By Suzanne Proulx M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
Eating a nutritious breakfast is a great way to jump-start the day, yet a tasty breakfast might not be finding its way onto your kitchen table. Rushed morning routines, trying to lose weight, and lack of appetite early in the morning are all reasons people skip breakfast. Nevertheless, mounting evidence supports the idea that breakfast may indeed be the most important meal of the day.
Studies examining eating habits suggest that the regular consumption of breakfast can:
Although it would seem to make sense that skipping breakfast would save calories, data suggest otherwise. In a study of nearly 3,000 adults who lost and kept off at least 30 pounds for longer than one year, close to 90 percent reported eating breakfast on most days of the week. Interestingly, the breakfast eaters and breakfast skippers consumed almost the same total daily calories; the breakfast skippers made up the missed breakfast calories throughout the day. In addition, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that breakfast skippers are 4.5 times more likely to be obese than are breakfast eaters.
Before reaching for that doughnut or pastry, keep in mind that what you choose for breakfast is just as important as eating breakfast. Think of breakfast as the perfect opportunity to start accumulating the minimum five servings of fruits and vegetables and three servings of whole grains recommended for optimal health. Furthermore, the National Academy of Sciences recommends that adults consume 21 to 38 grams of fiber per day. This presents quite a challenge for those choosing low-fiber breakfast options or for those skipping breakfast altogether. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are the best sources of dietary fiber. High-fiber foods have the added benefit of warding off mid-morning snack attacks by creating a feeling of fullness. Likewise, adding some protein such as seafood, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry, egg or egg substitute can also aid in suppressing hunger.
Breakfast can be one of the most monotonous meals of the day, but with a little creativity, the first meal of the day can be one of the best. Variety can beat breakfast boredom, so don’t be afraid to include some unorthodox breakfast foods for a change of pace. Additionally, if you have abandoned breakfast due to a busy lifestyle, some of these breakfast ideas can be packed up and taken along for a delicious grab-and-go breakfast treat.
A lack of appetite in the morning may be the result of a large meal or snack consumed the night before. Perk up your morning appetite by eating lighter and earlier in the evenings. If a large breakfast is still not appealing, perhaps a breakfast smoothie may be the answer. Try blending a mixture of either low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt or soy milk with fruit, 100 percent fruit juice and your favorite spices or flavor extract. Oat bran, wheat germ or ground flax seed can be added for extra fiber.
So start your day the healthy way by fueling up with a nutritious breakfast!
Suzanne Proulx M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is a senior nutritionist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She is also a group nutritionist for the Women's Health Initiative, which is a landmark research study designed to investigate some of the major causes of disease and death in postmenopausal women. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Boston College and a Master of Science degree in nutrition from Boston University.