Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Like many other bits of grandmotherly wisdom, this old adage bears a nugget of scientific truth. Research shows that breakfast has a greater impact on your metabolism than meals later in the day (such as lunch or dinner) because your system needs to refuel after your nightly fast. Skipping breakfast may lead to unfavorable health issues such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.
The weight loss myth
Many people claim they skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight, but this habit may actually have the opposite effect. Going for too long without eating can tempt you to consume excess calories when you do have access to food. On average, breakfast-skippers tend to weigh more than those who eat in the morning. In addition, 80% of people who lose weight and keep it off for a year or more report that they eat breakfast every day.
Building a better breakfast
The building blocks of the perfect breakfast are simple: fiber-rich foods, whole grains, protein and a smidge of fat. When planning your morning pick-me-up, be on the lookout for fresh fruits, nuts, eggs and even vegetables. Vegetables for breakfast can go a long way (think peppers in your omelet). It is important to be aware that not all breakfast foods are created equal. Many cereals are carb-heavy and loaded with sugar. While these may evoke childhood memories of Saturday morning cartoons, sugary cereal will elevate your blood sugar. An hour or so later, your blood sugar levels will come crashing down, making you feel hungry, tired and maybe even a little bit grumpy. Building a better breakfast full of nutrients will supply your body with a steady source of energy to sustain you for longer.
Reasons to (Not) Skip Breakfast
Despite breakfast’s proven benefits, nearly a quarter of all Americans admit that they don’t eat a morning meal. Here are some of the more common reasons breakfast-skippers start their day on empty and some helpful tips for overcoming these hurdles.
- Reason #1: I don’t have enough time in the morning. Everyone knows mornings can be hectic. To avoid the rush, try putting together something simple the night before, perhaps as you clean up from dinner. You can put sliced fruit in a bag and freeze it overnight. In the morning, throw your frozen fruit into a blender, add a splash of milk and you have a breakfast smoothie in less than three minutes. Don’t have three minutes? A sliced banana paired with a dollop of nut butter can be prepared in 30 seconds and checks all the nutritional boxes.
- Reason #2: I’m not hungry when I get first up. Before embracing this reason, take a look at how your current eating patterns may be contributing to the situation. If you are consuming the bulk of your daily calories after 4:00pm, try shifting to your food intake to earlier in the day, so your body will have gone longer without a meal by the time you wake up. Also, you may want to eat something small before drinking your morning coffee. Caffeine acts as appetite suppressant, so you will be less interested in eating after you’ve had a cup or two.
- Reason #3: I don’t like “breakfast foods.” The good news is breakfast can be anything you want it to be. Leftover lasagna or stir fry from last night’s dinner can be warmed up in the microwave. For another option, you can try a twist on a traditional Italian caprese sandwich by topping a whole wheat English muffin with a slice of fresh mozzarella and some tomato. All the better If you some fresh basil to add. Avocado spread on multigrain toast adds a little jazz to what could be considered a “boring” breakfast food.
So, let’s recap
Eating breakfast every day helps you manage your weight and maintain a healthy metabolism. To keep you satisfied and alert until lunch, build a breakfast that contains fiber, protein, and a little fat. Plus, you don’t need to feel confined to traditional breakfast foods. Your meal can range from dinner left overs to a serving of Greek yogurt and a piece fruit, or a healthy sandwich, as long as it does the job of keeping your body well fueled.