Jul 5, 2021 | Nutrition

Breakfast of Champions

Starting off your day with a nutritious meal has long been a marker of a healthy lifestyle. Yet, if there’s a meal that’s going to be skipped, it’s probably breakfast. Why?

There are many excuses:
‘There’s not enough time in the morning,’
‘I hate eggs/porridge/cereal,’
‘I’m not hungry right after I wake up,’
or ‘I’m trying to lose weight.’

Eating a healthy breakfast regularly influences brainpower and physical energy on a day-to-day basis. It also affects health over the longer term – studies have drawn associations with reducing the risks of heart disease and strokes, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

Breakfast: yea or nay?
Skipping breakfast also doesn’t equal weight loss. In fact, there is research that shows that not eating breakfast can lead to weight gain, as breakfast-skippers are more likely to consume easily accessible – but unhealthy – snacks to get themselves through to lunchtime. They may also overlook portion size when it comes to lunch, simply because they are so hungry.
Morning meal solutions
We tackle some of the common reasons why peopleare tempted to skip breakfast:

‘Morning rush; no time.’

Mornings are generally more urgent than our evenings. It’s harder to relax and enjoy a meal when you’re anticipating everything that needs to be done in the day ahead, and you’re pressed for time. But it just takes a bit of planning to fit breakfast in and it helps to prep the night before. Before bedtime, set up your kitchen for breakfast. While making supper, cook extra maize-meal porridge for the next day, soak some oats and slice some fruit, or boil a few eggs. Planning can make breakfast quick and easy.

‘I don’t like typical breakfast foods.’

There are no rules. It just matters that you have a healthy start to the day. This means having a minimally processed starchy food, fruit or vegetable, and combining it with at least one other food group. Try maize meal porridge with maas, brown bread with pilchards, or fruit and unsweetened, low-fat yoghurt. Many foods presented to us as ideal for breakfast aren’t healthy: cereals, cereal bars and biscuits, jams and spreads are all stacked with sugar that we should avoid.

‘It takes my system a while to wake up and I don’t feel like eating in the early morning.’

Although breakfast is ‘breaking the fast’ between our longest sleep and lunch, there are many who question the advice to eat when they don’t feel hungry. Consider that breakfast can take place within three hours after waking: you don’t have to sit down to a bowl of porridge at 5.30am.Try staggering your meal over a three-hour period after waking – you could start with an unsweetened, low-fat yoghurt at 6am just before you leave home, have a banana en route to work around 7am, and eat a peanut butter sandwich on brown bread at 7.45am before the workday begins.

‘Breakfast is easiest to ignore and I’m skipping meals to lose weight.’

It’s important for those who are overweight or obese to follow a sensible, results-driven weight-loss programme, guided by registered dietitians and nutritionists. Numerous studies report that children, adolescents and adults who eat breakfast have better weight outcomes and lower risk of overweight and obesity. Skipping breakfast can lead to unhealthy but convenient food choices (often laden with sugar, fat and salt) as you try – on the fly – to get through to lunchtime.

‘What about children and breakfast?’

As parents and caregivers, we are role models for the healthy lifestyles we hope our children will adopt for their lifetimes. It is reported that children who eat breakfast perform better at school than those who don’t. Eating breakfast has an immediate, positive impact on cognitive function, especially memory and concentration. Parents are a major influence on whether children make eating breakfast a habit, and research has shown that one in five South African children skip the first meal of the day. Make a healthy breakfast a family activity and involve the kids in preparing it.

The way forward.

Eating breakfast regularly has many health benefits. Want to reduce the hassle? Draw up meal plans and a food budget, shop for affordable, healthy options, and prep the night before. When you make breakfast an important and enjoyable part of your family routine, you model healthy lifestyle choices and behaviour that not just benefits your children through their school and study years, but also becomes a healthy habit for their future.