Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When you have a good breakfast, it helps to kick-start your metabolism and provides energy for the entire day. It helps you focus better at work or study. No matter what kind of a schedule you have, it’s vital that you don’t skip your breakfast because skipping breakfast may upset your body’s natural rhythm of eating and fasting.

Your blood sugar level usually goes down when you’re sleeping; when you wake up in the morning, it’s usually at its lowest. When you have breakfast, it provides your body the sugar it needs to help your brain and muscles function. When you skip breakfast, your body doesn’t get the fuel it needs, leaving you feeling tired – and may even cause you to overeat later in the day, giving you a craving for sugary, fried, or high-fat foods. If you’re diabetic, having breakfast helps regulate your glucose levels. So not having a breakfast may actually make you put on more weight!

This National Nutrition Month, let’s take a look at why a healthy breakfast is so important for starting the day right.

Benefits of a Healthy Breakfast

Adults who eat a healthy breakfast regularly:

  • Eat more protein, fiber, and minerals
  • Eat less fat
  • Regulate their blood sugar levels
  • Control their weight
  • Perform better at work

Children who eat breakfast regularly:

  • Get their daily nutritional requirements
  • Are able to maintain a healthy weight
  • Can concentrate better at studies in school
  • Are generally healthier and miss fewer days of school

What Makes a Breakfast Healthy?

It is recommended that your breakfast should include food from these groups as they provide healthy fat, fiber, protein as well as minerals:

  • Whole grains: This is a quick energy source; whole grain rolls, bread, bagels, cereal, muffins and waffles are great for the mornings
  • Lean protein: Proteins are required for muscle building, repair, and maintenance. Eggs, lean meats, nuts like walnuts, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, seeds like flax, chia, sunflower, and legumes and beans, like kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, etc. are good examples.
  • Dairy: Go with the low fat option: milk, yoghurt, and cheese
  • Fruits and Vegetables: You can have fresh or frozen fruits, or 100% juices with no added sugar, as well as smoothies made from veggies and fruit. Bananas, oranges, berries of all kinds, avocado, carrots, sweet potato, spinach, tomatoes, peas, and so on, are good examples.

Choose any food from these main groups according to your preferences and make sure you choose from at least 3-4 food groups so that you have a healthy breakfast.

Breakfast is not necessarily a time-consuming and difficult affair. You can actually eat healthy and give your body the nutrition it needs, without a herculean effort. Let’s look at some breakfast ideas that are as quick as they are healthy.

  • Oatmeal cooked and topped with almonds and berries of your choice (fresh, frozen or dried)
  • Whole grain pita with boiled egg and spinach or sauteed broccoli stuffing
  • Whole wheat tortilla stuffed with vegetables or chicken, low fat cheese and salsa
  • Smoothie made from fruits you prefer, low fat plain yoghurt, and a dash of wheat germ or spirulina
  • Multigrain or whole wheat bread French toast with eggs, cinnamon and vanilla
  • Multigrain or whole wheat sandwiches with:
    • Chicken slices and low fat cheese
    • Red, yellow and green peppers and egg
    • Spinach and cottage cheese
    • Sweet corn and spinach
    • Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cheese
  • Whole grain muffins with a spoon of honey
  • Omelets with low fat cheese, mushroom, onion, tomato and green peppers
  • Fruit salad made up of some cut fruits and cooked quinoa
  • Whole wheat or multigrain bread with peanut butter, banana and chia seeds
  • Avocado on toast and boiled or sunny side egg
  • Cooked oat meal topped with a poached, boiled or easy-over egg

Quick Pancakes

  • Mix together a couple of mashed bananas, raw oatmeal, brown sugar, 2 eggs, and cinnamon, and add a pinch of baking powder. Put a tiny amount of butter in a pan and add a big spoonful of the batter to the pan. Flip when the top dries. Drizzle honey or maple syrup.
  • Mix equal amounts of whole wheat flour and oatmeal, 2 eggs, vanilla essence, and half a cup of blueberries; add half a teaspoon of baking powder. Mix well and make pancakes.
  • Mix almond milk, eggs, oatmeal, banana, baking powder and salt, and make pancakes from this batter.

The Importance of Cereals

Of course! Why bother to cook anything at all when you can simply eat cereals? You need not even sit down at a table and eat – you can grab a handful and chomp it on the go! While it’s good to eat cereal, remember that eating only cereals every day for breakfast will not give you all the nutrition that your body needs, and you will need to mix them up. Plus, all cereals are not necessarily healthy. It’s important that you carefully read the label and check the ingredients and the nutrition facts on the box.

Here is what you should look for in a cereal:

  • Fiber: Look for cereals that provide 5 grams of fiber in every serving – that is ideal; however, you can settle for 3 grams per serving if none have 5.
  • Sugar: Check the label to see how much sugar is included in the box of cereal. Don’t buy cereals with several different types of sugar especially high fructose corn syrup and dextrose. Also avoid cereals that list sugar at the very top of the list or near the top – this means there’s too much sugar in it. Cereals marketed to children generally are high sugar cereals, and it’s best to avoid them.
  • Calories: It’s a good idea to choose lower calorie cereals, especially if you are calorie conscious. Preferably, your cereal should contain less than 160 calories per serving.

Always add low fat milk, fresh or frozen fruit to your cereal. You can also add:

  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Seeds like flax and sunflower

The Truth About Cereal Bars?

Pretty much the same rules apply to cereal bars too; look for those that are low in sugar and calories, and provide the required protein, fiber, and minerals. Choose cereal bars made with whole grains, dried fruit, nuts and/or seeds. Remember to have some milk or low fat yoghurt to have a complete breakfast.

Ensuring a Healthy Breakfast

You can make this work even if you’re super busy and work crazy hours. All it takes is a little planning. Start the night before.

  • Decide what you will cook for breakfast the next day.
  • Do all your prep work – chopping, boiling/baking especially quinoa, sweet potato etc.
  • Set out all the ingredients (that don’t need refrigeration), bowls, pans, spoons and anything else you may need on the kitchen counter.
  • If you can cook something that can be easily reheated in the morning, do that the night before.

Whatever you do, don’t skip your breakfast – you will be extra hungry at work, and end up eating all the wrong food. By eating a healthy breakfast, you will start off your day well and set yourself up for eating healthy throughout the day.

If you have any concerns about your eating habits, or need more guidance on healthy breakfast and other meals, schedule an appointment with your EPIC Health registered dietician now. We will help you achieve your health goals and enjoy optimal health long term.