Beginning in 1973 with “National Nutrition Week” and then turning this observance into a month-long campaign in 1980, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has continued to lead the way to improved eating habits. Every year brings a new theme and new tips to help us eat better for better health.
And what better place to start improving eating habits than with the first meal of the day?
As a registered dietitian, I have heard many reasons for not partaking in the traditional first meal of the day. Non-breakfast eaters claim that they are not hungry, too rushed, on a diet, out of the habit, sticking to coffee or colas, grabbing a donut at work, or eating an early lunch.
These reasons do not necessarily mean that people think breakfast is not important. Busy lifestyles and numerous responsibilities just get in the way of a sit-down morning meal.
So what is so great about starting the day with a healthy meal anyway?
- First of all, for most people, it has been several hours since the previous day’s dinner or evening snack. Because of this fast, blood sugars will be low in the morning, especially in children whose smaller bodies store less blood sugar. Without a morning meal to replenish the body, one may feel sluggish or have trouble concentrating. Breakfast helps to jump start one’s metabolism to meet the challenges of the day.
- In addition to low blood sugars, skipping breakfast reduces the amount of other important nutrients in the diet such as calcium from dairy products, vitamin C from fruit or juice, and fiber from whole grains.
- The wake-up jolt from caffeinated coffee and colas is soon gone. When hunger strikes, you may be tempted to eat the first thing you can find, which could be the donuts in the office cafeteria or the candy bar in the vending machine. Clearly, not the best use of calories.
- Then, when lunch time does roll around, some may overeat due to extreme hunger or from overestimating the calories supposedly saved by not eating breakfast. Eating a healthy breakfast, though, can help reduce hunger and the tendency to overeat.
To make breakfast a healthy habit, have a plan. Set the morning alarms so that you and the family have enough time to eat without rushing. Organize breakfast when cleaning up after dinner so things go smoothly in the morning. Put out glasses for juice, and bowls and spoons for cereal.
If a hot cereal is a family favorite, try making oatmeal overnight in a slow-cooker. This is an inexpensive, low-maintenance, and heart-healthy start to the morning.
Have easy-to-grab foods including individual yogurt containers, bananas, clementines, and whole wheat bagels available for busy mornings. For variety, try non-traditional foods such as cold pizza, mac and cheese, or apple slices with peanut butter.
Depending on the age, children can help with meal suggestions and preparation. Make breakfast a fun, family affair, and a way to develop health eating habits.
Breakfast is an important meal in your day. Eating a healthy breakfast can increase energy, provide needed nutrients, and help keep those extra pounds off.
The articles written by Andrea Wenger, Birmingham Diets Examiner, are for informational purposes only and are not to be used in the place of medical advice. Please contact a licensed physician or other medical professional before changing any health care routine or before starting any diet, fitness, or exercise program. Although every effort has been made to include the most current information, new information is released daily and may cause some recommendations to change.