Giving Your Health A Fast Break

The best day for your body and mind begins with healthy breakfast

We’ve heard it so many times, most of us accept it as truth—breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While the reality is that all of your meal habits contribute to your overall health, this popular belief about breakfast is rooted in the great benefits experienced by those who make smart choices in the morning. The first of those choices, of course, is not to skip.

“The benefits of breakfast been studied extensively,” says Andrea Manley, a clinical dietitian at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “Recent findings have shown an immediate effect on cognitive performance, feelings of wellbeing, as well as extended benefits related to nutrient intakes and diet quality, and weight management.”
 
“Some studies have shown an association between breakfast consumption and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and improved measures of glycemic control with type 2 diabetes,” adds Manley. She also notes that while a good breakfast helps people of all ages, its effect on children may be even more significant.  
 
“Children are still growing and their brain is still developing,” Manley says. “They need regular fueling from food. When a child skips breakfast, they don’t have what they need to perform at their best.”
 
Skipping breakfast can also affect weight control, especially for adults.
 
“Breakfast skippers tend to eat more food than usual at the next meal, or nibble on high calorie snacks to stave off hunger,” Manley says.
 
Unfortunately for the many of us who love them, morning favorites such as doughnuts are not the smart way to avoid skipping breakfast. The empty calories that fill up some of the sweeter, easier breakfast choices will wreak havoc on your blood sugar and likely make you feel tired before noon.
 
Having a truly good morning, and performing your best as the day goes on, means bringing the right foods to the table.
 
 
Smart Breakfast
 
Manley suggests that people include a complex carbohydrate, protein, and unsaturated fat in their balanced breakfast. These essentials can be combined in different ways, such as:

  • Oatmeal with raisin, glass of low-fat milk, a piece of fruit
  • Fruit and cottage cheese with whole wheat toast
  • Granola and yogurt with a piece of fruit
  • Boiled or scrambled eggs with turkey sausage and whole wheat toast
  • Non-sugary cereals (such as Wheaties, Cheerios, etc.) with low-fat milk, a piece of fruit and a boiled egg
  • Apples with peanut butter or banana with peanut butter and a glass of low-fat milk
  • Pancakes with peanut butter and a banana on top
  • Omelets with vegetables and low-fat cheese

 
Unhealthy Breakfast
 
Empty sugar calories are a bad idea any time of the day, and they may even be hiding in what seem like healthy options. Do your best to avoid:

  • Doughnuts
  • Sugary bagels
  • Pre-baked toaster pastries with sugary filling
  • Fried foods such as fried potatoes in lard or grease
  • Muffins, which are often high in sugar
  • Danishes
  • Sugary cereals
  • Syrup for pancakes or French toast (use peanut butter and a fruit, or a reduced-sugar syrup)
  • Juice

 
Many people are surprised by that last one because of the high amount of vitamin C that many fruit juices contain. The rest of the juice, however, is mostly just sugar and you are better off eating the orange, apple, or whatever fruit you prefer.

“The actual fruit has fiber, which slows down the glucose absorption rate,” Manley says. “This decreases the risk of drops in blood glucose, which can cause fatigue and make it hard to pay attention at school. Also, the fiber in fruit is good for digestion.”
 
Water is a great beverage option in the morning, and squeezing some lemons into the water helps provide the citrus flavor without added sugar.
 
Manley also advises that consumers think about what kind of food they are eating rather than relying on the grams of sugar listed on the packaging. For example, whole-wheat bread that contains complex carbohydrates may have a similar amount of sugar grams as a sweetened cereal, but the whole grains in the bread make it the better choice.
 
Breakfast On The Run
 
For many of us, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day but instead the most hectic. But the hustle and bustle of morning is still not a good reason to skip breakfast. When necessary, a mobile meal is better than none at all.
 
“Eat something anyway, even if it’s small, and include a protein source,” Manley says. Some examples include:

  • Commercial nutritional shake (seek out those low in sugar, high in protein)
  • Protein bar
  • Homemade shake with whey protein and low-fat milk, made the night before
  • Granola bar or Kashi bar
  • Piece of fruit and a glass of low-fat milk

 
“Not having time is not an excuse,” Manley says. “Remember this is for you and your family’s health. You can do it.”