Heard the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? This piece of dieting advice is one you can afford to hear a hundred times more. Eating a healthy breakfast not only settles your morning stomach rumbles, it provides you with energy for the whole day, and actually helps you make wiser health choices later on.
If you often make the excuses, “I’m not hungry in the morning,” or “I don’t have time for breakfast,” for every excuse you’ve ever served up, we’ve got a way to unexcuse you!
Why is breakfast so important?
“Breakfast” literally means “the meal that breaks the fast”. It’s considered the most important meal as it determines your eating choices for the rest of the day – and ultimately dictates your total calorie intake. Starting the day with a well-balanced meal that supplies adequate protein, carbohydrates, fats and fibre keeps those nasty hunger pangs at bay and allows you to make wise choices for your following meals.
Research shows that calories consumed early on in the day were more satiating than the same amount of calories eaten later in the day, and therefore eating a good-quality breakfast led to less overall calorie consumption. Following this, eating breakfast has also been shown to help with weight control.
Breakfast is an ideal time to get your healthy dose of daily fibre in the form of wholegrain bread or wholegrain breakfast cereals. Unless fibre is included at breakfast, it can be very difficult to reach your daily fibre quota of 25-35 grams (for adults).
Surprisingly, your mental health also benefits from eating breakfast, particularly when it contains wholegrains. A good breakfast provides the boost in blood sugar required for formulating the memory-boosting neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Children, in particular, need a good breakfast to help them function well and concentrate at school. Research has shown that children who eat breakfast have better school attendance and grades than those who don’t.
No more excuses
Despite the evidence showing how important it is, so many people remain reluctant to make breakfast a part of their routine, often ysing the excuse that they’re too busy or not hungry. But even the best defenses against eating breakfast can be busted.
I’m not hungry in the morning. If you just can’t stomach the thought of breakfast first thing in the morning, organise yourself so that you can eat breakfast later on, or at work when your body has had more time to wake up. If it seems an impossible task to eat a whole breakfast in one sitting, try spreading it out over a couple of hours. Eating large dinners or late night snacks can also reduce your desire for breakfast, so try to avoid this habit. Getting up an hour before you eat and doing some exercise will also increase your appetite in the mornings.
The bottom line is, even if you don’t feel hungry, you should still eat something healthy and satiating for breakfast. Remember people who don’t eat breakfast wind up relying on caffeine and/or mid-morning sugary or fatty snacks to make it to their next meal. Although these foods provide a small boost in energy, they are void of essential nutrients – nutrients you should be obtaining in your breakfast.
I’ll be hungrier, eat more, and gain weight if I eat breakfast. Some people find eating breakfast makes them feel hungrier, rather than fuller. If this sounds like you, it’s highly likely you’re just eating the wrong breakfast foods. Sugary cereals, white bread, and pastries can lead to blood sugar crashes and cravings within hours of eating.
However, eating a balanced breakfast should help reduce the 10am recurring hunger pains. Including a source of protein in your breakfast (such as yoghurt, eggs or cottage cheese), with a moderate amount of carbohydrates and fibre means you’ll feel satiated for longer, and you’re far less likely to suffer from mid-morning slumps and cravings. A well-rounded breakfast helps you eat sensibly for the rest of the day, leading to better weight control and a healthier body.
I don’t have time. This excuse is easily busted; breakfast doesn’t have to be gourmet production. A simple breakfast of low-fat cheese, fruit and wholegrain toast is just one example of a simple, fast and easy option. Hard-boiled eggs and protein smoothies also provide breakfast in minutes. And if you don’t even have time for these, fresh fruit, a handful of raw nuts and a tub of yoghurt make an excellent breakfast that can easily be eaten on-the-run.
I don’t like breakfast foods. Where is it written in stone that breakfast can only consist of bacon, eggs and toast? If you don’t like typical breakfast foods, be original! Try leftovers, soup, a sandwich, fruit or lean meats in the morning. Many cultures serve rice and vegetables as a breakfast meal – and it’s a great idea. Keeping foods simple in the morning is also easier on the stomach, since your body has been fasting during the night.
Breakfast foods are too high in fat. It’s true that many typical breakfasts are laden with fat, but they don’t need to be. A high fat meal such as fried eggs, bacon, sausages, buttered toast, and full cream milk can easily be converted to a lower fat alternative with a few simple swaps. Try poached eggs, lean bacon, low-fat or meatless sausages, toast with a small amount of low-calorie jam and no butter, and skim milk – even die-hard breakfast lovers will still be satisfied!
Breakfast foods are high in carbohydrates. Guess what…carbs aren’t the enemy, they provide essential energy to fuel your body for the day ahead, and are actually your brain’s preferred source of energy, so it’s critical to include them in your diet. It’s actually a great idea to include complex carbohydrates in your breakfast, choosing those with lower glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL).
The carbohydrates in sugary cereals are the ones you want to avoid. Cereals can be low in fibre and full of sugar (up to 65% of calories can come from added sugar). Children’s cereals are often the biggest culprits, but many “adult” cereals are high in sugar too. Avoid high sugar cereals by reading the ingredients – the first three ingredients are those in highest proportion.
Generally speaking, when you do include carbohydrates, choose wholegrain foods and fresh fruit and vegetables over simple carbohydrates and fruit juice. Complex carbohydrates, along with lean proteins, will provide you with a good source of energy for the whole morning.
Now your excuses have been kicked to the curb, what are you going to eat for breakfast? Here are a few ideas to get you started. You can also find more great ideas in our Recipes section.
- High-fibre cereal with skim milk, low-fat yoghurt and sliced fruit
- Wholegrain or wholemeal toast with peanut butter (or other nut spread, such as cashew butter)
- Porridge topped with sultanas and banana
- Toasted English muffin or bread roll with low-fat cream cheese, tomato and cucumber
- Low-fat cheese with crackers and a piece of fresh fruit
- Rice cakes with sliced banana and peanut butter
- Homemade bran and fruit muffins
- Tofu and rice