We’ve all heard the age-old adage "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day". Breaking the fast caused by sleep is certainly important, but all meals contribute to our overall health and well-being. Why should breakfast get special attention?
Not everyone eats breakfast or even appreciates the value of it, but I speak from personal as well as professional experience when I say that we are better off nutritionally, hormonally, and energetically when we eat within an hour of being awake in the morning. The first meal eaten upon waking sets the stage for your blood sugar, mental clarity, and energy level for the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast ensures that your body and brain will be trying to "play catch up" with each meal that ensues. Eating breakfast gives one the potential of starting their day off with balanced blood sugar and nutrients to get through the morning. So why doesn’t everyone eat breakfast?
Our clever minds can always come up with reasons why we aren't doing something that we know we should be doing. Here are some of the common excuses for not eating breakfast and some arguments against them:
Excuse 1: "I'm not hungry in the morning; I just eat a big lunch."
Whether you are hungry or not, when you awake, you will be expending more energy and your body will require fuel to keep its blood sugar from plummeting halfway through your morning and skyrocketing after you eat a large lunch: skipping meals increases your chances of overeating at the next meal. Your body will tell you to eat more at lunch because it thinks it is starving--that is the message you send it when you skip a meal. So skipping breakfast not only interferes with your blood sugar balance, appetite control and energy level, but repeated skipping disrupts your body’s internal communication. At some point in time, your body told you it wanted breakfast. If you have learned to ignore your body's messages for needing food (lack of energy, headache, hunger pains), it will eventually stop sending them. The result, however, will be the same and your body and mind will not be functioning at their optimum.
To get back into touch with your internal communication system, start off slow. Don't expect your appetite to change overnight: it may take awhile.
1) Select something to eat in the morning that sounds good to you (even if it isn't a typical breakfast food).
2) Eat a small amount of whatever food you chose, but don't eat until you're full. If you are unaccustomed to eating in the morning, it may almost make you a little queasy when you are faced with food. The goal here is not to fill your stomach but rather just to get something into your stomach to get your blood sugar off on the right track. I suggest a combination of macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. There is a lot of variation between people on the percentages of each macronutrient on which they thrive, so this will be something to experiment with. For example, some people require little protein in the morning to get them going and feeling great, others need more. Personally, I must have fat and protein with my carbohydrates or my energy plummets shortly after I eat.
3) Listen to your body and try different foods. Keep a list of which ones your body seems to do best with as well as a list of foods it does least best with.
Excuse 2: “I’m fine with just a doughnut or juice.”
I doubt it, but I suppose anything is possible. It is best to aim for foods or food combinations that don’t cause your blood sugar to rise too quickly. In general, carbohydrates (especially rapidly digested carbohydrates like refined grains, starchy vegetables, and certain fruits like dates) raise the blood sugar more quickly when eaten by themselves. Combining them with a fat and/or a protein rich food slows their digestion (and the rise in blood sugar) and leads to a slower versus a dramatic decrease in blood sugar hours after the food is eaten. To learn more about the effect of different foods on your blood sugar, visit: http://www.nutritiondata.com/topics/glycemic-index
Excuse 3: “I’m full from the night before.”
If you truly feel full the morning after, you probably ate too great a portion and are experiencing what some call “a food hangover.” Try to avoid eating foods that you don’t digest well and limit your portions so that you stop eating when you feel satisfied, not stuffed. On occasions where you find overeating unavoidable, still eat breakfast the next morning and choose a smaller portion of something extra healthy. J
While traditional American breakfasts range anywhere from veggie omelettes, pancakes/waffles, toast, oatmeal, cold cereal, etc., one needn't limit their breakfast toolbelt there. In other parts of the world, a balanced breakfast can be anything from a salad, rice, seafood, and pickled vegetables (Japan, Korea), yogurt, cold cereal, bread, cold meats, soft or hard boiled eggs, and cheeses (many European countries), to almost anything you can think of. There are no real rules when it comes to breakfast choices. Use your imagination, test out different foods and see what your kids (and you) like and feel good after eating. Ideally, breakfast will sustain you for at least 2-3 hours and leave you feeling balanced energy-wise. Foods and beverages that cause your blood sugar to rise and then plummet should be avoided (sugary cereals or pastries, overly processed foods, etc.). Instead, try combinations like cottage cheese and cantaloupe, toast with nut butter or egg, or oatmeal with walnuts. For a great cookbook full of good nutritious recipes that is designed for families, please visit: http://www.kidsneedusnow.org/kids_pages/cookbook.htmlRovay-Hazelton is a Licensed CN (Certified Nutritionist) and a Certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant. She works with a wide array of clients at Toadal Fitness. For more information, please visit www.rebecca4fitness.com.