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Ask the Diet Doctor: Do I Really Need to Eat Breakfast?

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Ask the Diet Doctor: Do I Really Need to Eat Breakfast?
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Q: Do I really need to eat breakfast? I've heard it's not as important as we once thought.

A: Yes, you should eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast has become somewhat of a nutritional trend, but for my clients and me, breakfast still remains one of the most important meals of the day (second only to workout nutrition).

Why You Need to Eat Breakfast
Starting your day with a meal that combines unprocessed or minimally processed grains (oats, Muesli, quinoa) and protein (Greek yogurt, eggs) improves overall health and your ability to lose weight. Here’s why: Eating breakfast sets your body up to better metabolize lunch through a phenomenon known as the second meal effect. The second meal effect describes a biochemical shift that occurs in your body as a result of eating breakfast that leads to better blood sugar control after lunch. This doesn’t happen when you skip your morning meal. But simply eating breakfast isn’t enough.

What You Should Eat for Breakfast
Most traditional breakfast foods are high in carbohydrates/sugar, low in fat, and low in protein (i.e. a bowl of cereal). If you improve the overall nutritional quality of your breakfast, you’ll reap benefits beyond just the second meal effect. Here’s your simple plan to makeover the morning meal:

1. Improve the quality of carbohydrates you’re eating for breakfast. The Cereal F.A.C.T.S. 2012 report recently released from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity found that 63 percent of the cereals in commercials viewed by adults have a sugar content higher than 20 percent.  Opt for the lower sugar, high fiber, minimally processed breakfast grains (oats, sprouted grain cereals, etc.) for better focus and mental performance throughout the morning.

2. Add protein. Having protein-rich meals throughout the day is a key strategy in maintaining calorie-burning muscles. Plus, one study found that breakfast was the only meal of the day in which increased protein helped in satiety and fullness. Make sure your breakfast contains protein-rich foods like eggs, egg whites, Greek yogurt, or a protein shake to reap these two metabolic advantages.

The Bonus Benefit
From a physiological standpoint, I have always found that starting the day with a nutritious breakfast sets the tone for a day of healthy eating. By having a well-rounded and nutritious breakfast you are sending a message to your body that you are going to do what it takes to be fit and healthy. A unifying characteristic of most of the perennially lean and healthy people that I know and have coached is that the all eat breakfast.

Here’s one of my favorite hearty breakfasts:

Blueberry Crunch Yogurt Bowl
About 500 calories (40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, 30% fat)

Ingredients:
2/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
¼ cup sprouted grain cereal
1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
½ scoop vanilla protein
1 Tbsp Chia seeds
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts

Directions: Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy.
 

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