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Wake up to a Healthy Start

Waking up is hard enough to do, but it is especially difficult for those who are not “morning” people, who would like to avoid that time of day altogether, and who don’t generally want breakfast.

Photo credit:  Dorothy C. Lee

Photo credit: Dorothy C. Lee

Nevertheless, the sun is still going to rise, people still have to get up, and breakfast is still the most important meal of the day.

Because traditional meals play a significant role in providing daily recommended levels of essential nutrients, nutritionists often cite breakfast at the day’s most important meal, and as the foundation of healthy eating habits.

Despite these recommendations, millions of Americans, in the rush to get to work, school, and other activities, often skip breakfast, thinking there is not enough time to prepare and eat a good well-balanced morning meal.

Studies show that eating habits developed during childhood have the potential to last a lifetime, and children who tend to omit breakfast will likely continue this dietary habit well into adulthood.

Studies have also shown that eating breakfast is associated with improved strength and endurance throughout the day, and a better attitude toward school or work.

The role of breakfast in helping children perform at peak capacity in the classroom was first documented more than forty-five years ago at the University of Iowa Medical College.  Researchers found that children who skipped breakfast had trouble concentrating at school and often became inattentive, irritable, restless and fatigued by late morning—all behaviors counterproductive to learning.  The behaviors were linked to low blood sugar levels which had not been replenished by a morning meal.

Breakfast helps to replenish blood glucose levels, which is important since the brain itself has no reserves of glucose, its main energy source.  Sustained mental activity requires a large turnover of brain glucose and its metabolic components.  After a fast of eight or nine hours, refueling at breakfast will make you feel and perform better during the day.

Here are some quick tips to help you avoid the temptation to be a breakfast skipper:

  • No time?  Build a breakfast around foods that are ready-to-eat or take little preparation time.  For example:  fresh and canned fruits; milk; yogurt, cheese; cottage cheese; ready-to-eat cold cereals; fruit smoothies; and instant breakfast mixes.
  • Take it to go.  Try celery stuffed with a meat or cheese spread, or peanut butter; dried fruits; vegetable juices; or yogurt.
  • Perk up cereals.  Top cereals with fruit or stir chopped nuts such as walnuts or almonds into cooked cereals.  Try adding dried fruit or granola.
  • Not hungry yet?  Drink juice or a fruit smoothie.  Something is better than nothing!  Have some bread or crackers later in the morning, then drink some milk and eat some cheese, and egg, or some peanut butter.
  • Don’t skip breakfast if you’re on a diet.  There is no evidence that skipping meals will help you lose weight.  In fact, studies show that most people who skip breakfast tend to eat more later in the day.  Some may even unintentionally select more calorie-dense foods.

Balanced breakfast choices can help provide the healthy edge needed for optimum physical and cognitive performance for children, as well as adults.  For those who don’t yet eat breakfast, it’s never too late to wake up to a healthy start.

Reference:  United States Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service

Dorothy C. Lee, CFCS
Extension Agent II
Family & Consumer Sciences

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/fcs/2013/08/15/wake-up-to-a-healthy-start/