It’s likely that you have heard since childhood that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Science has confirmed this sage advice as well in numerous studies. Statistics vary depending on the source, but anywhere from 10 – 40% of Americans routinely go without eating breakfast.
So why are so many of us still so stubbornly resistant to giving this important meal the attention that it deserves?
Mom Was Right
While we sometimes hate to admit when mom is right, this is one area where we really have to give her props. There are a number of benefits that come along with eating a healthy breakfast. Let’s take a look at some of what the research is telling us.
Does the idea of eating more to lose weight sound too good to be true?
Guess what? Try eating something for breakfast if you are not currently doing so.
Eating breakfast is actually a great strategy to try if you are looking to lose weight or simply trying to work on improving your current eating habits. There appears to be a link between eating breakfast and a reduced risk of obesity.
Get this: a number of studies have demonstrated that eating breakfast can actually reduce impulse snacking. Impulse snacking tends to occur when hunger rears its ugly, ravenous head if you skip breakfast earlier in the day... and usually ends up in quick fix like some sort of junk food just to fill the void.
Think about what you buy at the grocery store when you are hungry versus when you are full. The impulse to buy fast-fix items (such as fast-food, vending machine items, or junk food at the grocery store checkout aisle) is vastly reduced when you can think clearly, without the nagging hunger of an empty belly.
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People who eat breakfast tend to make healthier food choices throughout the day. People who skip breakfast are also less likely to eat enough high fiber and nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables.
Researchers are not quite sure why this is so. It may be that people who eat breakfast are already opting to adopt a healthy mindset. Whatever the reason, if this one simple act of eating in the morning sets you up for success for the rest of the day, it is definitely worth consideration.
Another study has revealed that people who eat breakfast tend to be more physically active as the food provides a temporary boost in glucose energy, causing them to burn even more calories!
Breakfast: Impact on Insulin
There are a number of studies that show that breakfast has a positive impact on insulin resistance, and glucose regulation. According to one study, men who skipped breakfast regularly had a 21% greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes. In women the risk of developing diabetes jumped to 28% in those who didn’t eat breakfast regularly.
Tending to skip breakfast, thinking that you can get by with a coffee until lunchtime and “saving calories” by cutting out one meal is not a good habit to form. Unfortunately, this strategy can backfire – both in terms of overeating later on in the day, as well as an even greater potential health problem, raising your risk of developing type-2 diabetes. All simply because of skipping breakfast!
Eating a healthy meal in the morning helps to avoid wide fluctuations in glucose levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Foods that really set you up for success will provide a healthy source of fat, protein, fiber, and perhaps a complex carbohydrate that won’t send your glucose levels through the roof, as they take longer to break down than simple carbs.
A special note here, nuts and seeds, can often do double duty, serving as both a protein and a healthy fat, and nuts and fruit/veggies can often double up as a fiber too. This mix of nutrients will help you to stay satisfied throughout the morning, and when hunger returns it will likely be a gradual onset, rather than the roaring gnaw of hunger pains often come along midmorning when you skip breakfast.
In addition to reducing the fluctuations in glucose, breakfast can actually improve your energy and performance throughout the day. Research in both adults and children shows that breakfast can help improve memory, attention span, rate of processing information, and creativity. If you have an important meeting, the best thing you can do to prepare for it might be to make sure you eat well that morning.
What are some delicious options for the three main types of people:
- Those people who hate (or habitually skip) breakfast
- Those who grab something but it’s usually small or light
- Those people who absolutely couldn’t imagine their day starting without a meal
There are some helpful tips, strategies and recipe ideas to help everyone improve their quality and frequency of eating this important meal.
But I Don’t Do Breakfast!
For those of you who are not fans of breakfast, whether because of time, you are not a “breakfast person,” or you don’t see the value in eating breakfast – hopefully your opinion is beginning to change). Let’s take a look at one idea that might help you start to think differently.
Once you become accustomed to providing your body with some fuel in the morning, you may see the benefits and want to add some variety, too.
Start with something like a smoothie or breakfast drink that you can easily make on your own. Nutrient dense smoothies can be whipped up in just a couple of minutes and require only a few ingredients, all of which can be customized or changed to suit your mood, what’s available in your fridge, or what you feel that you may be lacking in the rest of your day.
