Have you been told you should always eat breakfast, and then wonder what is so special about that first meal of the day compared to any other meal? Why all the hype about breakfast?
Breakfast has been shown to have many health benefits, so if you are one of those breakfast haters or always skip the meal because you ‘have no time in the morning’ and just grab a cup of coffee instead, you may want to reconsider. Skipping breakfast on a regular basis could do more harm than good.
Health Benefits of Eating a Healthy Breakfast:
1. Maintains a Healthy Weight – Food is fuel for our bodies, so essentially breakfast is like refueling your body after an overnight fast. During the night, our metabolic rate (rate we use energy) slows down, as we are in a fasting state and our body tries to conserve the energy it has. Now, I’m not telling you that you should eat right before you go to bed and set an alarm during the night to get up and eat. Not at all! Our bodies aren’t using as much energy during the night when we are sleeping, so it is ok to go that period when we are sleeping without food. The problem is when we wake up and then don’t refuel our body for hours. This prolonged fasting period causes our bodies to go into a starvation state to hold onto as much of the energy it has, resulting in a slower metabolic rate and less energy burned throughout the day, even after you do eat. However, if you eat within about an hour of getting up, that refuel not only gives your body increased energy; but also boosts your metabolism resulting in a higher energy expenditure throughout the day.
2. Reduced risk of Developing Chronic Diseases – Along with maintaining a healthy body weight and having more energy to be active, comes decreased risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
3. Improved Memory – Research has shown that eating breakfast helps students concentrate better in class. However, the benefits are beyond just students. Getting the nutrients your body needs is important for memory. Our brain’s preferred source of energy is carbohydrates and during a fasting state carbohydrates are the first energy source that are depleted. Therefore, eating breakfast to break the fasting state provides your brain with energy and has the potential to increase alertness and memory.
However, I should reiterate that when I say to eat breakfast, it is important to eat a quality breakfast. Going and eating a bowl of Fruit Loops every morning is not going to provide you with all these benefits. It is not only important to eat breakfast to give you that energy, but it is important to eat something that is going to leave you satisfied and not lead to overeating.
Two important nutrients to consider with any meal, including breakfast, are protein and fibre. Many breakfast cereals are simple carbohydrates, which cause a spike in your blood glucose levels giving you a boost of energy, but then results in a rapid drop giving you the urge to eat again to give you more energy. However, choosing complex carbohydrates, which includes whole grain breads, oats, and high fibre cereals, and pairing that with a source of protein will help avoid that urge to eat 1 hour after finishing breakfast. This is because the protein and fibre slow down the digestion of the carbohydrate and avoids that spike in your blood glucose. Sources of protein that you could include at breakfast include eggs, nut butters, unsalted nuts or seeds, or yogurt. The options are really endless, there are no foods that are designed only for breakfast. A higher quality breakfast that keeps you full has also been shown to decrease over eating later in the day as well, therefore helping to maintain a healthy body weight.
It is also important to eat a variety of foods, and not eat the same thing everyday as eventually your body gets bored of that food and you will no longer feel satisfied, resulting in over eating. And finally, remember to stay hydrated. Often people feel they are hungry and grab something to eat when in all they really needed was something to drink. It is common for people to mistaken being thirsty with being hungry, so drink water regularly throughout the day.
Healthy Breakfast Ideas:
As promised, I am going to provide you with some suggestions and recipes for healthy breakfast ideas! A lot of these options are convenient and easy to make and are great for those that skip breakfast because they ‘don’t have time to make anything in the morning’.
- Overnight Oats – These can be made the night before and there are countless varieties. Therefore, you don’t have to have the same thing every morning. A few examples include Carrot Cake Overnight Oats (yes these are healthy), Strawberry Banana Oats, Blueberry Oats, Banana, etc. Use your imagination!
- A good base for these are 3/4 cup large flake oats, 1 cup 1% milk, 1 tbsp chia seeds or ground flax seeds, and 1 tbsp nut butter, chopped nuts or yogurt. Then add your choice of fruit or vegetable of the day
- Banana Oatmeal Pancakes are very simple and easy to make. Click the link for the full recipe
- Eggs, whole grain toast, and fruit or vegetables with a glass of milk
- Granola, yogurt, and fruit
- Tip with yogurt – Choose plain low-fat yogurt and add your own fruit or a little honey to sweeten it. The fat in yogurt is saturated fat, which is a type of fat you want to try and limit and flavoured yogurt (even vanilla) has a lot of sugar
- Whole grain toast with nut butter and jam with fruit on the side
- You can also try topping your toast with fresh fruit and nut butter rather than the jam
- Cereal is ok to eat too – I tend to try to avoid it though as I find it doesn’t leave me feeling as satisfied.
- When choosing cereals, try to choose ones with at least 6 grams of fibre per serving and realize how much you are actually eating compared to the serving size on the package.
- Choose a cereal with less than 6 grams sugar per serving
- Try mixing a high fibre cereal with your cereal if it is lower in fibre
These are just a few meal ideas for breakfast, but really the ideas are endless. Just remember those two nutrients – protein and fibre – and try to include at least three of the four food groups to help meet your nutrient needs. I hope this helps and encourages you to try to incorporate breakfast into your daily routine to seek some of these health benefits. If you have any questions or are still struggling to find something that works for you, feel free to contact me!