Here in Australia, more than half of us are skipping breakfast on a regular basis. We all know that breakfast is an important meal, that message has been instilled in our minds from a young age, yet breakfast continues to be something that a lot of us struggle to get in on a regular basis.
Breakfast plays an important role in kick-starting your metabolism for the day – when you eat breakfast you are literally BREAKing the FAST, which signals to the body that you are up and needing to burn energy. Skipping or delaying breakfast leaves you with a slower metabolism, which is likely to leave you feeling sluggish. But why else is breakfast important?
The benefits of eating breakfast:
Research shows that eating breakfast regularly can help us to:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight - eating breakfast revs up our metabolism so we burn more energy even at a resting rate. It also fills us up so we’re less likely to snack across the day.
- Reduce heart disease risk - breakfast skippers are at a 27% increased risk of having a heart attack
- Reduce type 2 diabetes risk – breakfast skippers are at a 20% increased risk
- Manage diabetes better for those of us who already have it - eating breakfast helps to keep our sugar levels more stable across the day, especially low GI options.
- Meet our daily requirements for important nutrients - if you’re skipping breakfast you’re missing a great opportunity to get in essential nutrients such as calcium, folate, iron and vitamins A, B6 & D. Cramming all of your requirements into 2 main meals in the day is tricky, so make sure you get your breakfast in.
- Eat more healthily across the rest of the day – when we start the day with breakfast we’re less likely to crave ‘treat’ foods throughout the rest of the day and more likely to make healthier choices that help to meet our needs.
- Improve concentration and memory - regular breakfast eaters have been shown to have higher IQs on average and kids (and adults!) who eat breakfast get better test scores than those who don’t.
- Improve our overall mood and sense of wellbeing - eating breakfast can help boost positive brain function and help combat depression as well.
- Live longer - eat breakfast regularly and you will likely live longer (probably due to a combination of all of the above reasons!).
Those are some pretty clear benefits, so what’s getting in our way?
Common barriers I hear when talking to clients:
“But I don’t have time for breakfast in the mornings!”
There’s no doubt that mornings can be rushed. With so much to do and the clock working against you it can be all too easy to skip (or even forget!) breakfast. It pays to plan ahead, especially if you’re guilty of pressing the snooze button a few too many times on a regular basis (I know I’m guilty of this one!).
- Have some grab & go options ready: healthy homemade muffins from the freezer; a tub of yoghurt and a piece of fruit; muffin tin frittatas with lots of vegies; or if you’re really rushed – a good-quality muesli bar and a glass of milk or a liquid breakfast. Plan your breakfast the night before and leave it on the bench if you can so it’s visible as you are rushing through the kitchen.
- Have some healthy options ready for you at work: keep some cereal in your desk drawer (don’t forget a bowl and spoon if your work doesn’t supply them); stash a small loaf of bread in the freezer (if available) and spreads at your desk and make some toast to go with your morning coffee; bulk cook boiled eggs – they will keep in the fridge for most of the working week; or keep any of the grab & go options listed above at work.
- Go to bed earlier! If you’re struggling to get up in the morning it might be time to reassess your sleeping habits. Poor sleep habits has it’s own associated health risks, but not getting enough rest will make it harder to get up and put the effort into making breakfast too.
“But I don’t feel hungry when I first get up, how am I meant to eat breakfast?”
If you’re not hungry in the morning – you should be! Your body should be in a fasting state and crying out to be fed. If not as soon as you wake up, you should feel hungry within the first half hour.
- Reduce your dinner portions: Not hungry in the morning? You’ve probably eaten too much the night before, so your body doesn’t feel like it needs anything when you wake up. Readjust your eating patterns – reduce your portions at dinner (or cut out the snacking after dinner) and you should find yourself hungry when you wake up.
- Get more in touch with your hunger signals: Many of us have lost touch with the signals from our body to tell us we’re hungry. Your body may be so used to being ignored that it has stopped giving you these signals. Stop for a few minutes and sit in a quiet place and really listen to your body – looks for feelings of emptiness in your stomach. Practice this daily and you will start to get more in touch with your hunger signals.
- Eat breakfast anyway!: When it comes to breakfast, getting that metabolism started is vital, so if you’re not hungry, you still need to eat. Choose something quick, easy and palatable – cereal or toast work well. You’ll probably find after a couple of mouthfuls you are actually more hungry than you thought.
- Eat when you get to work: Ideally you want to eat as soon as possible after you wake up, but if you really can’t stomach anything first thing, at least get something in when you get to work. See the ideas above for things to keep at your desk.
“But I don’t like cereal or toast!”
Many of us like the simplicity of toast or cereal for breakfast, while others are so sick of the same thing day in and day out. These standard breakfast options may have been the only options you were given as a child, but breakfast can be just about anything you like. Get creative, let your imagination run wild. We all have taste preferences and there are always going to be foods that people don’t like, but don’t let this be your excuse to skip breakfast.
What’s in a healthy breakfast?
Breakfast is a great opportunity to get in essential nutrients. To get a good combination of different nutrients aim for a breakfast which has:
- Dairy - We need 2.5 serves a day (4 for women 51 years or older), so get some in at breakfast. Go for low-fat versions such as milk on your cereal, yoghurt with your muesli or cheese in your omelette.
- Fruit - We need 2 serves a day, so get half your serves in before you leave the house.
- Grains - Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for our bodies and the best source of energy for our brain as well as providing us with lots of healthy fibre.
- Protein – Having some protein at breakfast will help you feel full for longer. Try the breakfast staple, eggs, or add some nuts or yoghurt to your cereal.
- And for bonus points… Vegetables - We need 5 serves a day (5.5-6 for men) which can be hard to get in all in one meal. Spreading the serves across the day makes it easier to get in what your body needs. Add some tomato or mushrooms to your toast or cram your omelette with a rainbow of vegetables.
What’s your favourite breakfast when you’re in a hurry? Do you eat the same breakfast everyday to keep things simple, or do you like to mix things up to keep it interesting?
Need some fresh breakfast ideas? Come back Saturday for a big list of links and ideas to change up your breakfast!
Image source (original): joephotostudio on FreeDigitalPhotos.net