Nutrition

Breakfast: Why is it the most important meal of the day?

Posted March 18, 2011, at 11:08 a.m.
Last modified March 21, 2011, at 2:40 p.m.
Steel-cut oats cooked overnight with dried cranberries make for a healthful, comforting and ready-to-eat breakfast.
Steel-cut oats cooked overnight with dried cranberries make for a healthful, comforting and ready-to-eat breakfast.

Pay attention. This is your mother speaking. You will not leave this house in the morning without eating breakfast. I don’t care what your friends do. No, a Pop Tart doesn’t count as breakfast.

Does this bring back memories of your own teen years? Fast forward … have you become your mother where your children and breakfast are concerned? Why is it that mothers don’t want us to skip breakfast? Why is breakfast considered the most important meal of the day? Why do people skip breakfast?

Research has shown that children who regularly eat breakfast in the morning do better in school than their peers who skip breakfast. Breakfast consumption in school-age children has been linked to better memory, better test scores and better attendance. Eating breakfast on a regular basis has been associated with healthier weight in children.

The benefits for adults are quite similar to those of children. Several studies have shown that eating breakfast will reduce how hungry you are throughout the day. Eating breakfast will give you the energy you need to start your day, and the more energetic you are throughout your day the more calories you’ll burn. Research has shown that skipping meals, especially breakfast, can actually make weight control more difficult since people who skip breakfast tend to eat more food than they need during the day. Meal-skippers often end up nibbling on high-calorie snacks to stave off hunger. Also, they may feel that because they haven’t eaten much during the day they deserve to have more at the next meal.

Studies show that the caloric intake of normal-weight people is fairly evenly distributed throughout the day, while obese individuals tend to skip breakfast and consume more calories at night. Late-night eating results in stored glucose in the form of glycogen, and unless the glycogen is burned as fuel, it will be packed away as fat, causing weight gain.

An interesting concept from recent studies suggests that people tend to accumulate more body fat when they eat fewer, larger meals than when they eat the same number of calories in smaller, more frequent meals.

Although it doesn’t seem it when you are in your comfy bed in the morning, time invested in sitting down and eating a good breakfast is more valuable than the few extra minutes of sleep you might get by staying in bed and skipping the morning meal.

Making and eating breakfast doesn’t have to be the very first thing you do when you get up in the morning, but it is good to eat something within an hour or so of rising. Try to include some protein for breakfast since it is slower to be digested than carbohydrates, and carries you through the morning.

For a quick and nutritious breakfast, try one of these suggestions:

  1. Peanut butter and slices of banana on whole-wheat toast
  2. Scrambled eggs and whole-wheat toast
  3. Greek yogurt with a couple tablespoons of granola and a tablespoon of raisins
  4. Breakfast smoothie made with low-fat or skim milk, frozen berries, a banana and some low-fat vanilla yogurt

Or, you can wake up to the smell of breakfast cooking:

Overnight Oatmeal Makes 8 servings, 1 cup each

8 c. water

2 c. steel-cut oats (do not substitute rolled oats)

1/3 c. dried cranberries

1/3 c. dried apricots, chopped

¼ tsp. salt, optional

1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Turn heat to low. Put lid on and cook until the oats are tender and the porridge is creamy, about 7 to 8 hours or overnight.

Nutrition facts: 193 calories, 6 gms protein, 3 gms fat, 77 gms sodium, 34 gms carbs,

                 9 gms fiber

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian who lives in Athens, Maine. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or e-mail her atGeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.

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