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Break the Fast: Consuming a
Healthy Breakfast

Cereal, toast and juice

For many years, we've heard, "Eat your breakfast, because it's the most important meal of the day." Although this has been instilled in many of us, there are also those individuals that choose to skip breakfast for various reasons.

The benefits of eating breakfast for adults and children

Why eat breakfast? Eating breakfast gives your body calories to burn, jump starting your metabolism, and giving you energy to get your day started.

A good rule of thumb is to fuel up on breakfast soon after waking up each morning. You have rested and fasted throughout the night, and your blood sugar levels are naturally low when you first get up, so eating a healthy breakfast will raise those levels and keep them up until your mid-morning snack. Eating breakfast keeps you from having that early mid-morning energy crash.

Research shows breaking an overnight fast with a balanced meal can make a major difference in overall health and well-being, especially for children and teens. When comparing children who eat breakfast regularly with those who do not eat breakfast on a regular basis, or skip breakfast altogether, eating breakfast regularly was shown to have a beneficial effect on attention span, memory, and school achievement.*

Eating breakfast also helps curb hunger and overeating later in the day. Skipping breakfast leads to eating more calories through the day and later at night. While not eating breakfast may lead to weight loss; it will also lead to lower energy levels and decreased physical and mental performance, which may then cause problems with job performance.

Barriers and solutions for not eating a healthy breakfast

Think of breakfast as a way to fuel your body first thing in the morning.

  • "I'm not hungry." Start your day with a cup of 100% fruit juice and a piece of whole wheat toast. Later, eat a mid-morning snack, such as a hard-boiled egg or low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
  • "I don't have enough time in the morning." Stock your kitchen with easy-to-prepare foods such as breakfast cereal, instant oatmeal, whole grain toaster waffles, yogurt, and fresh fruit.
  • "I'll gain weight." There is no evidence to support the belief that eating breakfast will make you gain weight. In fact, skipping meals has shown to lead to overeating at snack time or the next meal.
  • "I don't like breakfast foods." Breakfast can be any food you enjoy. A slice of leftover veggie pizza, bowl of soup, or leftovers all make a good breakfast.

Try these tips for a healthy breakfast

  • Breakfast should include protein, a high fiber carbohydrate, and fruits and/or veggies.
  • Go lean with your protein choices. A few good choices are a tablespoon of peanut butter, scrambled or boiled egg, or lean deli meat and low-fat cheese on whole wheat toast.
  • Add whole grains. They provide an extra nutrition punch because they contain fiber, which may reduce your risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, and other health problems. They also tend to digest more slowly providing a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time. This would include foods such as whole grain cereals like oatmeal, whole-grain breads, brown rice, and hominy (grits).
  • Breakfast is the perfect time to enjoy produce and it's easy to pack if you're on the go. You can top your cereal or yogurt with fruit, such as bananas, pears, apples, melon, or grapefruit.
  • What about veggies? Try chopped veggies in an omelet or a refreshing glass of 100% vegetable juice. Make it a routine! Get organized the night before, keep breakfast simple, and you can also pack it to go.

Check out the following websites for more great information

(Sally Vickers and Leisha Ferguson are public health educators in the health promotion and wellness department at the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center. You can also find the center on Facebook)

SOURCES: * "4 Tips for Better Breakfasts." Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Accessed July 2015.

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