Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s a refrain we hear from dieticians, educators, and health experts. And it’s true. Breakfast—or the lack thereof—has the potential to make or break your day. This tiny, early morning meal has the power to fuel your brain and body for a healthy, happy, focused day. Why would you skip it?
The Science Behind Breakfast
Breakfast is quite literally the opportunity to break the fast. Your body has been fasting all night while you sleep. When you wake up, it needs fuel because it’s already running low. Skip breakfast and you will run out of fuel—your glycogen stores will deplete by midday and your body will feel the slump.
On a physiological level, your body needs calories and nutrients upon waking. You have to stoke the fire or it will burn out.
The Effects of Skipping Breakfast
Most people skip breakfast for one of two reasons: they don’t have time or they’re trying to lose weight. Ironically, skipping breakfast has the opposite effect in both cases.
Skipping breakfast results in decreased energy and attention span throughout the day. So, those who don’t have time for breakfast actually end up robbing themselves of time later in the day when they become less efficient and focused. As your glycogen stores start to become depleted, you become fatigued and lose concentration and the ability to think and problem solve.
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Furthermore, skipping breakfast has been shown to lead to weight gain rather than weight loss. Individuals who skip breakfast become more vulnerable to food cravings and unhealthy choices later in the day. Skipping breakfast usually backfires and results in overeating at lunch and dinner.
Building a Better Breakfast
Breakfast need not be elaborate or time consuming to have a positive effect on your day. Studies show that consuming a high-fiber, low glycemic breakfast results in better concentration throughout the day. On the contrary, a high glycemic breakfast, such as a pastry, can have disastrous results on your mood and energy.
A healthy breakfast should have some fiber and some protein to provide you with the boost you need to start your day. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box—eat whatever you like, not just designated “breakfast” foods. Sugary cereals are out and protein is in. Get creative and find the fuel that works for you. Below a few suggestions for building a breakfast that works:
Optimal Oatmeal: Combine oatmeal, sliced fruit, nuts, and a dash of real maple syrup. Add a splash of almond milk and you have a delicious bowl full of nutrients. Slow cooked oatmeal is healthier than its instant counterpart, which is loaded with sugar. If you don’t have time to stand over the stove and stir all morning, consider throwing steel cut oats, water, and a dash of cinnamon into the crockpot before bed. You’ll awake to the delicious aroma of breakfast.
Dinner for Breakfast: We’ve been trained to think breakfast has to be sweet and starchy, but that’s not the case. A slice of turkey on whole-grain toast with a side of carrots is an excellent, well-balanced breakfast that is sure to energize you.
Eggs on the Go: Eggs are a wonderful source of protein and energy. If you don’t have time to whip up an omelet in the morning, try hard-boiled eggs. Make a batch at the beginning of the week. This is an excellent grab-and-go breakfast for those people who think they don’t have time for breakfast. Grab an egg and a banana and you can still dash out the door.
Smoothies: Smoothies are a great way of packing endless nutrients into one glass. For those who don’t like to eat in the morning, a smoothie can be a good compromise. Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to creating a healthy smoothie.