Growing up, we've all heard the saying – "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." Famous sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein went so far as to say, "one should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast." And he couldn't be more right. A healthy breakfast doesn't just provide you energy to seize the day, it jumpstarts your metabolism, balances blood sugar levels, assists in weight management, even promotes heart health and improves cognitive function.
Why skipping breakfast is a bad idea?
According to a survey conducted by Food Insight, over 90% of Americans agree that it's the most important meal of the day, and yet a mere 44% eat breakfast every day. Full disclosure, I was a notorious breakfast-skipper myself till I finished college. It took me a full-blown burnout to realize how crucial it is to have your morning meal.
Skipping breakfast can lead to an array of health problems including stress, fatigue and increased susceptibility to obesity and diabetes.
" Missing your morning meal confuses your hunger hormones, setting you up to overeat later on in the day. A lot of people feel ravenous before bedtime just because they haven't eaten enough earlier in the day and their body is trying to make up for it," says Kim Larson, Seattle-based dietitian, nutritionist and founder of Total Health.
In addition, ditching breakfast frequently hampers your focus, alertness and productivity. Over time, it also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and nutrient deficiencies.
What makes a nutritious breakfast?
Note that in order to reap the benefits of eating breakfast, you must ensure what you're putting in your body is both filling and healthy.
Loading up on sugar-loaded cereal, frozen waffles or breakfast bars doesn't constitute a nutritious breakfast. Even store-bought fruit juice and smoothies and non-fat yogurt are a big no-no.
"A nutritious breakfast may look different to different people depending on various factors like your weight, gender and food preferences," says Larson. "Overall, I think being consistent with choosing foods that add essential nutrients, such as protein, fiber, vitamins and of course, some healthy fats, to your diet is important for breakfast," she explains.
"Keeping balance in mind and trying to have a serving from at least three or even four different food groups in your breakfast meal is a great way to start your day," suggests the health and wellness coach.
So, when should you have breakfast?
When it comes to a healthy diet, when you're having your meal is as important as what you're eating.
The best time to have breakfast is within two hours of getting up. "The sooner you eat breakfast after you wake up, the better it is for your metabolism," says Larson.
If you hit the gym in the AM, it's best to have a light meal like a banana or an avocado toast 20-30 minutes before workout. However, if you feel your body is able to perform better in a fasted state, you can have breakfast after the sweat sesh.
How to eat healthy, even on busy mornings:
Most often, breakfast becomes the first casualty of the morning rush. But it doesn't have to be this way. Try these simple strategies to eat healthy in the morning, even when you're in hurry:
- Keep it simple: Keeping it simple is the best way to eat a healthy breakfast even when you don't have the time or energy to make it! Go for easy options such as whole grain cereal with low-fat milk, oatmeal and walnuts, hard-boiled eggs or chopped apple with a sprinkle of cinnamon, suggests Larson. Also, stock up on healthy grab-and-go foods like fresh fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt and homemade granola.
- Pre-plan your meal: Do the meal preparation a night before to save time in the morning. For instance, soak oats overnight, prepare and refrigerate yogurt parfait or your favorite smoothie before going to bed. Always keep a small batch of chopped fruit and veggies to put together an instant salad. "I love to make healthy muffins and store them in the freezer so I can take one out anytime. I eat it along with some cottage cheese for a protein hit and round it all out with a glass of orange juice or tart cherry juice," says Larson. "I also make a big batch of home-made muesli every week that I can enjoy with yogurt or just plain milk," adds the nutritionist.
- Prepare in bulk: Whip up breakfast foods of your choice in bulk during the weekend and store them in a freezer for the week ahead. For example, make a batch of breakfast muffins, burritos or breakfast squares on a Sunday and keep it in the refrigerator. You can also store batches of cooked beans, lentils and chicken for easy-to-make tacos, salads and sandwiches.
- Swap it out: Opt for healthier ingredients to make your morning meals even more nutritious. For instance, use peanut butter instead of butter, jam or margarine. Swap regular bacon with low-fat turkey bacon and white bread with its whole grain or multi-grain counterpart. Choose homemade smoothies and fruit juice over manufactured ones. Also, make your own trail mix, granola and breakfast bars instead of consuming store-bought options.
- Eat light: One of the most common reasons for people to skip breakfast is that they don't feel hungry in the morning. The key is to have a light, simple dinner so your body is able to digest it overnight, making room for breakfast in the morning. In addition, avoid eating dinner too close to bedtime.
Okay then, brb, going to finish my brekky!