By Pamela Redwine
“No time,” “nothing to eat,” “woke up too late,” and “on a diet”; people give many reasons for breakfast skipping or skimping. Despite its benefits, breakfast may be the most neglected and skipped meal of the day. Some blame their body clock for not feeling hungry when they wake up. The excuse “not hungry” may instead be stress; stress hormones can affect hunger cues. With today’s hectic lifestyles, others come up short on time and energy first thing in the morning. Some falsely believe that skipping breakfast is effective for weight control.
Yet breakfast is the healthful way to start the day. More than forty years of breakfast-related studies show that breakfast benefits children, teens and adults.
Breakfast is your body’s early morning refueling stop. After 8 to 12 hours without a meal or snack, your body needs to replenish its glucose (blood sugar) with a new supply of food. The brain needs a fresh supply of glucose, its main energy source, because it has not stored reserves. Sustained mental work – in school or at work – requires a large turnover of glucose in the brain. Your muscles also need a replenished blood glucose supply for physical activity – even walking to the water fountain.
Are you a breakfast skipper, skimper, or eater? According to research, breakfast skippers often feel tired, irritable, or restless in the morning. On the flip side, breakfast eating has been associated with better attitudes toward work or school and higher productivity in the late morning, as well as better ability to handle tasks that require memory. Breakfast eaters concentration and problem-solving ability. What about breakfast skimpers? Eating even small food amounts helps restore glucose stores.
Often, meal skipping leads to missed nutrients. If you have to skip a meal, try to make up what you missed in other meals or with snacks. Breakfast contributes to your food-group goals, too. Eating breakfast also gives you a jump start on fitting enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your day. Orange juice for breakfast offers more than vitamin C; it’s also a good source of potassium. Whole-grain and other fiber-rich cereals and breads can boost your fiber-and folate intake.
Even if you are committed to eating breakfast, consider this: what you choose for breakfast can make a difference in your energy level for the morning. When a breakfast consists mostly of sugary foods, such as fruit, fruit juice, candy, or soda pops, a quick rise in your blood sugar occurs, causing a surge in energy. After about an hour, blood sugar and energy declines, bringing on symptoms of hunger.
With a varied breakfast of foods containing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, a sustained release of energy occurs. This delays hunger symptoms for several hours and helps maintain blood sugar levels.
For you or for children, every excuse or apparent breakfast barrier has a solution! If you have kids, you’re their best role model. Children who see their parents eat breakfast are more likely to eat breakfast, too.
Here are some “One-Minute” Breakfasts – each is packed with nutrients from three or more food groups.
• Ready-to-eat cereal topped with sliced banana, sunflower seeds, and yogurt
• Bran muffin and yogurt topped with berries.
• Peanut butter or hummus on whole-wheat toast or soft tortilla and milk
• Cheese or lean meat pizza slice and orange juice
• Instant oatmeal topped with dried cranberries and grated cheese
• Breakfast smoothie (milk, fruit, and bran, whirled in a blender)
• Toasted whole-wheat waffle topped with fruit, nuts and ricotta cheese
• Granola topped with canned peaches and yogurt
• Whole-grain bagel topped with fruit chutney, baby carrots, and milk
• Heated leftover rice with chopped apples, nuts and cinnamon and fruit juice.
• Breakfast wrap with cut-up or canned fruit and yogurt cheese, rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla, and chocolate milk.
Remember, breakfast can be any food you like, even a slice of pizza, chicken or lean beef sandwich or soup. It may take a few days for your body to adjust to eating breakfast. In the long run, you’ll likely eat fewer calories over the day because you’ll be less likely to overeat at other meals.