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Breakfast - The Most Important Meal of the Day

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Every day, approximately 31 million Americans skip breakfast – that’s about 10% of the population. Another percentage may grab a little something but not enough to fill their tummies.  Study after study confirms that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.  People who eat a good breakfast are healthier physically, mentally, and socially.  Front loading our calories early in our day helps manage weight, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, reduces cravings for sweets, and improves cognitive abilities such as math problem solving and word use. 

Consuming most of our food before noon is especially critical to losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.  A Tel Aviv University study found that those who eat their largest daily meal at breakfast are far more likely to lose weight and waistline circumference than those who eat a large dinner.  The 2013 study established that dieters on a 1400 calorie diet who ate a big breakfast and a modest dinner lost 240% more weight than others in the study who had a big dinner and a modest breakfast. 

Breakfast also feeds the brain.  A 2015 study by Cardiff University showed that children are twice as likely to score higher than average grades if they start the day with a healthy breakfast.  According to a study from the nonprofit organization, Share Our Strength, kids who eat breakfast score 17.5% higher on math tests than kids who skip breakfast.  And a University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing study showed that children who regularly eat breakfast tally up significantly higher scores in verbal and performance IQ tests.

Finally, it turns out eating breakfast is good for your social life.   In 2015, the International Journal of Dental Hygiene published a study that showed teens who skip breakfast are significantly more likely to suffer from bad breath than teens who eat breakfast.  Further studies indicate that women who skip breakfast are often “cranky.”  Bad breath plus cranky equals a not so wonderful way to start the day socially!

So what is a good breakfast?  The simple answer is one that includes protein, complex carbohydrates, and a bit of healthy fat to fill you up.  Equally important, it is one you will eat!  Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet, suggests these simple breakfast ideas:

Not super hungry in the morning or always pressed for time, try one of these options:

  • One granola bar – pick one that has whole grains and low sugar

  • One hard-boiled egg and a banana

  • One cup plain or vanilla yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit

  • One cup low-fat or non-fat milk or chocolate milk

  • One good size piece of cheese and an apple

Not fond of breakfast foods, think outside the cereal box:

  • Beans and corn tortillas
  • Leftovers from last night’s dinner
  • Turkey or tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Soup
  • Stir fried veggies and brown rice
  • Stewed chicken with  sweet potatoes
  • Hummus and veggies

The key take away regarding breakfast is this – Just Eat It!   Consume most of your calories for the day in the morning hours, aim for a mix of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fat, and find something that works for you. 

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.  

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