One of the most common nutritional mistakes is the habit of many adults and children to skip breakfast. Who has time to prepare, sit down and eat breakfast when rushing off to school or work?
Ask any teacher about students' performance in the morning and they'll tell you: there is a marked difference between those children who eat breakfast regularly and those who don't. Children's growing bodies and developing brains rely heavily on the regular intake of food.
Nutritionist and health care providers have often advised their patients to "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper." Eating breakfast has been proven to improve concentration, problem solving ability, mental performance, memory, and mood. On average, breakfast eaters will think faster and clearer, and will have better recall of their work. Not only will it help you perform better at school or work, but will also be kind to your metabolism which can be adversely affected if left for a while without fuel.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism is the rate at which your body uses calories for energy.
Think of metabolism as the motor of your car. Metabolism is directly related to energy levels, so the higher your metabolism, the more energy you have throughout the day. When you are sleeping, your body naturally decreases its metabolism to allow the organs to rejuvenate. When you wake up, there is an increase in metabolism, which peaks by noon. How much energy you have during this time is contingent on how much healthy food calories your body has to use for energy. Breakfast becomes the first stop to the gas station before your road trip. Therefore, eating breakfast actually helps maintain high energy levels throughout the day. In fact, the more hearty a breakfast you have, the more your metabolism motor will roar!
A Good Investment
If you and your kids regularly skip breakfast in the interest of saving time or getting a few more minutes of sleep, remember that eating a wholesome, nutritious morning meal will probably save you time in the long run. By recharging your brain and your body, you will be more efficient in just about everything you do. Interestingly, studies show that kids who skip breakfast are tardy and absent from school more often than children who eat breakfast on a regular basis. Preparing a good breakfast can be as quick and easy as splashing some milk over cereal. Time invested in breakfast is much more valuable than the few extra minutes of sleep you might get by bypassing the morning meal. If you and your kids seem unable to make time for breakfast, consider enrolling your children in a school breakfast program, if possible, or pack a breakfast brown-bag the night before so that you and your kids can eat on the way to school and work.
In third world countries where workers are very poor and often come to work without breakfast, many large companies offer a light breakfast, not only because of consideration for the workers, but to attain higher performance.
Breakfast skippers also have a harder time fitting important nutrients into their diet. Many foods eaten at breakfast contain significant amounts of vitamins C and D, calcium, iron, and fiber.
Break the Fast to Shed the Pounds
Many people, especially teenage girls, skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight, but the practice is more likely to cause weight gain than weight loss. Skipping breakfast is strongly linked to the development of obesity. Studies show that overweight and obese children, adolescents, and adults are less likely to break the fast each morning than their thinner counterparts are.
According to research, skipping meals, especially breakfast, can actually make weight control more difficult. Breakfast skippers tend to eat more food than usual at the next meal or nibble on high-calorie snacks to stave off hunger. Several studies suggest that people tend to accumulate more body fat when they eat fewer, larger meals than when they eat the same number of calories in smaller, more frequent meals. It's important for moms to educate their kids about the importance of the morning meal and the role it plays in maintaining good health and preventing obesity. Teaching by example is always the most effective.
What are some guidelines for a healthy breakfast?
Here are some guidelines to promote optimal energy. Having finger foods as well as cut up fruits or vegetables on the breakfast table will encourage children to help themselves before rushing off to school.
The best range of calories for breakfast is between 350 and 500. Below 350, your body will not fulfill the requirements for morning energy usage; above 500, your body may store unneeded calories as fat.
Plan and eat a balanced breakfast meal including complex carbohydrate as in whole grains, protein, such as eggs, milk products (yogurt), fat such as avocadoes, a handful or nuts or nut butters and a fruit or vegetable.
Quantity to Aim for
• 1 to 2 servings of complex carbohydrates. One serving equals 1 piece of bread, ½ cup of cooked oatmeal, 1 cup of dry cereal, 1 English muffin, ½ bagel, ¼ cup of granola, 1 small muffin.
• 1 serving of protein. For example, 1 cup of yogurt, ½ cup of cottage cheese, 1 ounce of cheese, 1 large egg, 2 ounces of smoked salmon, 1 cup of milk or soy milk, 2 tablespoons (T) of peanut butter, or ¼ cup of nuts or seeds.
• 1 serving of fat. E.g., 1 teaspoon (t) of butter, 1 t of oil, 1 tablespoon (T) of cream cheese. But check your protein and carbohydrates for fat, there's no need to add extra if you have a serving of fat in your granola or omelet.
• 1 serving of a fruit or vegetable. That is, 1 medium piece of fruit, 1 cup of cut fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit, 6 ounces of fruit juice, 1 cup of raw or ½ cup of cooked vegetables, 1 cup of vegetable juice.
What if there is just no time in the morning to eat breakfast? Many items can be prepared the night before and bring along with you to school or work. Carry a re-sealable bag of easy-to-eat whole grain cereal, or bring a yogurt or small box of skim milk, juice, or fruit. If you just can't stomach food in the morning, try to have a little something — such as some juice — and bring along a mid-morning snack. Other good portable items include whole grain crackers, a hard boiled egg, cottage cheese, low-fat granola bars, or even a nut butter sandwich. Single serving hot cereals, such as oatmeal, are handy — all you have to do is add hot water, available at most offices, but not all schools will permit it.
It is very important to remember that habits are formed early on, and mothers have the most formidable task of inculcating good eating practices from the youngest age. In many households, there is no such thing as leaving the house without a hearty and varied breakfast, while other homes do not make the time to indoctrinate their offspring with good habits, eventually, both will reap the rewards/consequences for their habits.
Whatever your choice, eat something. If you think you are doing fine without breakfast, just try changing your ways for a week — and you are sure to notice a difference. You will undoubtedly perform better with some fuel in your system, and, hopefully, become a breakfast believer.