The Benefits of Breakfast
What did you eat this morning? I hope you did! But I bet many of you out there can’t even remember or skipped it this morning due to lack of time. Well, you are definitely not alone. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, 93% of Americans feel breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but yet those who were surveyed, only half of them ate breakfast regularly. If we know how important it is to start our day off with a healthy breakfast, why are so many of us skipping this meal?
Skipping breakfast affects us all (all ages, female and male). Statistics that show breakfast consumption declines as we get older – the first big hit is at age 15 when life takes on a new meaning (girls skipping them more than boys). For those of us that think it’s not that big of a deal to forgo eating in the morning, think again. Not only will you be hungry and have a lack of energy, but those of us who skip the morning bite have generally poorer eating habits, decreased weight loss, less stable blood sugar levels, and lower nutrient intakes – calcium and fiber being one of the top.
These are some big reasons to begin to change your morning routine. The lack of calories (food) affects your hunger throughout the day, can increase food consumption overall, doesn’t provide the nutrients to help stabilize blood sugar levels (producing those highs and lows – in this case lows if no nutrients are present), and aids in limiting things such as calcium-rich foods that usually are consumed at breakfast time (i.e. dairy sources like milk, soy and yogurt) and high fiber foods (i.e. whole wheat grains, high-fiber cereals, and whole fruits). One of the biggest ones, not eating to promote weight loss, can actually do the opposite and trick your body to hold on to those calories (feast or famine mode). To lose weight – we need to feed our bodies too. According to the National Weight Control Registry, almost eight out of 10 adults who maintained a weight loss of at least 30 pounds for a year ate breakfast every day.
Now that we understand the importance of eating breakfast (no more excuses for this one), what is there to eat? Long goes the days of only eggs and toast (which can be a good pick if you opt for egg whites and whole wheat toast); the goal is to keep it balanced with a good source of protein, carbohydrates and fat (helps too with satiety – fullness) and make healthy choices. Ready-to-eat cereals or yogurt shakes might be quick; but remember to check the ingredients. There are a lot of sugars and unhealthy fats that might be present.
Jump Start Your Nutrition
If you are looking for an ideal breakfast (one that is a pretty healthy pick), include options like whole grains, whole fruit (my pick over fruit juice), low-fat dairy or milk food items, and protein rich foods. Picking one item from each pick below can jump start your nutrition early on:
Whole grain picks: When it comes to picking cereals (ready-to-eat or cooked) and whole grain foods (i.e. whole wheat bread), opt for items that contain greater than 3 grams of fiber per serving, are lower in sugar (make sure it isn’t first on the ingredient list), and contain limited ingredients. Better picks can include oatmeal (unflavored or old fashioned), shredded wheat or bran flake types of cereal, whole grain bread, nutrition bar (balance of protein, carbs and fat – not just heavy on the carbs) and whole wheat pancakes or waffles.
Dairy or dairy alternative rich picks:Dairy rich foods are primary sources of nutrients like calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and protein in our diet. For breakfast, it’s a perfect time to include dairy sources. Dairy or calcium rich servings can include milk, soy products, yogurt, cheese, and green, leafy vegetables (add to omelets). Whether it is a cup of milk, slice of cheese, serving of yogurt (Greek yogurt is a good pick and provides more protein than many commercialized yogurts) – include a dairy or dairy alternative serving.
Fruit picks: This one is easy – pick a fruit (whole) that you like and keep it to about a one cup serving or a piece. Fruit is a natural carbohydrate and can provide fiber to your diet (easy additions include berries and oatmeal or cereal; apple with a cheese stick; or fruit with an egg-white omelets).
Protein picks: Protein picks overlap a bit since dairy items and grains include protein too but if you can add additional sources (i.e. egg whites, peanut butter, lean meats, or soy-meat alternative products); a bit more protein can be added. Peanut butter on whole wheat toast or in a smoothie or a hard-boiled egg is an easy grab.
There is no best breakfast meal (whew…that makes choices easier) so start by mixing and matching a pick each day. Remember at the end of the day (or breakfast in our case), the more nutrition and balance you add, the happier your body will be.
Article By Pamela Ofstein MS, RD, LD/N