Bring breakfast back

What they say is true – breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. It might be the last thing on your morning to-do list, or worse, it might not be on your list at all, but a healthy breakfast refuels your body, jump-starts your day and may even benefit your overall health. So don’t skip this meal – it may be more important than you think!

Healthy benefits of a balanced breakfast

▪ Helps keep energy levels high. Your body (specially your brain) needs glucose from food. Just as a car runs best with a full tank of fuel, your body needs the right kind of “nutritional fuel” for peak performance. When you skip breakfast, your blood sugar level drops even lower. As a result, you become hungry and have less energy, and you may experience headaches, dizziness, irritability, weakness, among other symptoms.
▪ Control of the LDL cholesterol. Skipping breakfast can lead to an increase in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels, according to a study by researchers at the University of Nottingham in England.
▪ Reduce insulin resistance. A study from the same university found that those who skipped breakfast were more resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance increases the risk of developing diabetes.
▪ Helps weight loss/management. Eating breakfast actually helps with weight loss and long-term weight management. When you eat breakfast, your body feels nourished and satisfied, making it less likely for you to overeat during the rest of the day (extra servings or bigger portions for lunch or dinner).
What should you eat?
When it’s time to choose a healthy breakfast, you should include foods from at least four of the food groups (whole grains, dairy or other proteins, fruits/vegetables, and heart-healthy fats). Together, these food groups provide complex carbohydrates, fibre, protein and a small amount of fat — a combination that encompasses various health benefits and helps you feel full for hours.
Fibre and protein are the most filling nutrients, so be sure to include protein-rich foods and fibre-rich foods if you tend to get hungry in the morning. Protein-rich food includes eggs, turkey or chicken ham, hummus, nuts, dry beans, seeds, smoked salmon, milk/yoghurt/cheese, etc. Fibre-rich food includes fruit, vegetables and whole grain. For example, a bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and yogurt will keep you full much longer than a bowl of sugary cereal or a white piece of bread.
These quick and flexible options give you some examples of ways to put breakfast back on your daily menu:
Option 1
▪ 1 low-fat Greek yoghurt
▪ 4-6 tsp of oats flakes
▪ 100gm of red fruit
▪ 1 tsp of Goji berries
▪ 1 tsp of pollen in grain
Option 2
▪ Omelette (2 whites, 1 yolk, coriander and chopped vegetables)
▪ 1 slice of whole grain toast with olive oil and aromatic herbs
▪ 1 cup of fresh fruit juice
Option 3
▪ Smoothie (use a blender):
▪ 240ml of skimmed milk or 200ml of vegetable milk (almond/soy/oat etc.)
▪ 1 tsp of brown cereals (eg oats)
▪ 7 strawberries + 1 slice of melon
▪ 1 tsp of linseed
Note: This is a good option if you’re running short on time.
If you never eat breakfast, try starting at the weekend when you have more time, then expand your routine to weekdays. You may be surprised how much easier your morning goes, and how much more healthy food you will eat throughout the rest of the day!
By Ana Rita Horta
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Ana Rita Horta is at Dietitian at the Hospital Particular do Algarve