7 tips for a healthy breakfast

August 16, 2016 in Leslie's Featured Content

7 tips for a healthy breakfast

They're back (almost) - those frantic mornings you dash out the door to get kids to school and yourself to work on time.  If you're among the 40 percent of Canadians who regularly skips breakfast to avoid being late, you could be sabotaging your memory, your strength at the gym, and your weight control efforts.

No doubt you've heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  But it's an adage worth repeating. Eating a healthy breakfast - not a fast food breakfast sandwich or high fat pastry - is linked with a more nutritious diet, improved performance at school and in the boardroom, a leaner body and a healthier heart.

While breakfast is important for everyone, it is especially so for children and teenagers.  Studies show that, compared to their breakfast skipping peers, kids who eat the morning meal perform in school with better concentration, problem solving skills and hand-eye coordination. Kids who start the school day with an empty stomach are more sluggish, less attentive, and have less energy for morning activities.

Breakfast foods like cereal, fruit, dairy products and soy beverages provide the body with glucose, a simple sugar that the brain and muscles rely on. Glucose is also used to make acetylcholine, a brain chemical important for memory.

Eating breakfast has been also been shown to help overweight kids slim down while skipping the meal has been linked to further weight gain. When it comes to adults, breakfast eaters have lower body weights than those who forgo the meal. Eating more calories at breakfast and fewer later in the day also helps thwart weight gain in middle-aged adults.

With minimal preparation and healthy ingredients on hand, the following tips will help you make breakfast part of your morning routine when time is in short supply. Start practicing now, before the school year begins.

Include protein

Adding protein-rich foods to breakfast, especially eggs, has been shown to help adults and kids reduce hunger and calories consumed over the course of the day. Protein slows digestion and blunts your hunger more than other foods.

Studies suggest protein-rich solid foods like eggs, egg whites, part skim cheese, Greek yogurt and lean Canadian bacon curb appetite better than protein-rich drinks. Regular yogurt and low fat cottage cheese are other high protein foods to add to breakfast.

Add whole grain

Including whole grain foods at breakfast boosts your intake of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Read ingredient lists on ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, breads, and toaster waffles. Choose products that list a whole grain first such as oats or whole wheat.

Although 100 percent bran cereals are not whole grain cereals, you can consider them so since they are a concentrated source of bran that's missing from refined cereals.

Boost fibre

If you don't make an effort to add fibre to breakfast, chances are slim you'll meet your target for the day.  (Women aged 19-50 need 25 grams of fibre; men need 38 grams. After age 50, daily fibre requirements drop to 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men.)

Choose a breakfast cereal that provides at least 5 grams of fibre per serving. Whole grain bread should deliver at least 2 to 3 grams per slice.

If you can't face a bowl of bran cereal, mix half a serving of 100% bran cereal with half a cereal of whole grain cereal. Other fibre boosters include ground flaxseed, chia seeds, oat bran and raw wheat bran.

Limit refined sugar and sodium

Choose breakfast cereals with no more than 6 grams of sugar per serving.  One exception: cereals with dried fruit such as raisins and cranberries will have higher sugar numbers from natural sugar in the fruit. Buy unflavoured instant hot cereal and add your own fruit for sweetness.

It's not just fast food breakfast sandwich that harbour sodium. Read labels when choosing cereals and breads - choose a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal with no more than 240 milligrams of sodium per serving.

When buying bread, select brands that deliver no more than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Start small

If you can't face food in the morning, start gradually. Try fruit and yogurt, a breakfast smoothie, or a slice of toast with nut butter. Over time, you'll wake up hungry for breakfast.

Or, divide your breakfast. Eat part of your meal at home and take the rest to work or school to enjoy mid morning.

Another culprit for lack of morning appetite: late night snacking. By giving up after dinner munchies, you'll be far more likely to wake up with an appetite for breakfast.

Get organized

To save time on busy mornings, organize breakfast in advance. Cut up fruit after dinner so it's ready to throw on cereal or in a smoothie. On the weekend, make a batch of whole grain muffins or hard boil eggs for quick breakfasts during the week. 

Take it to go

If time still eludes you, have portable breakfast foods ready to toss in a knapsack or briefcase.  Whole grain cereal bars, breakfast-sized pitas, whole grain crackers, yogurt, part skim cheese strings, hard boiled eggs, dried and fresh fruit all work well.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.