How to Make the Most Important Meal of the Day Even Healthier

We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But why? It may be because the food we eat first thing in the morning affects our bodies all day long, according to new research. When you eat a low-glycemic breakfast, you can actually stabilize blood sugars throughout the day, thereby making you less likely to overeat throughout the day, according to researchers at the Institute of Food Technologists' Wellness 12 meeting.

The glycemic index ranks foods according to how much they raise blood sugar levels when eaten. Foods with a high index — such as white breads, desserts and other refined treats — are quickly digested and result in high fluctuations in blood sugar levels. However, foods with a low glycemic index produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels and are considered healthier, especially for people with diabetes. Since low-glycemic foods eaten at breakfast promote eating less at other meals, the researchers hypothesize it could help people to maintain or lose weight.

Mitzi Dulan, registered dietician and co-author of The All-Pro Diet, wasn't surprised at the findings. She's been making sure her clients get protein and fiber at breakfast to help satisfy and help blood sugars stay more steady. 

"Make sure you are not only eating foods that are high on the scale," Dulan says. "Try to eat whole grains and whole fruits and vegetables. Get your protein. Eat healthy fats like Hass avocados which are a great addition to your breakfast."

Researchers also highlighted a study published last year in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in which subjects added almonds, a low glycemic index food, with their breakfast. The people who ate the whole almonds with breakfast experienced longer feelings of fullness and had lower blood glucose levels after breakfast and lunch, compared to those who did not have a low-glycemic breakfast, according to the research.

When it comes to eating a healthy breakfast, whether it's with almonds or not, Dulan says that it's important to look at the overall balance of the meal. 

"Most people eat a mixed meal and different foods have varying glycemic index," she says. "So, while one food might be high on the scale, it can be more balanced when eating with other lower-glycemic index foods."

Some examples of her favorite low-glycemic breakfasts include oatmeal with cinnamon and five tart red cherries; a smoothie with grass-fed whey protein powder, 1-percent organic milk, 1 cup of baby spinach, 1 cup of frozen mixed berries; or two eggs scrambled with spinach, tomatoes,  bell peppers and Hass avocados.

Those breakfast ideas not only sound "balanced," but they also sound delicious! Do you try to eat foods that are low on the glycemic index? Does your breakfast set you up for success for the rest of the day? Share your thoughts!

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Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.

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