I’m a breakfast eater. No doubt. Other than exercise, there’s little I’m willing to do in the morning before I eat. Wherever I wake, at home or traveling, I rarely walk out the door without taking in some form of nourishment. Even when the destination is a restaurant for brunch, I’ll still eat something first. A handful of nuts, an apple or banana… something!
So in the colloquial sense of the phrase, I am the epitome of a “breakfast eater.” But to be honest, I don’t really like that phrase. As a nutritionist I’m of the opinion that there are no “breakfast eaters” and “non-breakfast eaters.” Despite hearing the claim almost daily from clients and friends – it usually sounds something like “I’m just not a breakfast eater. Never have been.” – I choose not to accept that some people are genetically averse to breakfast eating. Physiologically our bodies all work pretty much the same. And although many (let’s be honest, most) dietary concepts still sit in the column of debated theories, the value of daily breakfast sits right under the ‘health value of whole fruits and vegetables’ in the column cautiously labeled “nearly fact!”
Your body runs on fuel burned from food. Breakfast provides the day’s first fill-up. Evolutionarily we have developed ways to get up and go without fuel, but the hormonal stress response triggered by that habit (a preparation for a day without food) doesn’t exactly jive in today’s world. Not unless you enjoy that obstructed view of your feet. Food in the morning serves to wake your body up. It aligns your hormonal patterns for the day, starts your metabolism and tells it, rightly so, that you’ll be eating today. It has a positive influence on mood, energy levels and cognitive function while contributing to the achievement and maintenance of a healthy body weight.
So how do so many of us end up in a place where we never eat breakfast and feel so confident that we don’t need it?
There may be quite a few reasons. I think many of them start with caffeine, stress and time coupled with the impressive resilience and adaptability of the human body.
So if you’re a “non-breakfast eater” ready to concede that perhaps a morning meal could benefit your health, the New Year is a great time to start! Here are a few tips to get you thinking:
- Demote the caffeine. Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks… none of them make a particularly ideal breakfast. (Soda and energy drinks don’t make an ideal anything!) If your breakfast is coffee, the beep on the automatic brewer serves as your alarm clock, insist on this ONE thing. You will EAT SOMETHING before your first cup! Caffeine can be an appetite suppressant, often contributing to that “not hungry in the morning” complaint.
- Start small. If a lack of desire for food in the morning is part of your problem, try opting for just a few bites of something. A half of a piece of fruit, a handful of almonds or a single hardboiled egg. Try choosing something you love to eat, even if it’s not typical breakfast fare. Before long you won’t believe how you ever did without it.
- Time is of the essence. Yes I know. But frustratingly, there is always time if you make it. And yet, many breakfasts don’t even require that much effort. Yogurt comes prepackaged in little cups with easy to remove tin-foil tops. Whole grain toast toasts with the push of a button (or lever). And it can’t take longer to spread some almond butter than to pour the hazelnut creamer.
Breakfast rule of thumb: It is a meal like any other. It should include a balance of protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat. Not all or none of either.
This entry was written in participation with the Food Networks Healthy Eats blog and their Healthy Every Week Challenge for the month of January. Join in and stay tuned to JBR Nutrition for more insights to optimal health.