Everyone is quick to tell you that “Eating Breakfast Every Day” is a very healthy move. People who don’t eat breakfast are said to have a harder time concentrating, not to mention a harder time not over eating at lunch time. Both of these aspects are beneficial to a healthy lifestyle, but just eating “anything” for breakfast isn’t good enough. Few people realize that breakfast has the potential to be the unhealthiest meal of the day! Bad breakfast choices are all around, sometimes disguised as “good for you” foods. If you want more energy, fat loss, or better health in general, it’s time to get smart about breakfast.
Skipping breakfast is not good for your health.
With so many poor choices of breakfast foods out there, skipping it entirely doesn’t get you off the hook. You may not feel hungry in the morning right away, thanks to the lack of hunger hormones brought on by sleep. Breakfast skippers use this lack of hunger to “power through” the morning on just coffee and no food at all. However, this is a bad move for your blood sugar levels and hydration level for the day. Steady nutrition and steady energy are keys to feeling great, along with keeping your body hydrated. (Caffeinated beverages are a diuretic, they don’t help keep you hydrated)
First, the good:
When you eat a morning meal or snack, you are less likely to want to over-eat at lunch. This can help you lose weight, because you are not tempted to have snacks before lunch or eat a huge meal when lunch time does arrive. It also reduces mid-morning cravings for calorie-dense coffees. Don’t give your body a starvation signal that says “I’m not going to get fed, better start storing fat cells & conserving energy”.
A healthy breakfast provides ready energy to help you through your morning. A cup of coffee is not going to help fuel your steady, long-lasting concentration and body-energy levels. You may be able to get ‘hyped up’ on caffeine, but that is not the same as healthy, steady energy. Skip the caffeine or sugar rollercoaster, and stay out of low energy afternoon slumps.
Breakfast is a great opportunity to have high fiber and nutritious food.
Foods commonly eaten in healthy breakfasts are essential to a balanced diet, but are almost never found in other meals of the day. For example, oats, whole grains, yogurt, seeds, and whole eggs. Most people don’t get enough fiber in their diet. Soluble and insoluble fiber is important for colon health, cholesterol health, as well as general probiotic and digestive health. Eggs are a great protein source, as are seeds and nuts Protein can only be used as fuel by the body, it can’t convert it into fats or store it for later. Oats, chia seeds and flax seeds are packed with fiber. However, only the chia seed has 23% complete protein by weight. Fresh fruit has fiber too, & yogurt has both probiotic bacteria to aid digestion, as well as protein and potassium. Healthy breakfast options are all around… but don’t be fooled by some modern “solutions”.
Now for the tricky part!
Most people’s excuse for “why can’t I eat breakfast?” is “I don’t have the time”. These days, no one is going to stop to make pancakes or omelets in the morning. Several companies have stepped up with ‘instant breakfasts’ that you can just grab out of the cupboard in the morning. On the surface, this is a super idea. It’s better than eating a deep-fried doughnut at work, or grabbing a not-very-nutritious all-white-bread buttery bagel. This can include things like yogurt with toppings, instant oatmeal packets with frosting or flavors, toaster pastries, fruit syrup with toaster pancakes & waffles or fantastically colored marshmallow/ chocolate / sugar frosted cereal. Bad breakfast choices are actually more common than good ones. Part of the problem is caused by so-called “expected” breakfast foods like white flour products (pastries, bagels, donuts, waffles, pancakes, bread) that the body turns into sugars and whole grains that ordinarily taste “boring” and so have to have tons of unhealthy sugar piled on to make them appealing. But what if you could have been eating… A CANDY BAR instead?
No one would think “I’ll have a big chocolate & caramel bar for breakfast, that’s the healthy thing to do!” or “I’ll give my kids a big glass of soda to start their day” but thousands of people pick up ‘easy breakfast items’ that have just as much sugar (and just about as much nutrition) and eat that instead. Whole grain or fruit juice may be on the label, but if the item has the same amount of sugar as a peanut butter caramel candy bar, or a sweetened soft drink, it’s still not going to be good for you. Starting the day off on a pile of sugar isn’t great for your blood sugar balance later on.
What sorts of foods should you watch out for? Anything with “sugar”, “cane juice” or “corn syrup” as the first or second ingredient isn’t a good idea. If you look on most packages, you’ll see these are so common as first or 2nd ingredients on the label. This means there’s more sugar in the product than almost anything else. Common culprits include frosted or glazed granola, frosted oat-squares, marshmallow cereal breakfast bars, frosted toaster pastries of all types, and even instant-oatmeal with flavors can be loaded with more sugar than fiber. Yogurt isn’t innocent either. Putting cookie pieces, candy, or fruit in corn syrup into the yogurt isn’t a healthy thing to do. Fruit juice, unless you’re pressing it fresh at home, can also sabotage breakfast time. It often has as much sugar or HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) as a can of soda, the enzymes & some vitamins will have been pasteurized out of it for bottling & 0 fiber from the original fruit will remain.
So what are you supposed to do in the morning?
Easy options include real fresh fruit, like bananas, strawberries, cherries, apples or berries. Most of these are as easy as peel and eat, or chop and eat. Even a handful of tasty raw nuts is better than nothing at all. Whole fruit is better than bottled juice, as it is not pasteurized, leaving the enzymes, vitamins and minerals intact. It’s also full of fiber for a healthy digestive tract, not to mention keeping you feeling full longer. The natural, unrefined sugars distributed throughout the fruit can also give you an energy boost to get your day started right-plus, they taste great.
Smoothies are an excellent solution as well. Whole fruits in endlessly customizable flavor combinations can be prepared the night before, or within minutes on a busy morning. Adding blended fruit with stevia (a sweetener that has 0 calories, is all natural & doesn’t affect blood sugar) to plain, unsweetened yogurt is also a good way to an easy & money saving breakfast that still tastes sweet & appealing. The same thing works with plain, instant oatmeal. You don’t need heaps of sugar when you have fruit and stevia. Cinnamon apple, agave strawberry & so many more combinations are quick and easy in the microwave.
What about feeling full?
Anyone can do a “minute scrambled egg” in the microwave, but what if you feel that won’t tide you over until lunch? A smoothie is great, but it has calories too, it needs to fill you up until the next meal. Fiber keeps you feeling full, so you need an easy way to add more fiber to anything in the morning. Chia seeds are an ideal solution. They have no flavor, so you can mix them into anything you already like to eat. Perfect in yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies, but you can sprinkle them onto eggs as well. Make breakfast last longer & power it up with the protein in chia seeds. Sprinkling or stirring in seeds takes up almost no extra time, and because they don’t taste like anything you won’t even notice they’re there.