Why is breakfast important and what should I have?
Tempted to skip breakfast?
You may ask yourself, do we really need to eat breakfast? I’m not hungry when I wake up in the morning. What could be the harm of skipping this first meal of the day?
I know there are mixed reviews on the importance of breakfast and whether or not its a meal that should be consumed daily, so it is my goal to help you understand why breakfast is important and how easy and simple it really can be.
First we are going to understand what breakfast is, why it is important, noting some of the research findings, talk about who is more likely to skip breakfast and lastly I will provide some of my favourite ideas/recipes to help inspire your breakfasts.
What is breakfast?
Breakfast can be defined as the meal that ‘breaks’ the ‘fast’ after a period of time when the body receives no food or fuel. Usually, the morning after we wake from a nights sleep. Everyone has a different idea of what breakfast is, such as type of food and time of day it is consumed. Breakfast foods should be nutrient-dense to ensure sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals are consumed. If you have intolerances or allergies to foods, there are many alternative options to choose from (lactose free dairy or soy products, gluten free breads or cereals, beans or tofu or vegetarian protein sources).
A quality breakfast should include a variety of foods from the different food groups to create balance.
- whole grains: oats, whole grain bread varieties or cereals
- fruit or veggies (aim to choose seasonally)
- a source of protein: eggs, nuts, meat or dairy
Importance of breakfast:
Regular intake of breakfast increases the possibility of a balanced diet, improving the overall nutrition status and nutrient density of foods consumed. It helps boost your energy levels, increases ones attention span and heightens your sense of wellbeing, putting you in better control of your emotions. Breakfast also provides a significant proportion of the day’s energy, protein, vitamin and mineral requirements for the day. For examples, the average breakfast provides up to 18% of ones daily energy and provides up to 40% of ones daily intake for various vitamins, minerals and fibre. Some studies have shown that an equal distribution of energy throughout the day can improve current health status and reduce the risk of future heart disease.
Breakfast frequency is also important as it affects diet quality (specifically content of fibre and saturated fat intake), appetite control and eating behaviours which have important implications for body weight regulation – subsequently reducing appetite and risk of obesity. Breakfast eaters also often eat greater amounts of fibre. These fibre rich foods improve glucose and insulin regulation and lead to increased satiety, also impacting body weight. Research has shown that people who eat breakfast have lower body weight than those who regularly skip breakfast.
Breakfast consumption has been significantly associated with better cognitive function such as concentration, memory and test scores. This is true for both adults and children. Increased blood glucose levels after the overnight fast provide the brain with needed energy for efficient function and to counteract fatigue. Hunger has been linked to irritability and fatigue. It is hard to concentrate and interact in a social environment when one is irritated and tired. Thus fuelling your body for the days activities, both physically and mentally is so important. Ones overall nutrient status can positively contribute to long term cognitive processing.
Sometimes people skip breakfast because they think its less calories consumed throughout the day. Did you know that skipping breakfast can negatively impact ones physical and mental development (specifically in children) as the body is forced to use protein stores as its energy source. This can lead to behaviour issues, reduced learning capacity and academic performance. This is true for adults as well, they can have shorter attention spans, lack of alertness, longer reaction time and decreased work productivity. We all need fuel in our ‘tank’ to think, move and function properly. Skipping breakfast can also lead to greater snacking throughout the day and/or eating more at your next meals to make up for the missed nutrients. This can then lead to over eating, poor food choices and thus weight gain – the opposite effect to what people think breakfast skipping does.
Who is most likely to skip breakfast?
A Canadian survey conducted by the ProdegeMR in January 2019 found that nearly 60 percent of Canadians stated that they eat breakfast every day compared to just over 6 percent responded that they never eat breakfast. However almost 42 percent total reported not eating breakfast regularly or every day. Among Canadian adolescents it was noted anywhere between 51-70 percent of students grades 5-12 consume breakfast on a regular basis. This number is influenced by age, gender, ethnicity and how breakfast consumption is defined. Breakfast consumption has been on a significant decline in recent decades.
People often skip breakfast due to one or more of these reasons.
-not feeling hungry in the morning (could be due to late night snacking or large meals late at night)
-rushed behaviours, leaving no time for a quality breakfast
-changes in family lifestyle or activities
-fussy eating or dislike of food available
-behaviour changes, specifically in the adolescent population
-belief that one might gain weight, more calories being consumed (eating breakfast actually helps maintain a healthy weight. Your appetite will be satisfied longer and you will be eating foods to fuel you for the morning allowing you to burn off the energy)
-and maybe some other reasons you can list that I have missed
If you feel like you can associate to one of these reasons on this list, ask yourself, “how can I change these habits to allow myself to start including breakfast on a more regular basis?” Maybe its getting up 5 minutes earlier, maybe its preparing the night before, maybe its bringing stuff to the office to have there, maybe its spending sometime looking up yummy recipes to inspire your first meal of the day. OR maybe its changing your overall eating habits and pattern to allow for your body to desire breakfast in the morning. Start small, start with something easy, and start with something you will enjoy. Then make adjustments from there. You’ve got this!!!
Quick and easy breakfast ideas:
1) whole grain toast with crunchy peanut butter (or smooth, if you are that kind of person) with sliced banana
2) whole grain toast with an egg (scrambled, pan-fried, or hard-boiled) and a piece of fruit or sliced tomatoes
3) yogurt parfaits – plain Greek yogurt, fruit of choice, rolled oats with a sprinkle of hemp hearts, ground flax seed, unsweetened coconut, cinnamon, nuts/seeds of choice and a spoon of craisins/raisins
4) smoothies – my personal favourite. Place all ingredients in the blender, blend and enjoy!
-Chocolate peanut butter banana: 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup milk of choice, handful of ice cubes, 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp peanut butter (you can also use peanut butter powder) and 2 tsp cocoa powder
-Pumpkin: 1/2 frozen banana, handful of ice cubes, 1/2 cup milk of choice, 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling), dash or two of cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, honey/maple syrup to taste, and a spoon of almond butter if you would like
-mixed fruit: 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2 cup mixed frozen fruit, 1 cup milk of choice, 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
Looking for more healthy breakfast ideas?
Check out these previous articles on our blog:
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