September brings to mind a lot of things such as going back to school, the end of summer, and maybe even some fun fall activities like apple picking. But you probably don’t particularly associate this month with breakfast food. Nevertheless, September has been deemed Better Breakfast Month, so we’re here to remind you not only to start your day off with a meal (maybe), but to try to improve it nutritionally (definitely).
What constitutes a better breakfast? That depends in part on your starting point. Plenty of people skip breakfast because they may not be hungry first thing in the morning and it seems as if this could be a good way to save on a few calories. But your body can’t run on empty, so getting some nutritious calories in the morning may be important. According to a 2014 study at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, people who eat breakfast maintain better insulin sensitivity, achieving more stable blood sugar levels and better metabolism than those who forgo breakfast.1 Betts, James A.; et al. “The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in lean adults.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 4 June 2014. Accessed 7 September 2016. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2014/06/04/ajcn.114.083402
On the other hand, according to a 2013 study, folks with Type 2 diabetes, for example, did better when they skipped breakfast altogether and ate a larger lunch.2 Hanna Fernemark,Christine Jaredsson,et al. “A Randomized Cross-Over Trial of the Postprandial Effects of Three Different Diets in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” PLoS One. 2013; 8(11): e79324. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3842308/
But however important it may be to have breakfast, it is equally imperative to not waste those calories on junk food. While it may be tempting to grab something quick on the way to work, that often translates to a donut, fast food drive through hash browns and sausage McMuffin, or a buttered roll. Not good. And you also want to avoid the highly processed, sugary, and/or high sodium breakfast foods that come packaged at your supermarket, such as cold cereals and muffins. There are so many healthier options if you just do a little planning ahead.
As we’ve discussed before, fresh squeezed lemon juice in water is a great way to start your day. It aids in digestion, helps balance the body’s pH, reduces systemic inflammation, bolsters the immune system, and more. But of course lemon juice isn’t your only good option. A little coffee may be okay if that’s your thing, but make sure you only drink it early in the day and don’t overdo it. Tea is a better choice if you are looking for a bit of a caffeinated pick-me-up.
When it comes to food, eggs, nuts, and lean organic, grass-fed meats can all provide a good source of protein in the morning. Add some fresh fruit rather than juices for a fiber boost as well as antioxidants and other nutrients. Getting your fiber from fruit means there’s no need to emphasize the carbohydrates either. Berries, cantaloupes, and apples are particularly beneficial because of all the antioxidants and vitamins they offer. Or add vegetables like onions, tomatoes (okay, we know tomatoes are really a fruit, but we use them like vegetables), mushrooms, and peppers to your eggs. You can create a flavorful omelet that will get you off to a healthy start with lots of nutrients without going overboard on calories.
If you’ve got a good appetite in the morning, you can have a sizeable meal as long as you rein in your other meals throughout the day so you don’t end up with a huge calorie count. In fact, a 2008 study at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond found that indulging in a large breakfast leads to the loss of far more weight and body fat than eating a restricted-calorie, low-carb breakfast.3 The Endocrine Society. “New weight loss diet recommends high-carb and protein big breakfast.” EurekAlert. 17 June 2008. Accessed 7 September 2016. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-06/tes-nwl061008.php While that was successful for the obese, inactive subjects participating in that research, it was probably more of a short-term fix. So keep in mind that a breakfast can be larger, but still needs to be healthy first and foremost. Then again, other studies contradict that. In a different study, people who were told to skip breakfast ended up eating less overall compared to breakfast eaters.4 Levitsky DA, Pacanowski CR. “Effect of skipping breakfast on subsequent energy intake.” Physiol Behav. 2013 Jul 2;119:9-16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23672851 The bottom line is that skipping breakfast may be just as effective as eating breakfast for weight loss.5 Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco T, Pope-Cordle J, Sharp T. “The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Mar;55(3):645-51. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1550038
And that brings us to another great idea, which is a breakfast smoothie. Make your own at home using a nutritious source of protein such as a superfood or hypoallergenic protein powder and some delicious berries, and you’ve got a morning meal that will balance your nutritional needs, fill you up nicely, and give you the energy to tackle your busy day.
We all have our own food preferences, but why not try something new during Better Breakfast Month? You might be surprised at how much you like an option you had never considered before. The bottom line is that when it comes to breakfast, make sure it’s healthy. Better to not eat breakfast at all than to eat high sugar, high fat, empty calorie foods.
|↑1|| Betts, James A.; et al. “The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in lean adults.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 4 June 2014. Accessed 7 September 2016. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2014/06/04/ajcn.114.083402|
|↑2||Hanna Fernemark,Christine Jaredsson,et al. “A Randomized Cross-Over Trial of the Postprandial Effects of Three Different Diets in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” PLoS One. 2013; 8(11): e79324. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3842308/|
|↑3||The Endocrine Society. “New weight loss diet recommends high-carb and protein big breakfast.” EurekAlert. 17 June 2008. Accessed 7 September 2016. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-06/tes-nwl061008.php|
|↑4||Levitsky DA, Pacanowski CR. “Effect of skipping breakfast on subsequent energy intake.” Physiol Behav. 2013 Jul 2;119:9-16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23672851|
|↑5||Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco T, Pope-Cordle J, Sharp T. “The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Mar;55(3):645-51. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1550038|