of appetite. “When you wake up in the morning, your stomach is empty and it hasn’t quite woken up either,” says Calgary-based registered dietitian Gillian Proctor-Ronald. However, as I have always known, avoiding breakfast is not a healthy habit. Just because you’re not starving with morning hunger doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat something.

Stop relying on coffee

For years, Proctor-Ronald didn’t enjoy eating breakfast, even going so far as to call herself an “anti-breakfast” person.

Even today, she can’t eat just after she gets out of bed. “Eating right when I get up still makes me feel nauseous, so I wait until I’ve showered and gotten myself together for the day,” she says.

“But I will have something to eat before I start my workday, regardless if it is at home right before I leave or something I’ve packed in my bag once I get to work.”

But many non-breakfast eaters rely on coffee to give them energy.

“My clients who don’t enjoy eating breakfast tell me that coffee gives them all the energy they need in the hours before lunch. The problem with this is that coffee is calorie-free, therefore it does not provide any energy,” she says, which fairly accurately sums up my eating, or rather, non-eating habits.

How to get in the mood for food so you can start eating breakfast

To get your sluggish morning metabolism revved up, drink a big glass of water with a lemon wedge before you brush your teeth or hop in the shower, Proctor-Ronald suggests. “This gets your system churning.”

If that doesn’t do the trick, at the very least try to “put something in your stomach,” as your mom has probably said to you at least a few times.

It’s crucial that your body get some sort of energy, even if it is in liquid form, such as orange juice. “Your body uses glucose to fuel itself, so have half a cup of calcium-fortified orange juice before you get behind the wheel,” Proctor-Ronald advocates.

For me, a turning point came when I realized I wasn’t hungry for the common breakfast foods in Canada.

Breakfast staples like eggs, cereal, milk, toast and porridge aren’t foods I crave at any time of the day, let alone when I haven’t yet worked up an appetite.

A revelation came when a friend suggested I make her version of breakfast quesadillas, which consist of a swipe of low-fat refried beans and a sprinkle of good-quality cheddar on a whole-wheat tortilla. Fold in half, pan-warm until the cheese melts for five minutes total and presto, my Mexican-influenced breakfast was ready.

All of a sudden, I was craving these when I woke up each morning and even looking forward to them the night before.

“Once you get into the habit of fuelling up in the morning, your body will start to crave it, and your caloric intake at night-time should decrease because your body expects it will be refueled after rest,” Proctor-Ronald says. It’s true, my nighttime chocolate ice cream and potato chip cravings lessened.

The best foods to help you start eating breakfast

There aren’t many balanced breakfasts that come together faster than pouring out cereal, adding a handful of fruit and nuts on top and splashing milk over it. But if you just aren’t in the mood right away, eat it once you get to work, or fill your cereal bowl the night before so when you see it, your stomach might want it in the morning.

Or rethink what you’re eating. When I wrote the Best Health story “Breakfast rituals from around the world,” I was enthused to try Middle-Eastern-style spreads that included flat bread, hummus, nuts and fruit along with my morning coffee.

“The best thing to eat is a combination of protein and carbohydrate for maximum energy. It doesn’t have to be ‘breakfast food’ at all,” Proctor-Ronald says. Food is still food, and if it’s healthy leftovers that were good for you at dinner, it’s still good food at breakfast.

“Your stomach isn’t that picky when it’s empty. If you want to eat cold vegetable pizza or the leftover roast beef and asparagus, go for it,” she says.

However, this isn’t carte blanche to start eating cookies, pastries or even the processed breakfast foods that are thinly disguised sugary treats.

The last thing you should choose is a sugary coffee, donut, or sugar cereal,” Proctor-Ronald says. “The processed white sugar will shoot up your blood glucose too quickly, insulin will quickly mobilize it to storage. You’ll get a sugar high and then an energy slump.” Even though the energy from your sugary pastry is stored in your liver, your blood sugar will drop and you will crave more sugar, setting yourself up for this pattern all day long, she explains.

Why it might take you a while to get in the breakfast groove

It may take you more than a few tries to actually start eating breakfast every morning, so don’t get discouraged. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I may never be a fast runner, a good singer, an early bird or an 8 a.m. breakfast lover. Scrambled eggs and toast with jam will probably not be my morning food of choice, ever. However, like running, singing or getting up earlier, eating breakfast is something I (and you) can work on getting better at.

“I never used to eat breakfast either,” another friend recently admitted, “but there’s nowhere to buy food around my workplace. So I just started training myself to eat, and eventually I did get hungry before I left for work.”

I admit I still don’t eat breakfast every day, but I’m trying to remember that my body wants me to fuel up, even if my mind doesn’t.

Want some more ideas to help you start eating breakfast? Check out 30 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas That Are Super Healthy.