We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and in many ways, it is. Whether you have breakfast as soon as you get up or after your morning workout, the first meal you eat sets you up for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, only a third of Americans eat breakfast on a regular basis, many citing time as the biggest challenge.
Breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated. With some planning you can be grabbing something and heading out the door. So whether it is a smoothie, a muffin that you can toss in your bag, or if you have time, a stack of pancakes, there should be no excuse to skipping this meal.
1. Balance insulin levels and helps maintain weight
Breaking your fast first thing in the morning sends a message to your body; it’s the wake-up call for your metabolism and other body functions to kick in. When you skip breakfast, prolonged fasting occurs, which increases the body’s insulin response to store fat. Eat more in the morning to keep insulin levels stable, so you burn fat instead of storing it.
2. Helps get your fruit and vegetable quota
Try to incorporate different types of food into breakfast to ensure a balance of nutrients – aim for a mixture of protein, carbs and healthy fats. This will optimize the amount of vitamins and minerals you get. Breakfast is also an opportunity to start working on the 2 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables that are recommended.
3. Boosts brain health
Eating breakfast can be crucial for firing up the brain, resulting in better concentration and productivity throughout the day. Plus, it turns out we also make better choices on a full stomach. By fueling up early, we stay fuller longer and react smarter when hunger strikes again later in the day. It’s easier to reach for junky, sugary quick fixes on an empty stomach.
This is especially important in children and adolescents. Research has shown that eating a healthy breakfast helps with attention span, concentration and memory.
4. Heart healthy
A full stomach also makes for a happy heart. One study from the American Heart Association showed that skipping breakfast increased the risk of heart attack and coronary disease as well as obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
5. So many options
Eating well does take some effort. But with some planning and some prep the night before, there really should be no excuse. Many recipes can be prepared on weekends, then portioned and frozen for fast grab-and-go breakfasts on weekdays. Of course, there will be mornings when you just need a reliable quick fix that doesn’t require cooking.
Here are some speedy and healthy ideas.
• Cereal: Keep pouches of instant oatmeal or a box of grainy cereal at the office – something to which you can just add water or milk. To increase fiber, top with a handful of raspberries; 1 cup of raspberries delivers 8 g of fiber and you are 1/3 of the way to meeting your fruit and veggie needs.
• Hard-boiled eggs: I always keep a few hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. Eggs are rich in protein that contain the highest biological value and are also a non-meat source of vitamin B12. Plus, when eaten in conjunction with a healthy diet, they can aid in weight loss. In a study cited in the International Journal of Obesity, participants on reduced-calorie diets ate either two eggs or a bagel for breakfast. Although both meals contained the same number of calories, those who ate eggs lost 65% more weight after 8 weeks.
• Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt has almost double the amount of protein found in regular yogurt. A 6-oz container packs about 18 grams of low-fat protein. Mix in some almonds or walnuts and a fiber-rich fruit.
Photo from here, with thanks.