Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
I’ve enjoyed a long relationship with breakfast. It’s such a versatile meal, and over the course of many years I’ve learned variations, nuances and creative ways to prepare and serve it. My husband and I enjoy going out for breakfast or brunch on the weekends, and when the kids were little we’d have breakfast for dinner and call it an upside down day. Breakfast is a meal I’ve never grown tired of cooking or eating.
It’s called the most important meal of the day for a reason and in my research I could find no scientific studies to refute this claim, although I did find an article in Food and Wine magazine that presented five unscientific reasons. A healthy breakfast is linked to health benefits that include a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity and increased mental agility and physical endurance. Your mother was right.
To some people breakfast means coffee. Did you know that 65 percent of all coffee consumed in the United States is during breakfast? To some it’s a serious effort at a meal, and for the in-between people it’s whatever you can grab that’s edible on your way out the door. I have been all three of these.
I love breakfast because it’s a meal with no food rules. You can eat breakfast any time of the day or night. Despite its versatility, breakfast has some specific foods like orange juice, bacon, sausage, eggs and cereal that seem exclusive to the meal. There are thousands of riffs on these ingredients for preparing other meals but you can always find these on a breakfast menu.
Eating breakfast is something I do every day, and I aim for a healthy one five days out of seven. My relationship with breakfast began at home. My mom mandated that breakfast be eaten before we left for school. If we attempted to forego this rule she would simply say “fine, I’ll call the principal and let him know you won’t be in because you refused to eat breakfast.” It was too embarrassing to risk it and her rule was a liberal one. She offered lots of options and even the pickiest eaters met the criteria for boarding the school bus. I have always suspected the cold pizza option was created in our home.
We know eating breakfast is important, but knowing what we should do and actually doing it are two very different things. Breakfast is the meal most often skipped. When you don’t eat in the morning, your body thinks it needs to conserve the energy it has because it isn’t getting any additional nutrition. Your metabolism slows down and decreases the amount of calories you burn. It’s a bad way to start the day, yet many of us are guilty of the offense. An Egg McMuffin at the drive through window doesn’t count. With over a third of its 300 calories coming from fat, along with 230 mg of cholesterol, 29 g of carbohydrates and 840 mg of sodium there are many better-for-you options to consider. Think—and eat—outside the box.
If you Google the words skip breakfast you will find that 31 million of us, or about 10% of the population, are breakfast skippers. The most common reasons are we weren’t hungry, didn’t feel like eating or didn’t have the time. Women are more likely than men to be skippers, claiming they are too busy or running late.
Adults 55 and older are most likely to eat breakfast on a regular basis and among the teenage population the 13- to 17-year-olds are the ones most often heading to school hungry.
The word breakfast originated as a verb in 1679. It was the first meal of the day, eaten when you first wake up and to break your fast from the night before. If you worked the farm, you put in a few hours moving the herd or milking cows before you sat down to eat, and when you did it was a hearty meal. The demands of physical and mental labor required a good start to the day, and I believe that theory has stood the test of time.
There are those among us who believe the only thing to be consumed at 6:00 a.m. is coffee, and many people say they just aren’t hungry that early in the morning. It’s a valid argument, especially in the new world order of the working world. We rise early, suffer a lengthy commute and enter a global environment that operates 24 hours a day. Even a home office carries the risk of skipping this meal. By the time we are engaged in the work day the idea of breakfast, even if we are hungry, becomes a distant memory…unless someone brought donuts to the office.
What you eat and when you eat is important. A healthy breakfast sets your blood-sugar pattern for the rest of the day. Eating whole grains and proteins means your blood sugar will rise slowly and fall slowly. Eating a sugar-laden pastry gives you an insulin spike and then a blood sugar drop that makes you hungry again and establishes a cycle of more sugar eating to bring it back up again. It never ends well.
A point worth remembering is calories get burned up no matter when you eat them, but a heavy meal eaten late in the evening means those calories are most likely being stored as fat. The old saying “eat like a king at breakfast and a pauper at dinner” has merit and health benefits.
No Rules, No Excuses
When I fell out of the breakfast routine it seemed to domino into the rest of my eating habits and bad things happened. My rationale was most often ‘no time’ and my solution was the 10:00 a.m. sugar rush. It took a high cholesterol test result and an invested Weight Watchers leader to educate me and put me back on the right track.
Getting into the breakfast habit is surprisingly easy. The excuse of not having time can be offset by a little planning and advance preparation, especially during the work week. I make my lunch every day and keep a snack drawer at work. If I leave the house without breakfast (it happens) it is waiting for me when I get there.
My office has a kitchen and I take advantage of it. Our CEO generously stocks it with fresh fruit and options like dry cereal, instant oatmeal and granola bars, a toaster oven and a bodacious espresso machine, if you consider coffee a food group.
When I travel I am up early and in the dining room for some oatmeal or an egg white omelet. I never ever do the buffet. My personal nemesis is bacon (another word for meat candy) and I can’t eat just one piece. European breakfast buffets are different. I always find healthy meat and cheese options and in Asia I ate made-to-order noodle bowls every morning.
Breakfast is not limited to the traditional anymore; today we can have breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast. I wasn’t joking about the cold pizza. It’s all about good nutrition and if you find an option that fuels you up with good calories and want to call it breakfast go right ahead and do it. Have it your way.
Recharge your brain and your body. Do what your mom told you to do and eat a healthy breakfast today. It’s a good habit to get into.