When I think of breakfast, I immediately start to remember breakfast growing up. My mom was a firm believer in the importance of breakfast, and we started each day sitting down as a family for that meal. It was such an important part of my childhood, that daily family breakfast, and I treasure the memories associated with that meal. What we had to eat was routine. During the week, it was cereal with milk and orange juice to drink. My mom did not allow us sugary cereals, so Cheerios was usually the choice for my brothers and me. My dad loved the big bricks of Shredded Wheat, and mom liked Kix. Saturdays were pancakes, and Sundays were always soft-boiled eggs and toast. Skipping breakfast was never an option when I was a kid, and it’s a routine I keep to this day.
To be honest, I didn’t make a commitment as an adult to have breakfast every day because it is healthy for me. Rather, I eat breakfast every morning because, with my crazy schedule, it’s the only meal of the day I can guarantee having. But, knowing what I do know about breakfast, even on those days when I could skip breakfast, I don’t. I don’t skip breakfast because there are many health benefits that come from “breaking a fast” each morning.
A nutritious breakfast every day has been shown to lower high blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of diabetes, improve energy levels, improve short-term concentration, improve long-term weight management, improve memory, improve fiber intake, and lower fat and dietary cholesterol intake. People who eat breakfast have a healthier body mass index (the relationship between weight and height) and are less likely to be obese. Conversely, people who tend to skip breakfast tend to be underweight or overweight, have poor overall diets (high sugar and fat, low fiber, and low nutrients), have lower energy, are less active, and have poorer sleep quality.
When I talk about the benefits of breakfast, I am referring to a nutritious breakfast. A nutritious breakfast is high in fiber and nutrients and low in sugar and fat. An occasional donut with a side of bacon is okay, but it is not going to give you the health benefits you are hoping to achieve if you make that your breakfast most of the time.
Researchers have found most people will choose quick and easy options for breakfast over more complex breakfasts, even if the more complex breakfast is healthier. So, if you give yourself the choice of a donut or making oatmeal from scratch, you are more likely to choose the donut. Most people will also choose having no breakfast over a breakfast that is not quick and easy. That means the trick to eating a nutritious breakfast every day is to plan ahead and have nutritious options that are quick and readily available.
Some quick options for breakfast include plain instant oatmeal, adding fresh or dried fruit, and/or low-fat dairy or other types of milk (flavored oatmeal tends to contain high amounts of sugar). Whole grain cereals (not sugary cereals), low-fat yogurt (again, low sugar is best), fresh fruit, raw nuts, whole grain toast, pre-made eggs cooked with no or very little fat, vegetables, avocados, unsweetened nut butters, and home-made smoothies using fresh fruit, vegetables, unsweetened yogurt, and/or low-fat milk.
You can also make breakfast quick and easy with some planning. You can prepare breakfast foods the night before or on weekends. Think about things like overnight oats, healthy muffins, and/or egg bites. You can also keep healthy breakfast options at work if you are allowed.
You can also make some changes that give you a little more time early in the day, so you don’t always have to rely on the “quick and easy” options. Some small changes that can give you a little more time for breakfast could be waking up a few minutes earlier so you have time to eat or taking things out of your “first thing in the morning” routine (like checking social media) and using that time instead for breakfast.
Breakfast is like so many of the things we have discussed in the last few months: it’s a small change that allows you to reap major health benefits. If you are someone who skips breakfast, please consider adding a nutritious breakfast meal to your plan to improve your overall health.
Carol A. Cates, MSN, MBA, RN
Chief Nursing Officer
Odessa Regional Medical Center
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