You’ve probably heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but do you know why it’s such a key meal for your health? We talked to Amy McCallister, a registered dietitian from AM Nutrition Services to get the scoop on how this meal can impact your overall well-being.
McCallister shared the actual window of when you should have breakfast can vary from person to person, so she recommends eating within two hours of waking up. She encourages patients to listen to hunger cues to develop a healthy relationship with food and meals. That means if you aren’t hungry right upon waking up, checking in with yourself regularly over the next couple hours to notice when you begin to feel hungry. The idea is to not wait until you feel starving to eat a meal.
The Positive Impact of Eating Breakfast on Your Overall Health
McCallister provided many benefits of eating breakfast on our overall health, including:
- Feeling more focused and alert, avoiding dreaded brain fog
- Restores glycogen levels to give you energy
- Prevents large fluctuations in blood sugar levels
- Reduces risk of chronic illness including diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- Less likely to snack on junk food throughout the day
- Maintain weight loss (According to National Weight Control Registry research)
- Opportunity to start your day off consuming folate, calcium, fiber, iron, along with vitamins A, C, and D (specific food recommendations included below)
- These nutrients help keep our heart healthy, oxygen levels stable, prevent cancers, and keep bones strong
The Negative Impact of Skipping Breakfast on Overall Health
- Your body starts to run on reserves, in other words, an ’empty tank’
- Sends your body a message to ‘conserve’ rather than ‘burn’ incoming calories, which can impact your overall metabolism
- Can lead to a higher consumption of carbohydrates (including added sugars), higher total fat intake, and less fiber intake later in the day
- Fewer vitamins, minerals, and key nutrients consumed
- If you do not reach the recommended amount of fiber per day (25-30 grams), you may experience irregular bowel movements, constipation, blood sugar fluctuations, lack of fullness after eating, and a rise in cholesterol levels
- Increases your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 55 percent
Nutrients Needed to Create a Balanced Breakfast
In order to create a balanced meal, McCallister encourages incorporating all three macronutrients on your plate:
- High-fiber carbohydrates: Give your brain and body energy and fiber
- Lean protein sources: Controls cravings and fuels cells for recovery
- Heart-healthy fats: Keep you full for the long haul and helps absorb nutrients in your food including vitamin A and D
To visualize a balanced meal, McCallister said you can picture filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and the other half would be split down the middle with high fiber carbohydrates and protein. Vegetables may be harder to loop into your breakfast but adding fruit will do the job.
Quick and Easy Breakfast Meal Ideas from a Registered Dietitian
Now you know it’s beneficial to eat breakfast, but you may not know where to begin on meal ideas. McCallister recommends keeping things simple to give yourself a better chance for success when it comes to eating incorporating breakfast into your everyday routine. Her top six balanced meal ideas include:
- Quick yogurt bowl with Greek yogurt: Topped with berries, some raw oats, and a sprinkle of nuts—like walnuts or crushed almonds. (Pro tip: Try cottage cheese instead of yogurt to mix it up!)
- Veggie egg muffin cups: Bake them the weekend before and pair with a whole-grain English muffin and a banana
- Loaded oatmeal: Cook up quick high-fiber oats, and add milk for added protein and calcium, top with berries, bananas, chopped nuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon!
- Avocado toast:Use whole grain bread and sliced up avocado. You can also have hard boiled eggs ready ahead of time as a topping. Top it off with Everything bagel seasoning for bonus flavor!
Pro tip for avocado storage: If you only use ½ of the avocado, you can top the other half with a dab of lemon juice and bag it up in the fridge for the next day
- Peanut butter-banana smoothie: Add frozen banana, a Tablespoon of peanut butter, a teaspoon of flax or chia seeds if you have them, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt and milk/milk alternative into a blender with some ice
- Breakfast burritos: For a savory and satisfying breakfast, grab a few corn tortillas and fill with scrambled egg, a spoonful of refried beans, salsa and avocado.
Breakfast Foods to Avoid
- Sugary cereals
Take Control of Your Diet to Maintain Your Health
Did you find these meal ideas helpful, but you are still feeling like you need more support and guidance? If you are a member of Arizona Care Network (ACN), you can reach out to our concierge team for assistance finding an in-network dietitian or nutritionist and scheduling an appointment. The bottom line is breakfast can positively impact your overall health. Choosing to skip this meal can have harmful effects on your well-being. If you or a loved one are struggling with healthy eating habits, we encourage you to reach out by calling 602.406.7226 or emailing email@example.com.