How to get the most out of your first meal of the day
Our bodies require nutrition to function, and if we forgo breakfast, we are not giving our bodies a good start to the day.— Nicole T. Smith, author of "Skinny Genes"
You’ve heard more than once that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but making good breakfast choices may just not seem practical. After all, you’re busy and on a tight schedule -- so you let your “breakfast personality” dictate. You opt for something fast but fat-laden, or something tasty but lacking in substance, or perhaps, you’re in the habit of skipping breakfast all together. No matter what your breakfast personality type is now, you can change it. Deciding to actually eat breakfast and making healthy choices can put you on the right track to eating healthy throughout the day.
The importance of the morning meal
Breakfast is called "breakfast" for a reason -- you're breaking the fast you had while you were sleeping. “Our bodies require nutrition to function, and if we forgo breakfast, we're not giving our bodies a good start to the day, says Nicole T. Smith, a licensed acupuncturist and author of “Skinny Genes.” "In addition, many people who skip breakfast opt for coffee to start the day or sugary foods later on.”
Gina Keatley, a nutritionist and personal chef, works with many different breakfast personality types, including the homeless, who don’t often have the resources to make good meal choices. "A good breakfast really does get your body moving," she says. "Set yourself up for success. Be aware that you're making a conscious choice for yourself.”
“The truth is, with breakfast as with any other meal, your body is depending on you to give it what it needs,” says Smith. “When you don't, it is only a matter of time before it will begin to show signs of trouble, sickness, disease and aging.”
Type 1: Too busy for breakfast
Every morning is the same -- hectic. You're so busy getting yourself and possibly other members of your family ready for the day that it's not until you’re in the car or on the train that you realise you forgot to eat breakfast. By lunchtime, you’re ravenous and head straight to a fast food restaurant to put an end to the hunger pangs and indulge those cravings.
If too often you find yourself “too busy for breakfast,” Keatley suggests starting small and making hard-boiled eggs ahead of time. You can peel them and store them in the refrigerator to grab on your way out the door. Aim to consume at least one protein and a whole grain in the morning, and you’ll feel much more prepared to take on your day.
Type 2: Bagels and biscuits
In the midst of the morning rush, a daily dose of carbs beckons you. Like those who are too busy for breakfast, all too often you find yourself steering the car toward the nearest drive-through or stopping at the cafe around the corner from your place of employment for a large bagel slathered with cream cheese or a hearty ham and cheese biscuit.
“For breakfast, I usually have two eggs and four pieces of turkey bacon,” says Caitlin Kizielewicz, a public relations manager. “At our old office we used to always walk down the street to the pastry shop -- I would get a whole wheat bagel and light cream cheese. It wasn’t until I started watching what I ate that I realised how many empty calories were in that breakfast -- and I was still hungry not too long after. Needless to say, it’s been a while since I’ve had a bagel.”
Eating a healthy breakfast, especially one high in protein, increases satiety and reduces hunger throughout the day. In addition, a protein-rich breakfast reduces the brain signals controlling food motivation and reward-driven eating behavior, notea University of Missouri researcher and her team who used functional magnetic resonance imaging to reach their conclusions, which were published in the journal "Obesity."
Type 3: Latte and a muffin
You love to savour that large cup of coffee from your favorite barista every morning, and you always tell yourself a large nonfat latte will serve as your only breakfast item. But once you face those rows of freshly baked muffins and pastries, you cave -- more often than you’d like to admit.
Jacqueline Gikow, an office-temp, remembers her coffee and muffin days all too well. For 10 years, she frequented a specific coffee shop for her morning java and muffin top, even though she had a weight problem. “About three years ago, I started going to a nutritionist who changed my approach to eating, and that included my breakfast choice,” she says. “Now I am a fruit and fiber breakfast person most days. My weight has stabilised, and when I eat breakfast I don’t snack until lunch. My breakfast usually consists of a banana and high-fiber cereal -- and it’s very satisfying.”
You’d prefer a relaxing bowl of Wheaties, but your schedule won’t allow it. Instead, you grab a cereal bar that might not be as healthy as you think. In her book, Smith, who refers to these types of bars as “Heath bars” instead of “health bars,” includes a chart to help readers differentiate between the bars that are healthy and the ones that are loaded with sugar.
“You may be surprised to learn that most bars fall into sweetie bar category and you can never trust the front label, for bars or otherwise,” Smith says.
Instead of a cereal bar, why not opt for "lunch for breakfast" instead? We suggest powering up with a hearty breakfast to stave off sugar cravings later on. You can reach for that leftover veg pizza or a skinless chicken breast with veg on the side for your morning meal.
As for how many calories you should aim to consume during breakfast, it varies from person to person. Keatley suggests looking more at what is in your breakfast rather than how many calories you are consuming.
“It's better to eat something with 400 calories that is organic, sprouted, whole grain and/or raw than something that is 100 calories and processed,” Smith says.