An analysis of the breakfast habits of 30,000 American adults sheds light on the role of breakfast in meeting your nutritional needs. The study, which was published in April 2021 in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, suggested that people who skip breakfast are missing out on important nutrients, including folic acid, calcium, iron, and select vitamins. Furthermore, the study found that people who miss out on nutrients at breakfast don’t eat them later in the day.
If you’re one of those Americans who sometimes or always skips breakfast and you have MS, consider trying these quick, easy, and delicious strategies for making breakfast a more regular part of your day—and making sure you meet your daily nutritional needs.
Related: 8 Anti-Inflammatory Foods for MS
What should be included in breakfast?
Breakfast is a great time to include a variety of key daily nutrients:
- complex carbohydrates These nutrients are found in whole grains, beans and legumes, colorful fruits and vegetables. Tip: The developers of the MIND diet specifically identified leafy greens and blueberries as foods that support brain health, which is important for MS.
- proteins You can get your morning protein from eggs, Greek yogurt, milk or soy milk, tofu, tempeh, nuts, nut and seed butters.
- Heart healthy fats Nut butters, avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds are great choices.
- calcium Meet your daily calcium needs by drinking low-fat or skim milk. Tip: If you cut out dairy for any reason, make sure your alternative is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
- Folic acid Start your day by including foods containing folic acid such as green leafy vegetables, cereals fortified with folic acid, wheat germ and orange juice in your breakfast menus.
- iron Fortified breakfast cereals, tofu, quinoa, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach are all sources of iron.
Related: 7 foods you should ask your doctor about when you have MS
Quick and flexible breakfasts that you can try When you have MS
If you have MS, consider serving one of these simple and quick breakfast ideas:
- Smoothie Mix colorful berries, frozen banana slices, leafy greens, Greek yogurt, chia seeds and nut butters, and milk or fortified dairy alternatives.
- All cereal Prepare whole grains such as oatmeal or quinoa with milk, or one part milk and one part water. Serve with berries and walnuts for a flavor and nutrient boost.
- Toast with avocado or guacamole Buying guacamole in single-serve cups, like the one at Wholly Guacamole, will save you time.
- corn chips Dry cereal with low-fat milk is as easy as it gets – but not all breakfast cereals are created equal. Look for products that provide at least 3 grams (g) of fiber and contain less than 6 g of added sugars per serving. Top with colorful berries or sliced fruit for more nutrients.
- Breakfast sandwiches There is more than one way to make a breakfast sandwich:
- Scrambled eggs or tofu with leafy greens, bell peppers, and onions
- Egg salad sandwich or tofu salad sandwich
- Peanut butter and jelly. Tip: When made with whole wheat bread, this old-school favorite is easy to make, travels well, and makes a well-balanced breakfast. And for a change of pace, swap the jelly for banana slices.
If you prefer to start with breakfast, you may want to try a takeaway breakfast:
- Reused leftovers If you like salty foods in the morning, consider repeating last night’s dinner. For example, a baked sweet potato topped with greens and an egg would be a colorful way to start the day. Or if you have leftover salmon, add it to scrambled eggs or scrambled tofu, or add it to a sandwich.
- Pre-made juice bags Add your favorite ingredients to a resealable bag, date, and store in the freezer until it’s time for a smoothie in the morning.
- Mini baked frittatas or egg muffin cups Use the muffin pan to prepare your favorite frittata recipe and enjoy it all week long.
- Breakfast is quesadillas or taco fillings Prepare the fillings for these dishes in advance. You can include eggs, tofu, tempeh, beans, and lots of colorful vegetables.
- Overnight oats There are so many overnight oats recipes out there! Using milk or yogurt to make overnight oats provides a protein boost — and be sure to add fruit, nuts, and seeds for texture, fiber, and more nutrients.
Related: 10 smoothie recipes to boost immunity
Tips for making breakfast easier when you have MS
Although MS symptoms such as fatigue can put a wrench in your plans, these strategies can help prevent them from derailing your morning meal:
Write down 3 to 5 quick and easy breakfasts that you and your family will enjoy
Once you have chosen some fast food, make a list of all the foods required to prepare it. Display your list on the fridge, on a bulletin board, or wherever it’s easy to see. When items are used, add them to your grocery list for replacement to ensure you always have what you need at home.
Simplify breakfast time
Look for breakfast dishes that take 30 minutes or less to make and require very few ingredients. Tip: If you want to use a slow cooker, look for breakfast recipes that benefit from saving time and energy.
Have a backup plan
Life is busy, schedules change, and MS symptoms can pop up and zap your energy when you least expect it—so plan for that by keeping a few foods that require little or no preparation on hand. Meal planning is simply anticipating your needs in advance and strategizing what to do when the inevitable happens. Do your best to keep your backup plan simple.
Related: Healthy eating habits for multiple sclerosis
What research shows about diet and fatigue
It’s hard to explain what it feels like to live with a chronic disease like MS, especially when it comes to symptoms like fatigue. At least 80 percent of people with MS experience fatigue, notes the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and that often means they start the day with less energy, even after a good night’s sleep.
And getting all the nutrients they need to boost energy can be quite a challenge for people with multiple sclerosis, research has indicated. One study, which compared the daily intake of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients in people with MS versus a healthy control group, found that the MS group was deficient in several important nutrients, including folic acid, magnesium and vitamin E.
Although no single diet improves MS symptoms overall, research has shown that a variety of diets can improve fatigue levels in people with MS.
One study that included a controlled trial showed that a low-fat, plant-based diet was associated with a significant improvement in fatigue levels in people with MS. Another study with a controlled trial concluded that the Paleo diet may help reduce fatigue observed in people with MS. Despite this, the number of participants in each study was relatively small.
A larger meta-analysis from 2023 was published in Neurology It found evidence that a few approaches, including the paleo and mediterranean diet, may reduce fatigue and improve quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis. The authors note that the growing body of research on diet and multiple sclerosis would benefit from more large, controlled trials to further solidify the relationship.
While the Paleo and Mediterranean diets differ in the foods they include and exclude, they are similar in advocating higher vegetable intake than the typical American diet, and both focus on whole, unprocessed foods. These are changes that anyone can make, even without following a specific diet.
Related: 7 ways to fight multiple sclerosis fatigue with a fork
Bottom line on breakfast When you have MS
Breakfast is important. It’s an opportunity to fuel your body and support your brain health – and perhaps most importantly for people with multiple sclerosis, a chance to start your day with more energy.
If you find yourself skipping breakfast due to a poor appetite, be sure to share this with your doctor. And if MS creates barriers that make it difficult to navigate your kitchen with ease, consider asking your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist (OT). For any nutrition-related questions, your doctor can refer you to a registered dietitian for help.