“Three square meals a day,” the saying goes. But how many of us actually eat three meals a day? Specifically, how many of us eat breakfast every day?
In many households, mornings are a chaotic time. Kids have to get off to school and parents usually set off in different directions, sometimes facing long commutes to get to their jobs. Who has time for breakfast?
For decades nutritionists have called breakfast “the most important meal of the day” and that hasn't changed over the years.
Despite that, a recent survey conducted for the California Almond Board found 50% of women said they skip breakfast on busy mornings. Some said they don't eat because they just aren't hungry in the mornings.
Mood, weight, well-being
"Ditching breakfast can affect your mood, weight and well-being," said nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of "Read It Before You Eat It." "Breakfast helps fill up our minds and bodies after we've gone without food for several hours while sleeping."
The American Diabetes Association has also weighed in on the issue of breakfast, pointing out it usually ends the longest period most people go without nourishment. If the last thing you eat is at 8 p.m. and then sleep to 7 a.m., that's eleven hours of fasting.
“Your body enters into a prolonged fasting state,” the association says in an article on its website. “It starts to believe that you won’t be eating any time soon. When you finally eat lunch, your body stores it as fat because it thinks, 'I’d better save this for later. I don’t know when the next meal will come.' That, of course, leads to weight gain. When you break the fast in the morning, on the other hand, your body can use that food to power you through the day.”
Eat the right things
Nutritionists generally say that people who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier throughout the day. And eating the right things for breakfast can be just as important as eating the morning meal.
Eating a huge breakfast of eggs, sausage and pancakes – typical in the past – is not going to be helpful, unless you are preparing for a day of hard, manual labor, like plowing the back 40. Even then it probably isn't the best choice. Starting the day with a lot of calories probably means you'll consume a lot more before the sun sets.
Dr. Heather Leidy, a nutrition expert at the University of Missouri, says the best breakfasts are low in carbs and fat and high in protein and fiber. Fiber will fill you up and keep you from being hungry later on. And less is more. A healthy breakfast, she says, should really be no more than 500 calories.
Eating a healthy breakfast is particularly important for children and adults with chronic health conditions. According to Katherine Zeratsky, at the Mayo Clinic, it can also help people lose and control their weight. In addition to keeping you from getting hungry later in the day it will also boost your energy level.
Healthy breakfast foods
What makes for a healthy breakfast? According to the John's Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, you should sample from the bread and grain, dairy and fruit or vegetable food groups. When you have little time for breakfast, have fruit, non-fat yogurt or granola bars on hand.
You can also be creative. There's no law saying your have to consume traditional breakfast food first thing in the morning. If you have leftovers from a healthy dinner the night before and the mood strikes you, there's no reason you can't have warmed up salmon and vegetables for breakfast.
Cold pizza, on the other hand, is probably a bad idea.