When it comes to breakfast, we know anything that looks remotely like a fruit loop should be avoided at all costs – I mean, if you can literally see the sugar content, you know it’s not going to be good for you – but new studies prove this shouldn’t mean skipping breaky altogether, writes Ellie McInerney.
‘Breaking the fast’ comes with a whole host of health benefits that can help us perform better at work, stick to a diet and even prevent feelings of anxiety. I’m sure whoever knighted breaky with the title of “the most important meal of the day” did not do so lightly, so let’s give this often forgotten meal the time of day and take a closer look at the power of a good breakfast.
Why is breakfast important?
Breakfast is important because it kick-starts our metabolism, this means it gets our body ready for the day by replenishing glycogen (energy levels) and provides us with the fuel to begin a new day. When you think about it, you normally wouldn’t go 8–10 hours without d d, so if you skip breakfast your body remains in fast-mode, which can lead to feelings of fatigue, moodiness and poor concentration. According to Nutrition Australia, the benefits of a regular breakfast also include:
- Reduction in the chance of over-consuming high calorie snacks mid-morning
- Stablisation of blood sugar levels, which can prevent dizziness and fatigue
- Improvement in memory and concentration levels
- Improved metabolic rate
- Stablisation of energy levels
Why kids need to eat breakfast
A good quality breakfast will get you well on your way to meeting your daily nutritional requirements, which is equally as important for our kids. A simple breakfast like eggs on toast can provide a child with protein and carbohydrates for long lasting energy as well as D and B Vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc. Red Cross Australia says that the benefits of breakfast in a school student’s diet cannot be overlooked: “Children who eat breakfast each day are much more likely to meet their daily nutritional requirements”.
The reason for this is because “a good quality breakfast can provide a child with up to a third of their daily nutrient needs”. Further benefits for kids who start their day with breaky include
- Longer attention span in the classroom
- Better physical performance after eating
- Improved concentration on classroom tasks
- Better socialization skills and overall mood, as children aren’t tired or hungry
What can happen if we skip breakfast?
So we know the benefits of breaky, but what happens if we skip it? Skipping breakfast is a bad habit you’re better off breaking, as the long term impact of forgoing this meal can lead to health complications down the track. We know about fatigue, dizziness and lethargy in the short term due to low blood sugar levels as a result of going without food, however some of the long term implications can lead to binging, weight gain and contribute to obesity.
This is because fasting for too long can lead to us making poor choices when we suddenly realise that we’re super hungry, and often if we’re not prepared with an apple or smoothie on standby, we’ll grab the closest snack which is just as likely to be high in fat, sugar and sodium.
Why time of day matters when on a diet
According to this podcast transcript by Scientific America, a big breakfast can lead to:
- Improved insulin control
- Improved glucose and triglyceride levels for the rest of the day and
- Better control over weight and improved chances of weight loss
The podcast looked at a study of women who split their calorie intake over three meals a day over a three-month period. The first group of women consumed most of their calories, 700, at breakfast with a 500 calorie lunch and 200 calorie dinner. The second group of woman switched this up by consuming just 200 calories for breakfast, 500 calories for lunch and 700 calories for dinner. The results? Of the 93 overweight or obese women who took part in the study the woman who ate the bigger breakfasts lost 17.2 pounds (approximately 8 kilos) and three inches from their waistlines, 10 pounds (approximately 4.5kg) and an inch-and-a-half more than the women who had consumed just 200 calories for breakfast.
Healthy breakfast ideas
Check out some of these delicious ideas for nutrient- packed, delicious and easy breakfasts. Make these the night before to save time in the morning and keep in the fridge for a hearty, healthy breakfast that’s ready to go.
Pre-Made Oat Bowl
- Almond Cinnamon Oats: ¾ cup oats, ½ cup almond milk, 2 TBS sultanas, ½ sliced banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Loco Coconuts! ¾ cup oats, ½ cup coconut milk, ¼ cup coconut shreds, 2x TBS cocoa nibs and sprinkle of coconut sugar.
