Here's what I've been sharing with the 15 Utah women competing in the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute's My Heart Challenge: Moms Edition:
Breakfast is just what it says – it ‘breaks’ a ‘fast’. We may go anywhere from 8-12 (or more) hours without consuming anything when we sleep. Our body is in a semi-fasted state. Consequently, our metabolism is blunted as well. When we eat breakfast, it helps to get our bodies going, including our metabolism. Especially for those of us with weight management goals, why not take advantage of any metabolic advantage we can get.
Breakfast is a great opportunity to get essential nutrients. Energy, protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals are all nutrients found in our breakfast foods. By skipping breakfast we may miss out of some of these key nutrients. Of course, in order to obtain these nutrients this assumes we consume a balanced meal when we eat breakfast, and I realize this is not always the case. To ensure this happens think of the plate method when choosing what to eat: aim to have a whole grain (such as a whole grain cereal, oatmeal, or a whole wheat English muffin), a fruit and/or vegetable, and a lean protein source (such as lowfat/nonfat dairy, hardboiled egg, or nut butters).
Finally, we see that eating breakfast may help us with our weight management goals. Research tells us that individuals who skip breakfast may be more likely to overeat later in the day. It makes sense when we think about it – perhaps we skip breakfast because we are very busy in the morning. We eat a lighter lunch or snack throughout the day because of this busy, on-the-go lifestyle. We may feel alright (not overly hungry) until we get home and start to relax from the day – and then it hits us. All of the sudden we’re opening the cupboards and trying to find anything at all to eat, and we may not be likely to seek out the healthiest option. It is helpful to understand there is a hormonal imbalance when we go too long without consuming enough calories, and our body tries to correct this imbalance by prompting us to eat. Unfortunately, in these situations we may be likely to overeat… I often hear clients tell me they were ‘good’ all day long, but get home and end up overeating or binging. This is because ‘good’ meant they just were not eating enough. So, having our calories consumed evenly throughout the day may help prevent us from overeating later in the evening.
When I ask individuals what gets in the way of eating breakfast, they say they either are not hungry, or don’t have time. Both of these excuses can be addressed. If we’re not hungry, it is because our body has adapted to not eating in the morning. Luckily, this can be reversed. If we start eating even just something small – like a smoothie or a yogurt – we start getting our body used to eating. Over time, by increasing the amount that we eat, we become used to eating and even will start to be hungry in the morning. How great is that? As for the lack of time, that can be solved by prepping something the night before (such as a peanut butter and banana sandwich), or considering more grab-n-go options (try a Greek yogurt, a banana, and granola bar). Also keep in mind, you do not need to select traditional breakfast foods. If you don’t like whole wheat waffles or oatmeal, consider leftovers from another meal, or a sandwich wrap.So give breakfast another shot. Whether or not it is the most important meal, it is pretty helpful in reaching our nutrition and healthy habits goals.