The basic ingredients for a smoothie are:
- - A liquid base such as raw or organic milk, coconut milk, almond milk
- - One serving of fruit such as one small apple, 1 cup of berries (frozen or fresh), or 1 banana
- - One serving of leafy greens such as a handful of spinach or kale
- - One serving of healthy fats such one ounces of nuts or seeds (flaxseed, chia, sunflower, pumpkin), or ½ avocado
- - Optional items to add in are ice, or a high quality nutrient dense supplement powder, such as Daily Energy
Zap everything in a blender for a minute and off you go. Many blenders today even come with cups that adapt to the blender and once you’ve blended your smoothie, you remove the blades, twist on a lid, and off you go to work or start your day with a full, nutritious breakfast in your hand to sip on as you leave. That 3-5 minutes can save your entire day.
Does that sound like too much work? Perhaps you don’t have 5 minutes to throw a few ingredients into the blender.
How about trying one of the easy make ahead grab and go muffin recipes? There are at least 10 different recipes that can be found on the Beyond Diet website and they range from the light and sweet (think healthy banana muffins, blueberry muffins, pumpkin cranberry muffins) to the savory (such as bacon, spinach and egg muffins, Italian egg muffins, or turkey sausage, broccoli and egg muffins). Each of these fulfills your nutritional requirement for the morning meal and will help stave off hunger until closer to lunchtime.
The Fine Print
What you choose to eat can be JUST as important as if you eat breakfast, too. Eating sugary, foods high in simple carbohydrates like bagels, donuts, and highly processed cereals are not great for you either. These types of foods send your blood sugar soaring, giving you a fast but brief boost in energy, after which you are hungry again.
Small/Light Breakfast Ideas
If you currently like to eat a little something before starting your day, examine what you normally eat for the nutritional tone you are setting for the day. If you notice that there are some things lacking, consider some of these options in addition to creating your own personalized delicious smoothie. Again the critical components to eating a balanced, light breakfast (well, a balanced breakfast of any size, really!) are a protein, a healthy fat, and a fruit (or veggie but fruits seem to win out a breakfast time).
Here are a few ideas for you:
- - Two eggs (scrambled in coconut oil), with a serving of fruit
- - One cup of Greek yogurt, some fruit stirred in (blueberries, peaches, kiwi, pear, strawberries), topped with nuts (walnuts or almonds are good choices)
- - Two hard boiled eggs, ½ avocado, and slices of tomato
- - One of the simple make-ahead grab and go muffin recipes
- - Sunday night, make a big batch of apple cinnamon steel cut oats, and top it throughout the week with fruit, perhaps a little swirl of almond butter or honey to change up the flavor throughout the week
Heartier Breakfast Options
You are the kind of person who really looks forward to sitting down for that all-important first meal for the day. What does that look like? Are you including representation from our terrific three nutrients: protein, healthy fat, and fruit? Omelets with chopped veggies, cooked in a skillet with coconut oil are a fantastic way to start the day. If you crave something sweet in the morning, instead of nutritionally void regular pancakes or French toast, consider whipping up a batch of grain-free banana pancakes – whisk one egg, add a mashed banana, combine the two ingredients, add 3 tablespoons almond butter (optional), a dash of cinnamon and vanilla (to taste), and cook just like a pancake on a skillet in coconut oil over medium heat. Flip once to finish cooking, and serve either plain, with a small drizzle of honey, or a homemade sauce of your choosing. This is a great option for kids who may be resistant to too many changes too quickly! These can also be made ahead, kept in the refrigerator, and reheated throughout the week.
Too busy in the morning? There are lots of ways to save time. Some meals can be made entirely ahead of time like the grab and go muffins, steel cut oats, and banana pancakes. Other recipes – even the smoothies – can be prepped the evening before and the final steps of blending or cooking can be done in the morning.
Look in the Beyond Diet Recipes section of the website for a few of the recipes that are highlighted here, and many more. If you come up with something that you love, feel free to share it – if you love it, the chances are that others will too. The value in sharing successful recipes and tips with one another is that we continue to have shared success on our journey of transformation into better, healthier versions of ourselves.