BREAKFAST: THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY?
The word breakfast is derived from two words “break” and “fast”. The end of a period of going without food which in the case of breakfast is eating following a period of sleep.
In recent times there has been a debate about the importance of breakfast and whether it is actually the “most important meal of the day”. When we wake up our blood sugar levels are usually low and breakfast provides our bodies with energy and nutrients for our muscles and brain to function effectively. Skipping breakfast has been associated with lower levels of concentration throughout the day but also associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, due to insulin resistance and hormone irregularity. It is important to note that other lifestyle and socioeconomic factors may also contribute to disease risk and we should look at our dietary habits,exercise levels and lifestyle choices as an entirety and not as singular components.
In practical terms and throughout my practice I have met people who refuse to eat breakfast. I for one do not eat before leaving the house around 7.30am. I prepare my breakfast and eat it in the office around 10am. I appreciate not everyone has the luxury of eating at a desk but the alternative of eating early in the morning is nauseating and therefore breakfast is out of the question.
I have therefore categorised different types of breakfast eating habits and come up with some solutions which may help you or your family when it comes to breakfast.
“I can’t leave the house without breakfast”
It is great that you are having breakfast but, what are you eating? The type of breakfast you are eating may influence the dietary choices you make for the rest of the day. For instance a breakfast high in sugar will usually offer little nutritional value and also cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels and in turn insulin. Continuous high levels of insulin may cause insulin resistance, a cause of type 2 diabetes. Swapping pastries and cereal high in sugar for overnight oats/yoghurt with fruit, wholemeal toast/bagel with fruit/ nut butter or eggs on wholemeal toast will cause a gradual increase in blood sugar levels and release insulin at a slower rate. Additionally, a breakfast that includes protein will help keep you satisfied for longer while the fibre, minerals and vitamins will contribute to overall well being. This applies to all habits and not just those who typically eat breakfast.
“I’m not hungry first thing and don’t want breakfast”
I am in this category. As I mentioned I am lucky enough to be allowed to eat at my desk but I understand this is not the case for everyone. If you are like me and find yourself getting hungry around 10am, prepare your breakfast the night before and bring it with you. Eat it at your desk if you can. Alternatively, if you do not have a desk job, bring snacks such as fruit which you can have close to hand. A liquid breakfast such as a smoothie or milkshake may also be of benefit here.
If you are on the road, choose wisely or even better if you can, go prepared with your own!
“No way, I won’t eat until lunchtime”
Some feel like this because they are just not hungry. What you have consumed the night before may be the cause of your lack of hunger the following day. Avoid large meals or excessive snacking at least 3 hours before bedtime. Another strategy is starting off with a small amount of food. Eat a small piece of fruit, a smoothie or a small slice of toast. Slowly readjust to eating breakfast again.
If you do not eat until the afternoon with the aim of reducing your daily calorie intake for fat loss then you are misinformed. Skipping meals or depriving yourself of food is not an effective long term fat loss strategy. Reducing the overall volume of food you eat at each meal and making better dietary choices on a daily basis is a more sustainable fat loss strategy.
In conclusion, breakfast should not be considered more important than any other meal but rather an opportunity to fuel your mind and body at the beginning of your day!