Breakfast time during the school year can be a challenge for even the most organized of families. Getting children of any age dressed, fed and out of the door on time is a feat each and every day.
But even if you don’t have kids to care for, you may be inclined to rationalize away the importance of eating a good breakfast. Maybe you rush off to work or choose to spend a few extra minutes in bed. Or, like 70 percent of American adults, you may just decide to save the calories for a meal later in the day.
Whatever the reason, listen up: Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day, just like your mother used to tell you, and recent research has only confirmed the benefits to your body and mind of fueling up first thing in the morning.
“When you skip breakfast, your glycogen stores start to deplete, usually by mid-morning, which means you’re losing the stored carbohydrates in your muscles,” said Steve Roch, a registered dietitian in Baton Rouge. “It’s important to keep them always replenished or else your blood sugar levels will start to drop, which causes a hunger response.”
There are a few things that happen then. First, you’ll get food cravings, which means you will be more inclined to make poor food choices at mid-morning snack time or lunch. (Come on, we’ve all done this, haven’t we?)
Second, your metabolism will slow, as it does any time you go more than four or five hours without food because your body starts to automatically go into starvation response. As a result, it won’t burn the food you feed it - when you do finally feed it - as efficiently.
“When you start to skip meals, especially breakfast, you go into a yo-yo pattern and your body starts to conserve all of the nutrients you give it,” Roch said. “You may think skipping breakfast is a way to help lose weight; it’s actually one of the worst.”
Finally, by skipping breakfast you’re limiting your opportunities to meet your daily nutritional requirements, which include five half-cup servings of vegetables and four half-cup servings of fruit for adults.
For children, all this holds true and more. Studies have shown how kids who don’t eat breakfast perform more poorly in school, have difficulty concentrating and tend to be overweight.
“It’s important for their brain development to get the proper nutrients,” Roch said.
OK. Enough about the why. The challenge is how to make breakfast manageable, especially on busy weekday mornings. So here are some recipes and suggestions that can help, including easy, make-ahead muffins.
Many muffins, especially those that are store-bought or come from a coffee shop, are full of fat and sugar. These are more on the healthful side, and can be adapted to be even more nutritious if you substitute whole-wheat flour.
We’ve also included a list of what you should be eating for breakfast, which in sum, is a combination of protein, complex carbohydrates and a little fat. An egg with whole-grain toast or fruit, for example; oatmeal with walnuts or almonds on top; or, a yogurt smoothie with fresh berries.
“Those are the best combinations to get your metabolism going,” Roch said. “And if you only have time to eat breakfast cereal, make sure to add milk to it. Milk is a good source of protein.”