Win with Wellness Tip of the Week!
January 14, 2014
The Importance of Breakfast: Starting Off With Better Nutrition
Eating breakfast gives you a mental advantage. When you start off your day, your body needs fuel. “Glycogen stores start to deplete. If you haven’t had any food, by lunch you’ll start to feel fatigued,” says Kraus, adding that cognitive studies, particularly on children, tell us what happens if you don’t eat — you lose focus and concentration as well as the ability to think and problem-solve.
“Without eating breakfast, you’re more vulnerable to cravings and less likely to make healthy choices in the morning and throughout the day,” says Kraus. That’s a disaster — whether you’re on a diet or just eating for good health.
One study that tracked nearly 10,000 young people from adolescence into their twenties found that not only did skipping breakfast lead to being overweight, but people who missed out on their morning meal also increased their eating at fast food restaurants, and both unhealthy behaviors caused them to gain weight.
The Importance of Breakfast: Focused Thinking
Recent research also suggests that there are advantages to both eating breakfast and choosing certain foods in particular. “Studies have shown that kids do better in school when they’ve eaten a high-fiber, low glycemic index breakfast like oatmeal, rather than a sugary cereal. The same approach should work for adults who go to work early and have to make quick decisions,” says Kraus. “It’s anecdotal, but at lectures, we always say the worst thing to serve attendees in the morning is the typical pastry — it’s only a temporary filler. Couple that with a cup of coffee and you have a big surge of energy, but by midmorning your audience is sluggish or sleeping — everyone bottoms out.”
To make eating breakfast a habit or to give your breakfast a nutrition makeover, rethink your meal. “Breakfast just means breaking the fast; it doesn’t mean you have to eat specific foods. Breakfast food alternatives just don’t come to mind because they weren’t taught to you,” says Kraus. “For sustainable energy, partner high-fiber foods with proteins that promote alertness, like egg whites, turkey, chicken, fish, and lean meats.”
“Breakfast can also be a smoothie, a slice of pizza, or waffles with fruit,” suggests Kraus. “It can be a homemade high-fiber muffin made with added egg whites and milk, nonfat dry milk powder, or whey powder instead of water to embellish the protein content.” Besides hot cereal made with milk, other ideas to try are smoked fish or hummus on whole-grain or rye bread or on half a whole grain bagel.
The Importance of Breakfast: Getting on the Fitness Track
“There’s no right or wrong time to eat breakfast,” says Kraus, who admits that her morning routine has her heading to the gym before breakfast. “I exercise early in the morning and can’t eat beforehand — I have to do it this way because it’s the difference between getting to the gym or not.” However, Kraus says she is quick to refuel afterwards before starting her workday.
“Everything we know tells us that for people to keep themselves going, to keep from craving foods and going off the right track, you have to eat in the morning,” says Kraus. And the words of clients who make the lifestyle change are like music to her ears. “They say, ‘I never was a breakfast person, but now I actually look forward to it. I can’t leave home without having breakfast or bringing it to work.’”
WEB MD has a great tool to help you calculate your breakfast choices: