Imagine driving all night on the interstate highway. After the eight hour drive, your car has provided you with power, lights and a mechanical system that kept you safe and got you where you needed to be. That all took energy -- energy derived from the gas you put in the car. Neglecting to fill the tank after that long night on the road will cause your car to putter and eventually stop.
Our bodies are no different -- as we sleep, our bodies work hard. The heart works to keep blood moving through our body, our brain function allows us to breathe and our hormones continue to send messages. While we sleep, we can be assured that our body will take over and we'll wake up the next morning ready to face another day. This process only works well if we feed our bodies the fuel it requires. That fuel is breakfast.
Unfortunately, many of us forget to fill the tank. Neglecting to eat breakfast means our body may start to putter (metabolism slows down to conserve energy that we still have left in the tank) which affects our brains, our energy and our overall disposition to healthy eating throughout the rest of the day. If you thought skipping breakfast was the best way to lose weight, you are unfortunately misinformed.
I tell my Lifestyle 180 participants to eat within an hour of waking up. This is important for restoring not only their glycogen stores, but can also immediately start getting the daily vitamins and minerals their body needs. There's a lot of evidence that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why? Breakfast eaters are better able to manage their weight. They consume higher quality calories throughout the day and tend to eat more frequent, smaller meals and snacks. That, in turn, helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Research shows that children who consume breakfast have higher levels of concentration in school and perform better on tests. Breakfast clearly affects our energy, our mind, our weight and our daily food choices. 78 percent of participants who reported their success in the National Weight Control Registry, a database of individuals that have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for one year or more, reported eating breakfast every day
Follow these simple rules to get the most out of your breakfast.
- Eat only whole grains. Breakfast cereals and breads should contain 100 percent whole grain only. Avoid options that contain only refined grains.
- Fill up on fiber. Aim for 3-4 grams of fiber in your breakfast cereals and breads
- Beware Blood Sugar Sinkers. It's better to eat something rather than nothing, however, be wary of foods that will spike and drop your blood sugar levels and leave you looking for more food. Common culprits are breakfast pastries and doughnuts. These have little nutritional value and won't satisfy you for long.
- Bag the Breakfast Bar. If you like to throw a breakfast bar in your bag and head out the door, read the label first. Aim for bars that do not contain added sugars and syrups in the first five ingredients. With breakfast bars, the less ingredients, the better they are for you.
- Keep coffee healthy. Coffee has so many wonderful benefits - don't ruin it with non-dairy flavored creamers that are loaded with trans fat and sugars. Both are linked to an increase risk of heart disease. Drink your coffee black or (is there something safe they can add? Soy milk?)
- Use Protein Power. A great breakfast includes complex carbohydrates (such as?) together with a lean protein source such as skim milk or eggs. Along with the fiber, added protein will keep you satisfied for a longer amount of time.
- Fruit vs. Juice. Better to have an orange than orange juice. The orange takes longer to eat and will provide you with more satisfaction and fiber along with less sugar than its juice counterpart.
- Have a fruit or veggie with breakfast. It will help in achieving the recommended five a day suggested servings. Simple suggestions: add tomatoes or spinach to your eggs or fresh blueberries in your yogurt.
Think before you eat, will this food benefit me or hurt me? Most breakfast foods available from a drive-through window are probably not the best options. If you're on the go and too busy to eat a healthy breakfast at home, keep food at work. Good examples include oatmeal, milk and cereal, natural peanut butter and whole grain crackers, etc. The most important lesson to take away from reading this is simple: eat breakfast! Plenty of evidence exists that you'll more likely to maintain a normal body weight if you do so.
Follow Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KRISTINKIRKPAT