Breakfast Benefits 11/05

November 2005

Years ago, I burned out the engine of my car by letting the oil run dry and then driving it for some time. The word dipstick comes to mind. I am really not proud of this. But I’m smart enough to learn from my mistakes. I put my husband in charge of car maintenance. As a wife with other roles, I was able to give up accountability for my car. It was dispensable; I bought a new car. Luckily, I take more pride and interest in the health of my body than I do the car I drive.

If you’re skipping breakfast you just might be giving up accountability for your health. That’s okay if you have a full-time nurse to look after you. And as much as you might like to buy a new body, that is not an option.

Educators know that children who come to school hungry have greater difficulty in the classroom. Luckily, in Edmonton we have the School Lunch Program. Jasmin Hoeven, Program Manager, says, “Students perform better in every aspect when they are provided breakfast, not just academically, but also physically and emotionally.”

While most of us can easily afford the food, we think we can’t afford the time. Or we think we can’t afford the calories.

Breakfast need not be elaborate or time-consuming, and skipping it is not an effective means for weight loss. In fact, eating breakfast helps to manage your weight.

Why Breakfast is Important

The rate at which your body uses calories for energy is known as metabolism. Metabolism is directly related to energy levels. So, the higher your metabolism, the more energy you have throughout the day. How much energy you have depends on how many calories your body has to use. When you go 12 – 14 hours without food your body has to work extra hard to break down stored carbohydrates or to turn fat or protein into a usable form for your brain to function.

Years ago, my car reacted to the absence of oil by, you know, ceasing up. Your body compensates for long periods without food by clinging to every calorie and holding on to every pound. Who needs that?

If you are using coffee as your early morning energy supply, understand that while it boosts blood sugar levels and temporarily masks hunger, it does not count as REAL fuel.

The Mayo Clinic says:

People who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to:

  • Have more strength and endurance
  • Have better concentration and productivity throughout the morning
  • Control their weight
  • Consume more vitamins and minerals and less fat and cholesterol
  • Have lower cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease

You don’t have time for breakfast? Getting up earlier, made easier by going to bed earlier, just might ease some pressure. The ideal is to take the time to sit at a table and enjoy a nutritious meal. This sets a good foundation for your day.

If getting up earlier is not going to work for you, how about having something ready you can take with you? A hard-boiled egg, dry cereal, trail mix, fruit, or a small, whole-grain muffin (chocolate is not a grain) are all good, portable options. A portable breakfast is also ideal for those not able to look at food first thing in the morning. Take it with you, and as soon as you feel the slightest bit hungry, eat and enjoy.

If traditional breakfast foods aren’t tempting or practical, get creative. Leftovers, even chicken noodle soup can do the trick. Something is better than nothing.

The ideal breakfast consists of 3 of the 4 food groups. Choosing a variety of complex carbohydrates, protein and a small amount of fat is a winning combination that ensures peak performance throughout the day, satisfies hunger and minimizes overeating later.

Fruits and Vegetables – virtually any fruits or vegetables, 1/2 cup of 100% juice without added sugar.

Grains – Whole-grain breads, bagels, (1/2 bagel will do if you’re choosing 3 food groups) hot or cold whole-grain cereals, low-fat bran muffins, whole-grain crackers, melba toast

Dairy – 1% or skim milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheeses, such as cottage cheese or low fat mozzarella

Protein – Hard-boiled or poached eggs, peanut butter, lean slices of meat and poultry, fish, such as water-packed tuna or slices of salmon, nuts and seeds

If weight loss is your concern, eating 5 or 6 small meals through-out the day is recommended. Frequent consumption keeps the engine running, boosting your metabolism and burning calories all day long. If you skip meals you are actually tricking your body into thinking it is starving, causing your metabolism to slow down. Skipping meals often leads to overeating later in the day as a result of lack of control and distorted satiety signals (it’s hard to tell when you’re full). Consequently, more calories can be consumed by not eating breakfast.

In order to have your body revved and performing at peak efficiency, you’ve got to have a high quality energy source that is available throughout the day, particularly at the start of your day. Otherwise, you better watch for the veil of blue smoke pouring from your tail pipe.

By the way, have you checked your oil lately? “Ken, . . . honey.”