Samantha Amarel from Sharjah says that while she makes an effort to make a decent breakfast for her husband and kids, they invariably end up not eating it due to lack of time. “I do make breakfast but because of the rush of the morning school bus and my husband’s office transport, it ends up not being eaten. I can see it is taking a toll on my kids as by the time they come home from school, they are drained and tired. How do I make more time for this important meal?” she asks.
Most of us are in a similar kind of rut with little or no time for this very important meal of the day. But what makes this first meal of the day just so important? To answer, Dr. Shaik Altaf Basha, Professor of Internal Medicine at GMC Hospital, explains that breakfast is considered the main meal because it serves to end the overnight fasting. “It heralds the activities of the day ahead,” he says and essentially when we consume breakfast, we replenish the energy in the form of vital calories and our water with minerals
The bottom line is never skip breakfast. Skipping breakfast lowers your metabolism and sets you up to overeat and crave bad foods later on. According to Dr. Basha, the negative result of skipping breakfast includes lack of calories and is equivalent to fasting/starvation. When you’re asleep, your body isn’t burning as many calories. If you delay your first meal of the day till lunch, your body goes into survival mode and starts storing calories, creating fat. “These effects are the same for both kids as well as adults,” he says. “Also breakfast is especially important for growing kids and teenagers because the level of physical activity is relatively higher in them.” In fact he points out that there are studies which show that kids skipping breakfast are less active and perform sub-optimally in school. If you skip breakfast, or eat the wrong foods, you miss out on optimizing your mood for the rest of the day.
Research studies have demonstrated that people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. It’s also more likely that people who regularly eat breakfast also make good dietary choices the rest of the day. Another plus point is that breakfast is the start of getting our serotonin levels perking along and balanced. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is related to our well being. Eating a good breakfast also prevents you from overeating as if you prolong the amount of time between dinner and your next meal of the day, the subsequent hunger pangs and the thought of food all morning will only cause you to overeat at lunch. This adds extra calories that can lead to obesity and other health complications. Eating breakfast also allows you to adequately portion your meals as consuming a healthy, balanced breakfast can help you plan your meals for the rest of the day. That way, you won’t be tempted to binge eat or snack unnecessarily, both of which are unhealthy habits.
Some good recommended nutritious breakfast foods, says Dr. Basha includes eggs and vegetables in the form of an omelette or yoghurt with fruit and nuts. Eggs are also a good source of protein and one egg only has about 75 calories. Breakfast should include a healthy source of protein and plenty of fibre as this combination will help satisfy your hunger and will keep you feeling full until lunch time. The protein can come from low-fat meat, low-fat dairy products, or nuts and nut butters. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. “For people who are always in a rush, it is better to pre-plan and prepare a breakfast which can be carried in a pack and the individual can have it on the way or can have it at the work place,” he says. He adds that overall, a hearty cooked breakfast is preferable rather than frozen or cold one. “In fact, there are other ideal foods to consume for breakfast which include a combination of homemade whole grain muffin, oatmeal, cornflakes, baked beans, boiled or scrambled egg, low-fat cream cheese, skimmed milk, greens, fruit, sliced wholemeal bread, and even idlis with vegetable broth and yoghurt,” he explains
What To Avoid
While any breakfast may be better than no breakfast, don’t ruin your breakfast with high-fat and high-calorie foods. Some types of foods which Dr. Basha does not recommend are processed cereal foods, sugary or syrupy items, meats and broth. Eating a high sugar/carb breakfast will increase serotonin levels as well as create a spike in blood sugar and then a cascading hormone crash to follow. Aim to cut out sugary breakfast cereals, high-calorie pastries, and preserved meats that are high in saturated fat and sodium
Try These for a Healthy Breakfast
- Berries: These are low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants and phyto-nutrients. Try adding a cup of fresh or unsweetened frozen strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries to your morning cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt.
- Cold cereal: There are actually some nutritious options out there; check the ingredient lists and nutrition-facts labels and look for cereals that have at least 3 grams of fibre and 6 grams or less of sugar per serving.
- Cottage cheese: High in protein and calcium, cottage cheese is an excellent choice in the morning. To limit saturated fat, choose one or two percent milk-fat varieties.
- Eggs: Eggs eaten as part of a balanced breakfast will keep you full all morning long and supply more than a dozen essential nutrients
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is packed with soluble fibre and can keep you satiated for hours. Try mixing in natural peanut butter stirred in with some chopped-up bananas or dates.
- Peanut butter: Natural peanut butter is a good source of monounsaturated fat, which may help lower bad cholesterol in the blood.
- Smoothies: Start with a protein-rich base of low-fat milk or plain yogurt, then add unsweetened frozen fruit, such as berries or bananas.
- Whole-grain breads: Compared with refined white bread, whole-grain varieties are a better source of fiber and many nutrients, including iron, B vitamins, and vitamin E.
- Yogurt: Yogurt is packed with filling protein and bone-building calcium. Aim to buy the low fat Greek variety and then add a teaspoon of honey