By Monique Richard MS, RDN, LDN
There are so many National Campaigns that fit into the area of dietetics and nutrition this month, it was hard to pick just one to focus on. However, with school in full swing, it’s important to recognize the health crisis we face as a nation, especially regarding childhood obesity. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012 and so National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month seemed like an appropriate area to address. I’d like to narrow in on the importance of breakfast and proper nutrition to address not only obesity but all the associated health risks and barriers that improper nutrition poses from inhibiting growth to impairing learning and impacting cognitive function. Whether you’re headed to the office, school, or staying home, nutrition is key (and don’t forget to get outside and play every day).
I know you have heard it over and over again: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Or maybe “You shouldn’t skip breakfast.” And perhaps, guilt, shame and frustration wash over you. Maybe time is an issue, or maybe you grew up without starting your day with some good nutrition. Whatever your breakfast challenge, I invite you to consider just a few reasons why prioritizing breakfast for you and your family can be one of the best changes you make in the daily routine.
• Jump starts your Gastrointestinal (GI) tract (which is composed of muscle, tissue, epithelial cells, and bacteria) and gets it moving, working, and warmed up for the day. Why is that important, you ask? Your GI tract has hundreds of specialty cells emitting signals to the neurons in your brain and all throughout your body; this, in turn, affects metabolism, mood, bowel function and many other systems.
• Consistent blood glucose and systemic conditions. Your body has been in a fasting state while you were sleeping. You want to rev up your engine slowly and smoothly. You want it to be more like a smooth Cadillac gradually going from 0-80 mph and not like a Lamborghini jolting from 0-180 mph, causing you to crash and burn. When you skip breakfast and just gorge on lunch, or grab a sugary coffee or snack, (pop-tart, Danish) essentially, that is what is happening.
• Take in less calories for the day. Research has shown that people who start with breakfast are more satisfied at each meal, more consistent with calorie intake, make healthier decisions, choose smaller portions, have more energy, and are less tempted by snacks and impulsive choices. Over time, this can equate to a healthier way to manage weight.
• Improve concentration and attention. Do you find yourself nodding off in your a.m. class or needing a mid-morning java jolt at the office or when running errands? Do you feel sluggish after lunch or mid-afternoon? When you eat breakfast, those system processes we mentioned earlier start humming and you’re actually feeding and creating energy to the precious necessities you heavily rely on, namely your brain, respiratory, and circulatory system, just to name a few. Sure, there are some metabolic leftovers the body can use when you don’t have proper carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake, but they run much more efficiently on glucose provided by healthy carbohydrates you nosh on when you wake. The protein and fat will help keep you feeling full and provide your cells with nourishment to go about their business as well.
I have heard all kinds of reasons why breakfast may not make the morning cut. From “I don’t have time to eat breakfast” to “I don’t like breakfast foods” or “I am just not hungry in the morning.” But, I challenge you to give it a try. Take a look at the quick tips and suggestions below, start small, and give it a try every day for 7-14 days in a row and observe how you feel and what may be different. Has anything improved regarding your energy? Focus? Hunger? Efficiency? Mood? You may find some positive changes and soon be making breakfast a must.
Breakfast doesn’t have to mean eggs, toast, bacon, and orange juice. Have some leftovers from dinner, a half sandwich, or even a low-sodium cup of soup. Choose a combination of some protein, healthy fat and complex carbohydrates that will stick with you until lunch and give you the boost you need. Note that some foods are a few nutrients combined in one, like nut butters.
Take a look at the chart below to get some ideas for each category. Schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) today to learn about exact macronutrient and micronutrient goals you need for your nutritional needs and health goals.
Create your Own!
Take a look at the chart below and choose items from each category to create some easy, healthy breakfast combos.
*Note: Items listed in the FAT category are healthy fats supplying many other nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and when eaten in moderation are a very healthy addition to a balanced diet.
Easy Breakfast Ideas:
• Lowfat yogurt with granola and a few almonds
• Egg sandwich made with whole grain English Muffin
• Whole wheat toast with peanut or almond butter (unsweetened)
• Hard boiled egg and 1 serving of fruit
• Cottage cheese with berries on top, sprinkled with cinnamon
• Whole grain toast with smeared avocado with an egg on top
• Quinoa with low-fat milk, berries, and almonds, sprinkled with cinnamon
• Dried nuts and fruit
• Milk or dairy alternative and tofu scramble with veggies and salsa wrapped in a corn or whole wheat tortilla
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