Your mother always told you to eat breakfast, right? Well, Mom’s advice still rings true, even though you’ve traded a book bag for a log book. That’s because breakfast really is the most important meal of the day – even for adults.
Breakfast, literally defined, is the meal that breaks your fast and is usually eaten within two to three hours of waking.
Several studies point to positive school performance in kids who eat breakfast. However, what’s in this meal for adults? For one, Australian researchers showed last year that eating breakfast as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern was associated with a reduced likelihood of depression in participants over age 18. This protective depressive effect was especially seen in those with Type 2 diabetes.
Secondly, eating breakfast can help you to get more nutrients in your day and lose weight, too. This is especially true, say U.S. researchers, if your breakfast menu includes whole grain breads or cereals, low-fat milk and whole fruit or 100 percent fruit juice.
Third, eating breakfast can make you stress-free and stronger. In the first case, when more than 800 nurses in Wales ate breakfast (cereals, dairy products and fruit), they experienced less stress, fewer lapses in concentration, and fewer accidents and injuries at work. In the second case, Japanese scientists discovered that when more than 1,400 adults aged 19 to 83 ate breakfast daily, their grip strength was stronger than those who skipped breakfast often.
What makes a good breakfast? Ideally, it is one that serves up at least three food groups, from choices that include fiber-rich grains, nonfat or low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. This means that a bowl of whole-grain cereal topped with non- or low-fat milk and slices of banana is an excellent choice as is a bowl layered with granola and fat-free Greek yogurt topped with sliced strawberries.
Other variations include a smoothie: flax or wheat germ blended with milk or yogurt and a choice of fruits or vegetables; or a sandwich made of whole-grain bread, turkey, lettuce and tomato; or even dinner leftovers such as a small bowl of baked chicken, brown rice and broccoli.
There’s no nutritional rulebook that says breakfast can only be comprised of certain foods. A look around the world’s breakfast tables quickly dispels this myth.
For example, a traditional Japanese morning meal includes miso soup, steamed white rice and Japanese pickles. In Colombia, it’s changua, a soup made of milk, eggs, scallions, cilantro and bread, that beats Wheaties as a favorite. And in Turkey, it’s a plateful of bread and cheese along with butter, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers.
What each of these breakfasts has in common is ingredients from at least three food groups.
Prepare ahead of time for breakfast, since mornings can also be among the busiest times of the day. For example, before you go to sleep, move shelf-stable items such as cereal and bread and cool foods such as milk and yogurt to the forefront of your counter and refrigerator to make them quick and easy to grab. You can also hard-cook eggs the night before. For breakfast on the go, blend up a smoothie and pour in a mug, or layer fruit, cereal and yogurt in a portable plastic container.
If you’re not hungry in the morning, take a piece of fresh fruit or bag of trail mix or granola bar with you out the door. One food group is better than none, and it still fits the definition of breakfast.
Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and a regular contributor to The Triton. Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.