If breakfast is considered to be the most important meal of the day, why is it the meal most often skipped? Breakfast means “breaking the fast” from the last meal eaten the previous day. Daily (or more accurately, nightly) fasting is an important period of elimination and cleansing. Nutrients eaten the previous day are assimilated and their waste products removed. During the overnight fast, however, blood sugar levels drop. Breakfast refuels blood glucose levels after several hours without food. Glucose is the body’s main energy source and is required to fuel the brain and muscles. Diabetics especially should eat soon after waking to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels.
If you have not yet come to appreciate the benefits of a healthy, well-balanced meal eaten early in your day, here’s some food for thought. Breakfast improves concentration, alertness and energy. Adults who skip breakfast have slower reaction times, are more accident-prone, and generally feel more fatigued throughout the day. Children who eat breakfast concentrate better in school and perform better on tests. Children who skip breakfast tend to be more hyper, disruptive in the classroom, and have decreased problem-solving abilities.
People who eat breakfast are more successful at losing weight and sticking to a diet. A typical day for most people involves a fast breakfast (or no breakfast), a light lunch, and a large dinner with the family. A bottom-heavy day results in a bottom-heavy body. The best way to keep metabolism high is to turn the calories upside down. Eating breakfast can raise metabolism by as much as 10 percent! A bigger meal in the morning and a lighter meal at night uses up the calories eaten throughout the day and optimizes your energy levels. People who skip breakfast are more likely to eat unhealthy snacks, experience cravings and are more prone to binges. If we remember the purpose of food is to feed our cells and provide nutrients, it makes sense that we would eat when nutrients are needed the most – during the day, not while at rest in the evening.
There are three main excuses as to why one skips this valuable meal:
1. “I don’t have time”
If mornings are too rushed to prepare a healthy meal, consider making breakfast ahead of time. Protein shakes or smoothies made with protein powder, fruit, and some added fiber are a fast and fantastic way to start the day. Drink your shake on the way to work. Hard boil eggs on a Sunday and refrigerate to eat throughout the week. As a last resort, grab a handful of almonds on your way out the door.
2. “I don’t have an appetite when I wake up”
Eating breakfast before 10 a.m. helps regulate the production of cortisol – a hormone that plays an important role in the metabolic response to stress. Don’t force yourself to eat if you don’t have an appetite. Instead, incorporate a glass of fresh juice or milk/milk alternative into your morning routine and steadily build up to a more substantial meal.
3. “Breakfast makes me hungrier”
What you eat first sets the stage for your appetite and blood sugar levels for the entire day. Start your day with protein and fiber. This combination offers much more appetite control and reduces cravings throughout the day. Hard to believe? Those who brunch on weekends typically won’t eat again until dinner. An egg, some avocado, a tablespoon of nuts or hemp seeds in your fiber-rich cereal, or some yogurt (not fat-free) should do the trick.
Building a balanced breakfast
Breakfast should provide at least 25 percent of your day’s calories. Here are some great ideas:
- Whole-grain cereal topped with fruit and ½ cup of yogurt (gluten-free cereal is even better).
- Hot cereal (like quinoa or oatmeal) topped with a flavorful spice (nutmeg or cinnamon). Stir in a scoop of protein powder.
- Buckwheat waffles topped with peanut butter or fruit and a hard boiled egg on the side.
- Vegetable omelet.
- Breakfast smoothie (protein powder or yogurt, fruit, and some energizing spirulina).
- Nut butter on spelt toast with fresh fruit (banana or apple wedges).
- Half of a whole-grain bagel with smoked salmon and tomato.
- A whole-grain pita stuffed with a scrambled egg.
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