Dietitians have heard all the excuses for not eating breakfast. “I’m just not hungry in the morning….I’ll gain weight if I eat breakfast….I’m so pressed for time….If I eat anything before lunch I’ll just be hungry all day….I don’t like breakfast foods.” If these sound familiar to you, read on. By skipping the most important meal of the day, you could be missing out on some very important benefits.
Breakfast-related studies over a span of 40 years have clearly shown advantages not only for children but for teens and adults as well. Replenishing blood glucose (the brain’s main energy source) is important first thing in the morning. Breakfast skippers are often restless, irritable, and feel tired in the morning. Breakfast fuels the body’s muscles for physical activity throughout the day and brings your body out of “fasting” mode.
You don’t have to eat immediately upon getting out of bed, but strive for consuming at least a small snack within 1-2 hours of rising. It’s a good idea to make lunch your larger meal of the day because metabolism peaks mid-day. Make dinner a reasonable size. You are likely to find that eating breakfast curbs hunger and prevents binges later in the day. People who eat breakfast generally eat fewer calories throughout the day. Researchers at Harvard University found that breakfast-eating adults were 50% less likely to be obese compared to breakfast skippers. Research has shown that the more food eaten during the day, the more quickly you fill up at dinner, also resulting in less hunger during the evening.
Breakfast prepares children for the challenges they face in the classroom. Kids who don’t eat breakfast don’t do as well academically and are tardy more often. Breakfast eaters have improved hand-eye coordination, verbal fluency, higher attendance levels, less tardiness and fewer hunger-related stomach aches in the morning. They solve problems more easily, concentrate better, have better muscle coordination and are less likely to be overweight. Breakfast is essential for children’s health as it gives them a jumpstart on getting their daily requirements of calories, protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
You don’t have to eat traditional breakfast foods to reap the benefits of eating early in the day. A slice of pizza, a grilled cheese sandwich, a smoothie or even leftovers from dinner can break the fast just as well as cereal, yogurt, eggs or pancakes. Try to include a reasonable amount of complex carbohydrate (such as whole grains and whole fruit) and protein (milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs or meat). Even a small amount of fat is alright (trans fat-free margarine, peanut butter, or nuts). The carbohydrate provides fuel, the protein helps maintain your blood sugar throughout the morning and the small amount of fat provides a feeling of fullness.
Adults can help children establish good habits by setting a good example. If you’re finding yourself rushed in the morning, see what you can organize the night before. Laying out clothes, setting the table, getting ingredients together on a small tray in the refrigerator and placing items you need to take to work or school by your front door are all tasks that can be done tonight, saving valuable time in the morning. And there’s one more benefit—sitting down together for breakfast with your loved ones is a great way to start the day. It’s a tradition that just might be carried through the generations.
Breakfast Ideas by the Dozen
Try these quick and easy breakfast ideas:
- Ready to eat whole-grain low-sugar breakfast cereal (6 grams of sugar or less per 1 ounce), fruit and skim or 1% milk.
- Whole-grain toast or graham crackers with a thin layer of peanut butter. Top with bananas.
- Whole-grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese, ricotta cheese or peanut butter.
- Omelets made with egg substitute (or 3-4 egg whites + 1 whole egg) with vegetable or low-fat cheese fillings.
- Grilled cheese sandwich and fruit juice.
- Pancakes (measure out dry ingredients and place in bags, making your own mix) with fruit topping.
- Fruit smoothies (try bananas, frozen strawberries, pineapple juice, yogurt and a touch of vanilla).
- Hot cereal topped with cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg and a few nuts.
- Sugar-free yogurt blended with fresh fruit and granola.
- Sliced hard-cooked eggs stuffed in a whole wheat pita pocket.
- Cheese pizza and fruit juice.
- Breakfast casserole made with egg substitute. Try mixing the ingredients the night before, refrigerate.
The Saladmaster griddles are excellent for making pancakes, grilled cheese and toast. The gourmet skillets make turning omelets easy while the electric skillet is a must-have for cooking the perfect breakfast casserole.
About the author: Janet has been a registered dietitian since 1984 and a Saladmaster® owner since 1995. In 1996 she was awarded the ADA’s "Recognized Young Dietitian" for the state of Oklahoma. In the year 2000, Janet was promoted to Director of Food & Nutrition Services at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa and has recently completed four years of service on the Board of Directors for the National Society for Healthcare Foodservice Management. She lives in Tulsa with her husband and two young children.