If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times — breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And it's true, it really is. But you may wonder why it's so important—are there really that many benefits? And if so, what are they? To hopefully convince you that breakfast is a no-brainer, I've put together five life-changing benefits that you will reap from eating within an hour or waking up. But first, let's address the top three most common excuses for not having breakfast:
You don't have enough time: It makes me crazy when people use this excuse. This morning, because we were in a rush, I plopped a few tablespoons of Greek yogurt into a bowl, topped it with organic granola and berries and ate it will feeding my baby on the couch. It took me about 20 seconds to put together and 10 minutes to eat. It wasn't ideal (I should have been eating at the table where I could focus on my food), but regardless, it was healthy, filling, and easy. Surely you can wake up 10 minutes earlier if need be?
You're not hungry: If you're not used to having breakfast in the morning, your body will not expect it (it won't give you a hunger cue). The same goes for people who are able to go hours and hours without eating anything — their body is not expecting any food, therefore it won't cue that it needs it. When you don't enough (or at healthy intervals), your metabolism slows down and you go into "sumo mode" storing extra calories for survival. In order to feel hungry in the morning (and boost your metabolism), you need to start eating it! Start off small (maybe a piece of fruit or a bit of yogurt or a homemade muffin) and work your way up to having a full breakfast within an hour of waking up. Once you start feeling hungry first thing in the morning (and craving breakfast), you'll know that you've trained your body to start burning calories earlier and you've boosted your metabolism.
Skipping breakfast means you will eat fewer calories by the end of the day: Not true — you will likely make up for those missed calories later. Plus some.
Here is why having breakfast will make your life better:
Many studies show that breakfast eaters (both adults and kids) tend to weigh less than breakfast skippers. This could be due to the fact that our cravings throughout the day are controlled better when we eat a healthy breakfast (including protein), therefore eating less calories overall by the end of the day and/or because we jump-start our metabolisms (breaking us out of our fasting state) earlier when we have breakfast, giving our bodies more time to burn calories instead of storing them. A recent American National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which examined the diets of 4,218 adults, showed that breakfast eaters were more likely to have a BMI under 25 (a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 is within "normal healthy range"). What's more is that including lean protein in our breakfasts has been proven to decrease our chances of unhealthy snacking later on. Clearly, breakfast increases our chances of reaching and maintaining a healthier weight.
Studies show that eating breakfast may enhance memory, improve cognitive ability and help with attention span. Starting the day off with a healthy meal gives us the energy we need to concentrate and focus on whatever tasks lie ahead, and if we make sure to include enough protein and fibre, our blood sugar will remain stable all morning, which will help us to stay alert longer and avoid blood sugar spikes and drops.
According to a 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, research suggests that children and adolescents who regularly skip breakfast are at an increased risk of overweight and obesity. This can lead to an increased risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease and Diabetes Type 2 among other ailments. Kids who learn to eat a healthy breakfast from a young age will benefit from this healthy habit throughout their youth and into adulthood, especially when it comes to weight control and overall health. Eating breakfast with your kids also gives you another chance to model healthy eating habits and visit with them before everyone starts their day! Eating breakfast is also associated with kids performing better in school, likely because they are better able to focus and concentrate.
With every meal and snack that we serve ourselves (or order), we are faced with an internal battle over whether to choose healthy foods or not-so-healthy foods. But during the day we are often also faced with external cues that tell us to eat more and choose not-so-healthy foods. Breakfast is by far the easiest meal to win the healthy vs. unhealthy battle with because we right after we crawl out of bed, we likely aren't influenced by advertisements or other people (besides maybe our families). This allows us to be more mindful when it comes to portion sizes and choices. What's more is that healthy behaviour begets more healthy behaviour, so if you're able to eat a healthy breakfast, chances are you will pack a healthy lunch and choose healthier snacks throughout the day. When making healthy choices is easier, take advantage, because it will likely set the stage for a healthier day all around.
Breakfast is often when we consume whole grain foods and fruit, both of which contain a lot of fibre. Fibre (both insoluble and soluble) is important for many reasons including heart health, keeping our blood sugar stable and digestive health. When it comes to digestion, fibre helps to prevent constipation (keep us regular) and in some cases helps to keep the healthy bacteria in our gut alive and well. Make sure to choose whole, intact grains such as steelcut oats, quinoa, brown rice or barley, and fresh or frozen fruits instead of packaged processed foods.