Thursday Thoughts: Breakfast

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...


Thursday Thoughts

If you are new to my blog, or haven't been reading on Thursdays, this is a segment where I post my thoughts about various nutrition and health related topics, or maybe even something else if it is really an intriguing topic.  Most of my current views and opinions come from experience working as a dietitian and as college instructor in nutrition courses.  Most of that learning is science based or observational from the clinical setting.  In general, I hate over-generalizations, so for many of the things I post, I expect there is one or two exceptions because broad sweeping generalizations are always bound to miss out on something. 

This week I want to discuss breakfast.  There is a reason why this is called the most important meal of the day.  Actually, there is more than one reason...

1) When we go to sleep at night, the body's metabolism will slow, and we will be conserving our energy.  When we get up in the morning, I am sure the furthest thing from most people's mind is waking up their metabolism too, along with kids, spouse, dogs, whatever, but it is really important.  I know mornings can be tough, but it won't help your day to leave your metabolism back in bed.  Without breakfast, the body never really gets told that you kicked it into high gear and are ready to go.  You might be moving around, but your metabolism is still conserving.  I always remind people that you want your metabolism working as effectively and efficiently as possible.  You can't do that if you skip breakfast.

2) I don't care what you eat for breakfast.  Well that is mostly true.  A big breakfast nearing 1000 calories is not what I had in mind, but other than the obviously unhealthy and overdoing it, I really don't care as long as you are not exceeding your energy needs (thinking of these as a portion of what you need for the whole day).  I have had so many clients complain that they don't eat breakfast because the don't like it.  What they don't like is actually the foods American's have classified as "breakfast" foods.  You don't need to eat eggs and toast with a glass of orange juice to have really eaten breakfast.  I am even OK with a slice of pizza.  See, that is the first step.  If someone is not eating breakfast at all and claims to hate breakfast foods, the first step is to get them to eat something...anything.  No, I do not want to see anyone eat pizza for breakfast everyday, but in the big picture for someone who does not eat breakfast, this is a baby step in the right direction.  Once you actually have the habit of eating something, the next step is fueling your body the right way for the day.  Breakfast foods can be whatever you want it to be.

3) If you skip breakfast you make it hard to lose weight or maintain weight.  I am sure you have heard this before, but like I already said, that metabolism is still back in your bed taking a nap, and while you are out and about, your aren't burning energy as well as you might expect.  While for some people this may not be a huge difference, over time this can add up.  Not to mention skipping meals, especially breakfast, leads to overeating later on.  I tend to remind clients that they need to use their minds mostly from the time they get up until about 8-10 hours later, so waiting to power up with brain energy after the time they are at work does them an injustice in the workplace and in life.  Breakfast and lunch should have more of the daily calories because those will be put to work while you are at work or at school or hanging out with friends.  Eating all your daily calorie needs before bed is not really ideal, most often because people will overshoot their hunger level and overconsume as a result.

4) Are you always in a hurry in the morning?  I know some days I am.  It is best to eat within the hour you wake up, but try not to go more than 2 hours.  I personally use 2 hours as my cut off.  Sometimes I will get ready and get to work and then eat, but most days I try to eat at home.  I can't eat right after I wake up, so I save it for the last thing I do before I head out the door.  If I am in a big hurry, I make sure to have something small in my purse.  The worst case scenario or option for me is a small serving of juice just to get my body going and make sure my blood sugar doesn't drop.  I suggest carrying something small on you.  It may not be exactly what you want to eat, but it is better than skipping it all together.  Just be careful if you eat it while driving.  Staying safe is more important than breakfast.  Last point here is plan ahead, so you can always have a game plan for breakfast.

5) What makes a healthy breakfast?  The best is a meal that contains no more than half your daily energy needs (1/3 is good, but at 1/2, you can still do 1/4 for lunch and 1/4 for dinner), does not cause gastric upset in the morning, and contains a variety of food groups.  Grains are a great place to start.  This provides glucose which is the body's preferred energy source.  With your grains should come fiber, or will come fiber if you choose wisely. Fiber is good for the digestive system, heart disease, and helping you stay feeling fuller for a longer period of time.  Protein also helps with satiety, or feeling full for a longer time.  This doesn't mean grab a steak or grill some fish (unless that is what you like), but you can try things like eggs, low fat yogurt, cottage cheese, nut butters, or whatever other protein you find low key and tolerable for breakfast.  The third thing I encourage for breakfast is fruit.  There is no rule that says that without fruit your breakfast won't be healthy, but getting in a serving at breakfast puts you on your way to multiple servings of produce.  If you like veggies at breakfast, go for it.  There really are no rules, so think outside the box.  As with all meals, keep it balanced and within your own individual dietary needs.

There you have my thoughts on breakfast.  Actually, I should avoid using the word because it has a connotation attached, whether positive or negative, and in counseling I stick to calling it first meal or first consumption (as in "when did you first have something to eat today and what did you consume").  I found that when I say breakfast my clients would immediately picture pancakes, eggs, bacon and those foods, so I try to avoid labeling.  Breakfast should be just what it sounds like, and that is breaking the fast...the fasting done overnight.  Make sure not to miss out on this very important part of the day.

QUESTIONS:  Do you eat breakfast?  What are your breakfast tips?

8 comments:

Mer said...

I try to eat breakfast...unless I sleep really late and its just lunch :) But @ work I eat Kashi or Cottage Cheese. Weekends Matt makes me eggs :)

Beth said...

I know this is going to sound awful, but I'm one of those people that is always STARVING in the morning, so I don't understand how people don't eat breakfast! These are great tips though!

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

I used to have a really hard time with eating breakfast, but I "trained" myself to eat breakfast and now eat it every day.

I usually eat oatmeal with a Greek yogurt and walnuts. Yes, it's quite repetitive and boring, but it works for me. When I'm in a rush, I always take a healthy bar, some nuts and a banana.

I couldn't imagine not eating breakfast anymore. In fact, the other day I didn't eat breakfast because I gave a final at 7:00 a.m. (yes, crazy time!!!) and then I got stuck at work, which I hadn't expected. My eating was thrown off the entire day, and I ended up eating way too much for dinner, which caused me not to sleep well... So yes, the first meal of the day is very important!

Gina; The Candid RD said...

I used to eat breakfast the SECOND I woke up. Now, I typically just eat a handful of granola, then I workout after my cup or two of coffee, then I Eat breakfast (two hour cutoff, same as you!). I always tell people it doesn't matter what they eat as long as they eat SOMETHING, and as long as it includes a whole grain OR dairy OR a fruit or veggie :)
Oats, pumpkin, blueberries, yogurt and almond butter is my staple breakfast!

Special K said...

WOW....1/2 my calories at BF? I was doing that for lunch. I wake up at 5:30, have half a toast w/ PB or a little homemade protein "cookie" with coffee by 7, work out until 10 and then eat yogurt and granola at 11....lunch is at 1 or so, dinner 7....snack at 5 (usually again, toast with PB!) I think I am in rut with food lately. My beef is that I always "wait" to eat until it is VERY tasty or I am relaxed to enjoy it. I need to FUEL rather than delay until the "perfect time." Does that make sense?

Kristen (swanky dietitian) said...

In high school, I would barely eat breakfast. Now, it is one of the first thoughts that pops into my head. This was a great post because so many overlook it.

Emily said...

I always eat breakfast! It is probably one of my fave meals. :) Did you see the article on the NYT website about weight loss and exercise when not eating breakfast first? still trying to think critically about that one...

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

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