Bring On Breakfast

by Dave on June 5, 2009

As first published in Coastal Sussex Weekly, May 7, 2009:

Yes, it’s another boooring, tired, desperate plea to get you people eating your Wheaties. And I don’t care.  When it comes to eating breakfast, my clients know I mean business. They pull out their food journals gingerly, wincing as my eyes scan their scribbles of fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains and ounces of water…they know none of it is good enough unless, at the top of the page, I see those magic words and smile: “egg whites and whole wheat toast with peanut butter”, “oatmeal with almonds and sliced banana”, “whole grain waffles and turkey sausage”. That’s right my friends, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day…and I am here to prove it to you.

Breakfast is literally that – “breaking the fast”. We need some food after waking in order for our metabolism to get its kick-start for the day and keep working for us (read: burning calories) all day long. Eating within the first hour upon rising helps to maintain your blood sugar and hormone levels, which keeps your energy level high and ensures that you don’t overeat at lunchtime. The brain needs energy quickly, so if you don’t eat enough early on, the brain looks for a different fuel source. It goes into emergency mode, resorting to the energy stored in your muscles, destroying muscle tissue. When you finally do eat, the body stores the energy it gets from food as fat. People wonder, if they are skipping breakfast, why are they gaining weight? If you eat less food you lose more weight, right? In the case for breakfast, WRONG.

In a study by Kant et al, it was discovered that those adults who ate breakfast ate less energy-dense foods (like chips, candy and soda), throughout the day then the non-breakfast eating subjects. It was also reported that the breakfast eaters had lower BMIs (Body Mass Index) than the breakfast skippers. And a report released by the Harvard Medical School revealed that bailing on breakfast increased an individual’s risk for obesity four times more than those that munched in the mornings. Still not convinced eating breakfast can keep you svelte?  Tell that to the 78% of the over 3,000 participants in the National Weight Control Registry  who have lost at least 60 pounds and kept it off for an average of six years; they claim that eating breakfast every day was their single best weight control strategy.

So what constitutes a good breakfast? About 300-400 calories depending on your needs, with a nice amount of protein and carbs, and a bit of good fats: like three scrambled egg whites and a slice of whole wheat toast with margarine; a 1/4 cup of almonds, a low-fat cheese stick and an apple; six ounces of low-fat yogurt with a 1/4 cup of low-fat granola; or 3/4 cup of oatmeal and two pieces of turkey sausage. Serve up with some decaf green tea and you’ll be ready to face the day (and that bikini) in no time.

Lisa Harkins is a clinical registered dietitian with Bayhealth Medical Centers and the owner of Ideal Nutrition and Fitness LLC (www.idealnutritionandfitness.com). You can reach her at lisa@idealnutritionandfitness.com.

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