Looking for evidence of the health benefits of breakfast? According to researchers at the University of Florida, children who ate breakfast consistently generally consumed more calories each day but were less likely to be overweight. The same study also indicated that eating breakfast may improve memory, test scores, and school attendance.
Not Just for Kids: The Importance of Breakfast
After a night without food, your body needs refueling to get through the next day. “Think about the word ‘breakfast,'” says Tallahassee, Fla.-based dietitian Evette O’Connor, MS, RD. “It literally means to ‘break your fast,’ the 8 or 10 hours your body has gone without food. When you don’t eat breakfast, your body has to call upon other nutritional stores in order to function. It’s just like your car. You can’t drive without gas, and your body won’t function properly without replenishing its fuel.”
Adequately fueling your body has indirect benefits. People who skip breakfast often feel more tired, irritable, and restless in the morning. People who eat breakfast have a better attitude toward work, more strength and endurance, and better concentration — all of which are crucial to sticking with a diet and an exercise program.
“People often tell me that ‘I get hungry more often if I eat breakfast,’ but that’s a good thing,” says O’Connor. “It means your metabolism is up and going, which means your body is burning fuel, or calories. And because eating gives you energy, you feel better and are more likely to be able to fight the urge to overeat.”
Breakfast Boosts Weight Loss
Eating breakfast to lose weight seems counterintuitive, but if you monitor what you eat, along with how much you eat, it is possible to maintain or even lose weight. “A rule of thumb is to eat between 300 and 500 calories at breakfast,” says O’Connor. “And don’t worry about eating breakfast on the go — the most important thing is to just eat it.”
What constitutes a good breakfast? High-fiber cereals and fresh fruits are healthy choices that require little preparation. Other options include:
- Yogurt, granola, and low-fat granola bars for on-the-go choices
- English muffins with low-fat cheese and tomato slices
- Fresh pineapple chunks, low-fat cottage cheese, and a slice of whole-wheat toast
- Whole-wheat pita stuffed with hard-boiled eggs
- Oatmeal, grits, or another hot cereal topped with cheese
- Homemade “egg McMuffin” with eggs or egg substitute, Canadian bacon, and low-fat cheese
- Tortilla with deli turkey and low-fat cheese
If you don’t like traditional breakfast foods, the American Dietetic Association suggests options like a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread or leftover rice mixed with yogurt, dried fruit, and nuts, sprinkled with cinnamon.
While some choices are more nutritional than others, O’Connor admits that even a handful of saltine crackers or a glass of juice is better than beginning your day with nothing in your stomach: “Yes, you could have something healthier, but jump-starting your metabolism will help your body burn calories throughout the day, and burning calories is essential to weight loss.”