- Nutty Protein Punch: ¾ cup oats, ½ cup macadamia nut milk, 2x chopped dates, 3x TBS crushed hazelnuts and 1x scoop protein powder.
- The Hulk: Handful fresh spinach, ¼ avocado, handful fresh mint, 1x frozen banana, 3/4 cup water, ice and cocoa powder
- Coconutty Muesli: 1x cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup frozen berries, 3x fresh strawberries, 1x TBS coconut shreds, ½ cup toasted muesli
- Hearty Honey Almond – x1 cup almond milk, teaspoon honey, 1x frozen banana, ½ cup gluten-free oats
- Peanut Butter & Strawberries: 2x gluten free bread toasted with 1x TBS natural peanut butter and slices of fresh strawberries
- Cheesy Eggs and Green Goodness: 2x gluten free bread toasted with scrambled eggs, sprinkle of cheese, ½ avocado and side of scrambled spinach
- Almond Banana: 2x gluten free bread toasted with mashed banana and sprinkled with toasted almond flakes and a dash of cinnamon
Which breakfast products are healthiest?
Choosing a breakfast cereal was easy as a kid, it was a matter of going straight for the brightest box with the yummiest looking contents. Now we know the brightest colours are certainly not always best and although taste is important, the ingredients within the box are now equally so. From the table below it is clear a few brands come out on top in regards to sugar levels for breakfast cereals with Weet-Bix a clear winner at just 1g per serve. Carmen’s Honey Roasted Crunchy Clusters is also a good choice with 6.1g of sugar per serve. Up & Go has 11.8grams of sugar which seems a huge amount for a 250ml beverage.
|Up & Go Liquid Breakfast||8.5g||3.8g||22.3g||11.8g||163mg||168cal||250ml|
|Nutrigrain||8.5g||0.2g||26.6g||10.7g||144mg||147.6cal||1 metric cup|
|Coco Pops||1.4g||0.1g||26.4g||11g||127mg||114cal||2/3 metric cup|
|Carmen’s Honey Roasted Crunchy Clusters||5.3g||7.2g||24.3g||6.1g||30mg||191cal||45grams|
|Freedom Foods, Pear Almond & Vanilla Bean Clusters||3.6g||6.2g||28.8g||8.3g||61mg||197cal||50g|
Why ingredients are important for a breakfast cereal
Reading a nutritional label and having an awareness of things like portion size and calories per serve is important for managing your weight, however ingredients are equally as important as some brands load their products with artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.
These are things you really don’t want to be consuming at any time, let alone as a way to kick-start your day. Compare the two products below, Carmen’s Honey Roasted Crunchy Clusters and Kellogg’s Coco Pops. Your body will thrive off Carmen’s Low GI (GI level 51) ingredients like the 11% nuts (almonds, pecans and hazelnuts) and whole grain oats. However, you probably won’t feel too good 20 minutes after eating a bowl of Coco Pops, with added flavours and the second highest quantity ingredient being sugar.
Carmen’s Honey Roasted Crunchy Clusters
- Whole Grains 66% (Whole Grain Oats, Puffed Rice [Rice, Emulsifier (471), Salt, Vitamin E], Whole Grain Oat Flour)
- Nuts 11% (Almonds, Pecans, Hazelnuts)
- Raw Sugar
- Honey 5%,
- Sunflower Oil
- Corn Starch
- Natural Vanilla Flavour
- Antioxidant (E307b)+
Kellogg’s Coco Pops
- Whole White Rice (59%)
- Cocoa (3%)
- Minerals (Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Zinc Oxide)
- Barley Malt Extract
- Vitamins (Vitamin C, Niacin, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate)
More great breakfast Ideas
If you’d like even more healthy breakfast options, check out this cool seven-day healthy meal plan by Body & Soul or have a squiz at Jamie Oliver’s five breakfast recipes to get you out of bed for even more morning mealtime inspiration!