I don’t know about you, but breakfast is my favorite meal. It simply celebrates the start of my day. The first date with my husband was over breakfast. It featured a big, caramelly sticky bun. I was smitten. While sticky buns aren’t my breakfast norm, I do love a good one now and then.
The power and benefit of eating a nourishing breakfast (not just a sticky bun) can’t be disputed. So what’s your breakfast habit? Is breakfast a priority? Breakfast kick starts metabolism and contributes to fueling our bodies with energy and nutrition. The brain needs fuel, especially glucose, to function and maintain mental sharpness. Kids and adults need a balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat to power thinking as well as physical activity. Kids who skip breakfast have difficulty staying focused in class, have behavior problems and more absenteeism. Adults may be less sharp at work.
Breakfast supports a healthy weight. When counseling people about weight loss, people often tell me they seldom eat breakfast. Chances are breakfast was never a priority. Skipping this first meal can be a setup for big hunger. It’s easy to eat too much when overly hungry close when you finally do eat. Slipping into the mindset of “calorie compensation” tricks you into thinking I didn’t eat breakfast so I can have dessert or a big lunch. Nutrition research shows people who eat breakfast are more successful losing weight and maintaining weight loss.
If you have diabetes, it is especially important to spread food throughout the day, starting with breakfast, to keep a more constant blood glucose level and allow diabetes medications to be more effective.
What you to choose to eat for breakfast makes a difference. If breakfast is a bowl of cold cereal with milk and sugar, reconsider this choice. Carbohydrate foods are digested quickly, leaving you ready for a mid-morning snack and more calories. When protein, like an egg or slice of ham, and a small amount of fat, such as butter or cheese, are part of the meal, digestion is slower and “breakfast” lasts longer. Breakfast also is the perfect opportunity to have a serving of fruit. Starting the day with a little fiber helps establish regularity. You don’t have to eat traditional breakfast foods either. A hearty bowl of soup or sandwich with fruit is just fine even for kids.
Healthy Breakfast Tips
Plan to make breakfast interesting. Go for nutrition density and fewer calories. Fats, like butter, sausage or bacon, are calorie dense, but in small amounts are okay. Pastries with little or no nutritional value may have 500 or 600 calories per whole piece so watch muffins or bagels with cream cheese. You can trade those calories for high fiber choices, like fruit, a slice of cheese or yogurt and two slices of whole wheat toast or oatmeal.
Oatmeal and Fruit. 1 cup of oatmeal, with ½ cup low fat milk, 1 cup of sliced fruit and 1 tablespoon of walnuts is only 410 calories. The milk and nuts provide the protein. The fiber keeps you satisfied longer than if you had a bowl of dry cereal with milk and sugar for the same number of calories.
Waffle-Yogurt Breakfast. 2 multigrain waffles, 1 cup fresh blueberries, 3 tablespoons of light syrup and 1 cup of plain low-fat yogurt. Calories: 470
Breakfast Sandwich. 2 slices of whole wheat bread, light mayonnaise, 1 scrambled egg and 1 or 2 slices of lean ham or cheese or slices of avocado. This is a good grab-and- go sandwich breakfast. Calories: 490
Leftovers. Left over pizza with an over-easy egg is a satisfying treat.
Breakfast/Snack. Hard boiled eggs are 70 calories full of protein and a small amount of fat.
Written by: Mimi Cunningham, MA, RDN, CDCES, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator