Studies time and time again report that breakfast “is the most important meal of the day,” because it fuels the body, increases levels of concentration and memory, boosts metabolism and so on.
Don’t believe the experts? Try this little experiment: eat a chocolate-covered glazed donut at 8 a.m. with your morning coffee, and then clock your hunger and energy levels at 11 a.m. The next day, mix 1 cup of oatmeal with 1/2 cup of skim milk, and sprinkle 1/4 cup of mixed berries on top. Feel less hungry than the day before and ready to tackle that financial report near lunchtime?
Yeah, thought so.
Claire LeBrun, M.P.H., R.D., L.D., senior nutritionist at George Washington's Medical Faculty Associates, explains that the most important aspects of eating breakfast are twofold. First, breakfast sets the stage in regulating the portions eaten for later meals, like lunch. Second, noshing on morningtime foods -- like whole grain cereal, oatmeal and granola -- nourish and fuel the body for the day’s activities.
“It’s a great time to insert a healthy meal of whole grains,” she said.
Tired of your morning Wheaties, you say? Then mix it up. LeBrun recommends low-fat, low-sugar dairy products including lite yogurt, part skim or low-fat cheeses and skim or 1 percent milk. A hard boiled or poached egg, two slices of turkey bacon and 1 to 2 ounces of smoked fish are also sources of lean protein that will curb any early-morning hunger craving.
“Having lean protein at breakfast is helpful for those who feel like their breakfast does not hold them until lunch and is also important to help diabetics control their blood sugar,” said LeBrun.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences of the University of Florida suggests incorporating milk, fruit and grains into each breakfast meal to obtain a full serving of nutrients. Additionally, when choosing cereals and breakfast bars, skip the ones high in sugar, calories and fat.
Love your chocolate covered cereal, mixed with those cute little pastel marshmallows? Well, it’s probably nutritionally similar to candy -- just masked behind the carton of a cereal box. Instead, grab a box of cereal that has 3 grams or more of dietary fiber, less than 3 grams of fat and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving.
Here are LeBrun’s suggestions for breakfast options, each around 200 to 300 calories:
- 4 ounces of low-fat cottage cheese with 1/4 cup of fresh berries
- 1 cup of lite yogurt or 1 cup of low-fat plain Greek yogurt (higher protein value than plain) with 1/4 cup of fruit and/or whole grain cereal
- 1 to 2 eggs poached, boiled, over-easy or scrambled with one slice of whole grain toast
- 1/2 of a peanut butter and banana sandwich
- 1 cup of instant oatmeal mixed with 1/2 cup skim milk paired with 2 tablespoons of nuts or 1/4 cup of berries
- 1 slice of whole wheat toast with 1 to 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 1 whole grain waffle with peanut or soy nut butter
- 1 to 2 links of lean sausage with one slice of whole grain toast
For all of you breakfast skippers out there, examine your caloric intake of lunch and dinner meals. Are you eating too much or consuming excess starches instead of fruits and veggies? Could you be eating late in the evening or night, a reason why morning hunger never strikes? (Chances are that answers to both of these questions are “yes.”)
If so, then consider tweaking your meal plans so that food consumption, and thereby energy, is proportioned evenly throughout the day.
“It’s best to start keeping records and find ways to reduce the meals you normally do eat to help increase the appetite for breakfast and snacks as needed,” LeBrun said.
Finally, if you’re still skeptical of the thought of breakfast, think of it this way: the majority of us are all overworked, overstressed and, well, overtired. Maybe you can’t tell your boss that you don’t feel like working on the latest report or that you need two more hours to sleep in. That being said, compensate for the over-everything by simply giving your body more energy: eat breakfast, and take a bite out of your morning.