Get in the Habit

Breakfast sets the stage for health and performance.

As you sleep, your body continues to burn calories as it restores itself through rest. After eight to 12 hours of sleep-imposed fasting, glucose levels are low and your brain and body need energy. Glucose is essential for the brain, as its main energy source, and fuels muscles for physical activity throughout the day. Eat breakfast within an hour of waking,
or to really boost your metabolism, go get some exercise first, then eat breakfast.

Skipping breakfast may cause us to look for a mid-morning snack, and there is the pitfall. On-the-go snacks often consist of highly processed foods, containing loads of refined carbohydrates. Muffins, donuts, candy bars, or typical vending-machine fare burn like newspaper in your body, releasing a flash of energy, then it leaves you depleted. The resulting blood-sugar swings trigger cravings, which throw off your healthy eating plan and open the door to bad food choices later in the day. Feel like you can’t concentrate in the morning when you’ve had three cups of coffee and a granola bar? Research hasshown that eating breakfast improves concentration, memory, and your ability to solve problems. School children who eat breakfast tend to score better on tests and do better in the classroom. A healthy breakfast keeps your mind off food, eliminating morning binge snacking and taming your appetite at lunch. A breakfast with whole-grain breads and cereals is an easy way to inject important nutrients and fiber into your diet.

Breakfast should contain one-third to one-half of the daily dietary needs of the body, and is an easy meal to interject nutrient-dense foods into your diet: whole and enriched grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Skip the traditional bacon and eggs or sausage-and-biscuits covered with gravy, and choose a whole-grain cereal with fruit or juice instead. Or if you crave anegg, try an egg-white omelet filled with vegetables. Breakfast can also become routine, so mix it up. Try specialty juices such as Eden Foods Organic Tart Cherry Juice or Old Orchards Cranberry Blueberry instead of traditional orange juice.

Are you stuck at a weight-loss plateau? Breakfast is integral in managing a weight-loss program. Many studies cite of people who maintained a 30- pound (or more) weight reduction for at least a year—and some as long as six years—most eat breakfast every day, and almost 90 percent eat breakfast at least five days each week. Bonus! Those who make breakfast a habit, tend to exercise regularly; getting you that much closer to your goal.

Breakfast ignites the body’s metabolism, the process that converts food into energy. And when the metabolism gets moving, the body starts burning calories. Eating a hearty, nutritious breakfast actually results in fewer calories consumedthroughout the day, which makes breakfast an important component of lifestyle strategies to lose weight and keep it off.

Cereal is one of the most popular breakfast foods. This is plainly evident when visiting the cereal aisle of your local supermarket. Beware of fancy packaging that entices you to purchase refined, sugar-coated grains with little nutritional value and elevated calorie counts. Seek out products like Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat Cereal from Kashi or Multigrain O’s with Quinoa from Organ Natural Foods that taste great and keep you satisfied longer.

For those who either don’t allow enough time to eat a breakfast in the morning or who prefer to wait a bit before eating, breakfast bars or fresh fruit provide a better choice than a doughnut or pastry. Several soft-baked cereal bars and chewy granola bars fit the bill(a favorite is Kashi’s Baked Apple Soft Baked Cereal Bar). These make great mid-morning snacks or a quick breakfast on the run. Kashi also has a line ofGOLEAN Bars that are high in fiber and protein (and the Chocolate Carmel bar is delicious). Another easy on-the-run breakfast is the Heavenly Chocolate Granola from Bear Naked.

Breakfast does not need to be elaborate. However, as our most important meal, it is critical to make wise food choices. A healthy breakfast should consist of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. These high-fiber foods allow you to eat more food yet consume fewer calories. A high-fiber cereal—3 to 5 grams per serving—is optimal. But don’t overdo the fiber if you’re not used to it, because too much fiber can cause constipation, bloating, diarrhea, or an upset stomach.

Eating a healthy breakfast is one of the simplest changes you can make to improve your life. It is easy to implement, will take minimal time, and provide daylong benefits.