We hear it all the time – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And yet, it’s the one we’re most likely skip when pressed for time.
We know it offers many health benefits, but still it seems to be low on our list of priorities. In 2011, the Kellogg’s company conducted a survey of 14,000 adults. Half of them said they’d like to eat a morning meal, but only one third actually did.
So, why the discrepancy?
The main reason people give for not eating an early meal is a lack of time, followed by not being hungry first thing in the morning.
We may understand that a healthy lifestyle includes a nutritious start to the day, but we don’t seem to believe it. At least, not enough to make any significant changes in our eating patterns.
To that end, let’s explore a few of the reasons why we should make the effort to take morning nourishment on a regular basis, and how we can incorporate simple changes to benefit from “breaking the fast.”
Research conducted over 16 years by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and published by the American Heart Association journal Circulation, found that men in the ages 45-82 who regularly missed their morning meal had a “27% higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary disease” than those who do dine early (1).
And the non-breakfast eaters were also more prone to risk factors including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Another study conducted by the HSPH, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found a 20% increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for women who go without breakfast only one day per week (2).
And these risks increase proportionately the more often this meal is missed, particularly as women age. The report also states that increasing evidence of skipping this important meal is “directly associated with weight gain and other adverse health outcomes.”
The problem, it seems, is a matter of timing. When we sleep, our metabolism is in a holding pattern – we’re in a state of rest and don’t require a lot of energy. But, when we wake, our bodies begin to rev up and break their metabolic fasting state, and we need fuel to function efficiently and effectively.
If we don’t eat until mid-morning or lunchtime, our blood sugars are more likely to spike and then crash. After enough of this spike and crash cycle, the pancreas can’t cope and a ramped-up production of insulin in response to these high sugar cycles may develop into diabetes.
As if that wasn’t enough, extended periods of low morning blood sugars can result in low energy, a lack of concentration and diminished alertness.
So clearly, there are plenty of reasons why we should partake in a morning meal. But, that still leaves us with the problems of not having enough time, and not feeling hungry when we wake.
Busting the No-Breakfast Cycle
Let’s address both complaints to find some solutions:
1. Not enough time.
Fair enough – kids, work, commuting, working from home, appointments and other obligations squeeze our time tighter than two coats of paint. But, what if you could find an extra five or ten minutes? Would that help to start a healthier morning routine?
Here are a few ideas from dietitians and nutritionists, to help us find the time to fuel up before starting the day:
The ideal morning meal should be a combination of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, veggies and/or fruit, some lean protein and a wee dram of healthy fat. So, take a few minutes before bed to decide what you’re going to have in the morning.
Is there any fruit or berries in the fridge? These go well with oatmeal and cereal. Prep by getting out the oatmeal and a cooking pot, or put the cereal on the table with the dishes and cutlery you’ll need, and prepare some fruit so everything’s ready to go when you get up.
You can even use quinoa to make a protein-rich, gluten-free hot breakfast cereal that’s quick to make.
Fruit and berries go great with yogurt, too. Make up a yogurt parfait with berries or fruit and some low-fat granola, then refrigerate in a small container overnight to take with you.
How about veggies? They’re perfect for a veggie omelet. We even put them in pancakes, like our sweet corn pancakes. Prep some veggies, get out the pan, and set the table.
Any bread in the house? Put it on the cutting board with a banana and a jar of almond butter, then pop a slice in the toaster for a quick, nutritious bite while getting ready.
Do you like wraps? Make a morning wrap of avocado and low fat cheese, and store in the fridge overnight. Keep some hearty homemade muffins or savory breakfast cups in the freezer to grab on the go, make these easily adaptable pinwheels, or prep a healthy loaf like banana nut bread and top slices with a smear of cream cheese.
2. Not hungry in the morning.
Well, there’s an easy solution to this one:
You don’t need to eat as soon as you get out of bed. Eating within an hour or two (at most) of waking is sufficient to provide the fuel that fires up our metabolism.
It’s really about making a few small changes that will develop into a healthier routine. Check out the links above for savory breakfast-style breads that freeze well – make a batch when you have a bit of time, and you’ll always have something to start your day right.
Any other ideas from the regular breakfast-eaters out there to help us out? Leave us a comment and share your knowledge.
With thanks to our reader Christian, for the idea about breakfast-wise prepping.
(1) Harvard School of Public Health – American Heart Association, Circulation; Circulation. 2013; 128: 337-343 doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.001474. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/128/4/337.abstract
(2) Harvard School of Public Health – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug; 98(2): 436–443. Published online 2013 Jun 12. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.057521. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712552/
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.