Why is breakfast so important?
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but let’s face it… most mornings, we just don’t have the time to lovingly construct an Instagram-ready smoothie bowl, let alone a piece of toast. Many Canadians are lucky if they remember to grab a granola bar on their way out the door – in fact, 18-25% of North American adults skip it altogether. So, do we REALLY need a meal in the morning, or is that old adage out of date? Sorry to break it to you…but yes, you really do need to eat breakfast.
Recent studies show that we should all try to eat around 15-25% of our daily calories at the beginning of the day. Starting your morning off with a balanced meal will have you feeling more alert throughout the day – and regular breakfast eaters have a reduced risk of obesity and diabetes. In fact, regular breakfast eaters are five times less likely to be obese. By fueling your body first thing, breakfast helps moderate your eating for the rest of the day – setting a good example for your other meals.
Eating breakfast regularly is also a key to good health: a recent study showed that skipping breakfast could increase your risk of heart disease by up to 27%. Plus, eating a balanced meal first thing is a way to get your brain up and running, providing better memory and concentration throughout the day. Why is skipping breakfast so bad for you? It throws off your body’s natural rhythm of eating and fasting. Our brains and muscles need a normal blood sugar level to function – and after hours of fasting, these levels are at their lowest first thing in the morning. If you don’t reenergize your system with a decent breakfast, you’ll be feeling sluggish for the rest of the day.
Finally, we need breakfast to get the nutrients we need. It’s really hard to meet your daily requirements for calories, fibre, vitamins and minerals if you skip an entire meal. And a balanced meal early on will help stop you from resorting to a panicked trip to the donut shop or vending machine later in the day.
So, it’s well established that it’s worth the effort to make the time for breakfast. But what should we all be eating? Most experts say it’s best to eat a substantial, balanced meal first thing – combining foods that will give you energy and satiety over the course of the morning. Many people associate breakfast with sweet foods like cereals, juices and pancakes – but it’s best to go easy on the sugar. That said, in terms of jump starting your brain for the day, it’s better to grab something sweet than nothing at all.
Your best bet? Try to combine protein, healthy fats and a whole grain. Here are some breakfast foods we love:
Yes, we’re starting with the obvious. Eggs are a classic, go-to option for a reason. They’ve been shown to increase feelings of fullness and reduce your calorie intake at the next meal. And while they are high in cholesterol, there is no evidence that they will raise your cholesterol. In fact, eaten in moderation, they’ll even help your heart health. Not to mention they’re packed with protein, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin.
For a convenient breakfast with no cooking required, you can’t go wrong with a little protein-rich yogurt. Yogurt is a great option for anyone trying to control their weight, as it’s been shown to reduce feelings of hunger and increase your metabolic rate. Try seeking out a plain variety, then adding in sliced fruit and nuts for a meal rich in protein and fibre – and low in sugar.
Whether you’re following a plant-based diet or you just love something warm and comforting in the morning, yogurt is a near-perfect food to eat first thing. High in antioxidants and fibre, oats are a great way to improve heart health and reduce cholesterol. And one cup of steel-cut oats has up to 12 g of protein, too! Not a bad start to the day…
In-the-know vegans have been eating chia seed pudding for years, but for the rest of us…it’s a revelation. Just soak chia seeds in the milk of your choice overnight, and you’ll wake up to a tasty breakfast rich in fibre and antioxidants. Top it off with fresh fruit and a little cinnamon, and you’ve got an option that’s convenient AND delicious.
A little common sense is all you really need to plan a balanced, healthy breakfast. If you have a tight schedule in the morning, try preparing your food the night before. Experiment a little and just find a routine that works for you. And when you’re planning out your meals, just make sure you’re getting enough protein, healthy fat and whole grains to kick-start your day.
What’s your favourite breakfast food? Let us know! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: artemevdokimov/shutterstock.com