The saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is probably something you’ve heard a hundred times before – and it’s one piece of dieting advice you can afford to hear a hundred times more. Eating a healthy breakfast not only settles your morning stomach rumbles, it empowers you for the whole day.
Of course, if you don’t like to eat breakfast “I’m not hungry in the morning” and “I don’t have time for breakfast” are probably excuses you’ve used a hundred times before. But for every excuse you’ve ever served up, we’ve got a way to unexcuse you!
Why breakfast is so important
Literally “breakfast” means “the meal that breaks the fast”. It’s considered your most important meal because it determines your eating for the rest of the day – and ultimately your total calorie intake. Starting the day with a well-balanced meal that supplies adequate protein, carbohydrate and fibre keeps those nasty hunger pangs at bay and allows you to make wise choices for following meals. In a study published in The American Society of Nutritional Sciences Journal of Nutrition researchers found that calories consumed early on in the day were more satiating than the same amount of calories eaten later in the day and therefore led to less overall calorie consumption. Therefore, eating breakfast also helps with weight control.
Breakfast is also an ideal time to get that healthy dose of fibre in the form of whole-grain bread or whole-grain 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).
Your mental health also benefits from eating breakfast, particularly one that contains wholegrains. A good breakfast provides the blood sugar boost necessary for formulating the memory boosting neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Children in particular need a good breakfast to help them function well and think clearly at school. Research has shown that children who eat breakfast have better school attendance and better grades than those who don’t.
No more excuses
Regular breakfast eaters confirm the benefits of a sound breakfast, and yet a huge percentage of people still play hookey on this most important meal of the day – usually with 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 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 the desire for breakfast, so try to avoid this habit. Another idea is to try getting up an hour before you eat and doing some exercise to increase your morning appetite.
The bottom line is that even if you don’t feel hungry, you should still eat something healthy and satiating. Remember that people who don’t eat breakfast wind up relying on caffeine and/or mid-morning sugary-fatty snacks to make it to the next meal. Although these foods give a little boost in energy, they are void of essential nutrients – nutrients that should be obtained at breakfast.
I’ll be hungrier, eat more, and gain weight if I eat breakfast. Some people find that eating breakfast makes them feel hungrier, rather than fuller. If this sounds like you, it’s highly likely that you’re just eating the wrong sorts of foods. Foods like sugary cereals, white bread, and pastries, can lead to low blood sugar crashes and cravings within hours of eating.
However, eating a balanced breakfast should help to reduce the 10 a.m. recurring hunger pains. Including low-fat protein in the morning (such as yoghurt, egg or cottage cheese) along with a moderate amount of carbohydrate and fibre lengthens satiety, and cuts down on mid-morning slumps and nibbling. 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 simply doesn’t have to be gourmet production. A simple breakfast of low-fat cheese, fruit and whole-grain toast is just one example of a simple, fast and easy meal. Hard-boiled eggs and protein smoothies also provide breakfast in minutes. And if you don’t even have time for that, 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 untypical! 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 generally is easier on the stomach, since the 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 version with a few simple changes. Try poached eggs, lean bacon, low-fat or meatless sausages, toast with a small amount of low-joule jam and no butter, and skim milk – even die-hard full-breakfast eaters will still be satisfied!
Breakfast foods are high in carbohydrates. It’s actually a good idea to include complex carbohydrate foods in your breakfast, selecting from 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 from added sugar). Children’s cereals are often the biggest culprits, but many “adult” cereals are high also. 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 whole-grain foods and fresh fruit over simple carbohydrates and fruit juice. Complex carbohydrates, along with some protein foods, will provide you with a good source of energy for the whole morning.
Now the excuses are dealt with, what are you going to eat for breakfast? Here are just a few ideas. You can also find more great ideas inspired by CalorieKing.com.au members in the article Best Breakfasts.
- High fibre cereal with skim milk, low-fat yoghurt and sliced fruit
- Whole-grain or wholemeal toast with peanut butter (or other nut spread, such as cashew butter)
- Porridge with sultanas and banana added
- 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