We all have different schedules, eating habits and even distinctive interests that may guide our food decisions, like when we eat, what we eat, and how we eat. With busy seasons, hectic mornings or certain ways of eating or dieting, breakfast is usually the first meal to go. But, should we be skipping breakfast, or is it really that important to our health and nutrition?
Breakfast, otherwise known as the first meal you have after waking up to “break the fast,” certainly provides an additional opportunity to meet your nutrient needs and goals throughout the day. Considering that most Americans don’t meet the recommended daily fiber intake, breakfast can be a great first step to reaching that goal.
Some other benefits of breakfast include balancing blood glucose levels and providing sustaining energy and nutrients. Breakfast is also a key opportunity to nurture your metabolism and get it revved up for the day. Furthermore, breakfast offers additional nutrients, like complex carbohydrates, protein, calcium, iron, zinc and antioxidants, which are all important for an overall healthy lifestyle.
Should You Be Skipping Breakfast?
Skipping breakfast may lead to increased hunger throughout the day. While this may not necessarily translate to eating more throughout the day for all people, eating breakfast likely leads to choosing more balanced meals throughout the day and eating at more regular intervals, which can help mood, energy and even circadian rhythm.
The breakfast debate may not necessarily be whether or not to eat breakfast, but instead, aiming for nutrient-dense food choices.
Many of the health benefits provided by breakfast will be dependent on what a person consumes for breakfast. For example, a 2011 study that focused on the impact of breakfast in metabolic and digestive health, found that lower glycemic foods and a higher protein intake at breakfast were associated with higher energy levels throughout the day.
Increased protein intake, especially, is also associated with improved blood glucose response and control, sustained energy levels, longer satiety and better appetite regulation.**
Among children and adolescents, breakfast can also help aid in better behavior in the classroom, improved concentration and focus and increased academic performance. Many of these results may carry over into adulthood, too.
WHAT ARE SOME HEALTHY BREAKFAST OPTIONS?
Now that you understand the importance of what to eat for breakfast, let’s talk about some healthy options.
- Whole grains, which provide protein, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, and B-vitamins
- Lean protein (eggs, nuts, seeds, nut butter, lean meats), which offer protein and several micronutrients
- Low-fat dairy, which provides protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium
- Fruits and vegetables, which offer carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants
So, if you chose a bowl of cereal, opt for yogurt, dairy or soy milk for the protein content. Or, enjoy a veggie-filled omelet with whole wheat toast or a bowl of steamy oatmeal with fruit, nuts and seeds.
While time may be a limiting factor or challenge for those trying to follow a balanced breakfast routine, consider quick, portable options, like hard boiled eggs with fruit, a smoothie with collagen powder, freezer burritos, or these make-ahead breakfast options for busy mornings.
The bottom line is finding an option that works for you and your lifestyle. Check in with yourself and notice, how do you feel after eating a balanced breakfast? You may find that it helps improve your focus, concentration, energy levels and keeps you fuller for longer throughout the day.