Start Your Day With Breakfast!

Janis Hunter
Home & Garden Information Center

Mother always told us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Believe it or not, research shows that she was right!

Breakfast means “breaking the fast,” or refueling the body after it has been without food all night. Food is the fuel that keeps the body going, and refueling at breakfast helps you perform and feel better.

If you skip breakfast, what’s your excuse? Common reasons are “not hungry,” “on a diet,” “nothing to eat,” and “lack of time.” Not feeling hungry when you wake up could be due to stress hormones affecting your hunger cues.

When lack of time is your excuse, consider that it takes less time to eat breakfast than it does to shave, shower, and blow-dry your hair. Most people eat breakfast in less than five minutes, so a nutritious breakfast doesn’t have to be time consuming. Keep your kitchen stocked with several easy-to-serve items like yogurt, fresh fruit, ready-to-eat cereals, shelled nuts, cereal bars, and a variety of ingredients for creating your own nutritious breakfast sandwiches. Children can help themselves to these grab-and-go foods.

If you buy breakfast on the run at the drive-through window of a fast food chain, always look for healthy menu items like these: a whole-grain or bran cereal and low-fat or fat-free milk; an egg-white omelet; a fruit cup or plate; a piece of fruit and yogurt; fruit, bagel with jam, and low-fat milk; Canadian bacon (which is leaner); a breakfast burrito; an English muffin; a bagel or toast.

Are you watching your weight? A nutritious breakfast helps with weight control by providing fuel to jumpstart the metabolism after you have fasted all night. Breakfast eaters seem to need fewer snacks and consume less fat all day, while breakfast skippers tend to have a higher blood cholesterol level, which puts them at risk for heart disease.

Breakfast replenishes your blood sugar, or glucose, and energizes the body so you can perform better at work or school. It gives you more endurance and strength, muscle coordination, better concentration and memory, and better problem-solving ability.

Studies have shown that when children have breakfast, they are more alert, participate more fully in school activities, and they usually are on their best behavior. They have longer attention spans, score better on tests and improve their grades, are tardy or absent less often, and make fewer visits to the school nurse. They also are not as easily distracted and are less fidgety, irritable or tired. This applies to adults in the work place, too!

Without breakfast, it is hard to get adequate fiber, vitamins and minerals in your diet. Look for cereals that are made with whole grains and contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Avoid the “candy cereals” and select those with little or no added sugar. Adding your own sugar allows you to control the amount.

Sugary breakfast foods cause a quick rise in blood sugar and a surge in energy, followed by hunger symptoms about an hour later. On the other hand, a breakfast containing a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats provides a sustained release of energy, maintaining blood sugar levels and postponing hunger symptoms for several hours.

To learn more about planning a nutritious breakfast, refer to HGIC 4106, Brighten Up With Breakfast. This fact sheet contains additional information on topics such as: how to make breakfast run more smoothly at your house; tips on selecting a nutrient dense cereal; the parts of a nutritious breakfast; ideas for non-traditional breakfasts; and adapting muffin recipes to make them more healthful.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.