A healthy breakfast is perhaps the most important meal of the day. By eating in the morning, you rev up and refuel your body after a night’s sleep, and may even benefit your overall health. Even if you don’t have much of an appetite in the morning, don’t have time or are trying to cut calories, don’t skip breakfast—it’s here that you can lay the foundation for lifelong health benefits. When you eat a healthy breakfast, you take in more vitamins and minerals, less fat and cholesterol, have better concentration and productivity throughout the morning, and are more likely to control your weight and lower cholesterol.
Kids need breakfast even more, according to the American Dietetic Association. When they go without, it can create a lot of behavioral, intellectual and physical problems for them. By the time kids hit adolescence, about 30 percent of teens are missing out on an opportunity to get nutrients that they might otherwise miss during the day by skipping breakfast. Studies show that teens who eat breakfast do better on memory and attention tasks, and girls who had carbohydrate and protein for breakfast did even better. For teens and adults alike, eating berries, fresh on whole grain cereal, or frozen in a smoothie, can help block enzymes that contribute to short-circuiting normal communication between brain cells. Time-pressed? Splashing milk on cereal is not only quick and easy, but offers a boost of 300 IU’s of vitamin D for kids, 20 percent of whom under the age of 12 have a deficiency.
While it seems like you can save calories by not eating breakfast, most nutritionists agree that you will make up the calories later in the day, and probably with not the best food choices. A Harvard study of more than 17,000 men found that men who ate cereal, both refined and whole-grain types, consistently weighed less than those who rarely or never ate cereal. The National Weight Registry, the largest study of the success of individuals, now more than 10,000, who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off, identifies most of them as breakfast eaters, often including whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Choose a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low or nonfat dairy or lactose-free products and lean protein.
Try these quick breakfast ideas from the American Dietetic Association:
- Greek low-fat yogurt with nuts or your favorite crunchy cereal and sliced fruit or berries.
- Oatmeal with milk instead of water. Mix in raisins or dried cranberries and top with chopped walnuts.
- Mix a smoothie made with low-fat milk, frozen berries and a banana.
- Spread a flour tortilla with peanut butter. Add a banana and roll it up.
- Add lean ham and low-fat Swiss cheese to a toasted whole-grain English muffin.
- Spread almond butter on a whole-grain toasted bagel. Top with apple slices.
The value of breakfast
before exercise and carbs
A misconception exists that not eating before a workout burns more fat. An Italian study reported in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed otherwise. Subjects who ate a normal breakfast not only burned more calories as their oxygen consumption went up, but also burned more fat as fuel 12 hours and 24 hours after exercising. Because glucose (carbohydrate) is a preferred energy source of fuel for the body, carbohydrates such as fruits, breads, energy bars or drinks are good choices. As Barbara Rolls, chair of the department of nutritional sciences at Penn State University points out, people who are trying to lose weight don’t need to eliminate an entire food group, such as carbohydrates. Fruits, such as mangos, dried fruit and grapes are carbohydrates but with a lower calorie density than bread or cereal, and all are sources of fiber, minerals and vitamins. And good to go.
Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine health and fitness specialist. Visit her at www.conniearonson.com.