You've probably heard someone say, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." You also may have seen some diets recommend skipping early eating. It can be confusing. Sara Falk, RD, licensed dietician/nutritionist for the PATH employer wellness program at Baptist Health answered some of the most commonly asked questions about the first meal of the morning.
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
"The research differs on this question, but I fully encourage everyone to eat breakfast if they feel hungry in the morning," said Falk. "Ideally, this would be within 1-2 hours of waking up, but some people don't feel hungry first thing. That's OK! People should honor their body's cues."
Some diets recommend skipping breakfast. Is that healthy?
"I don't recommend eating plans that require people to restrict their intake or eliminate foods from their diet. Restriction can lead to people binging their favorite foods out of deprivation and gaining back weight they lost," said Falk.
What are the best breakfast foods?
Falk recommended eating a meal that includes:
- Healthy fat
"This sounds like a lot, but it's easier than it sounds," said Falk. An example would be a veggie and cheese egg cup with peanut butter toast, which contains all the recommendations: egg, cheese and peanut butter (protein, fat), vegetables (fiber), and toast (carbohydrate, fiber).
Falk also provided advice on other common breakfast options:
- Nutrition bars: "Watch the sugar content," Falk cautioned. "Opt for a bar that's low in sugar, high in fiber, and includes some protein. RXBAR® bars and KIND® bars are great options."
- Smoothies: "It's the perfect breakfast on the go, but be sure to include some sort of protein, healthy fat and fiber," said Falk. "This will keep you fuller longer." Click the Extra Squeeze below for Falk's go-to smoothie recipe.
- Fast food: "Eating something is better than nothing, and that sometimes includes eating fast food in a pinch!" said Falk. It's all about the choices you make. For example, opt for a sandwich with Canadian bacon, which is lower in fat than regular bacon, on an English muffin, which has great fiber. Egg whites are always a good choice, and bonus points if you choose fruit and/or yogurt as your side.
- Grab-and-go: When time is short, have something easy to carry on the run. Good examples are fruit, Greek yogurt or oatmeal packets (just watch the sugar content). Falk also recommended meal-prepping items such as high-fiber, low-sugar blueberry almond muffins, egg and veggie "cups," or egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches on high-fiber bread. She also said, "Breakfast doesn't necessarily have to include typical 'breakfast' foods. You can always eat last night's leftovers!"
If you exercise in the morning, should you eat before or after?
Falk recommended eating something with carbohydrates for fuel before your workout. A banana is a great option. After your workout, opt for a meal that includes a complex carbohydrate and protein to rebuild muscle.
Does this advice differ for kids and adults?
Many studies show kids who eat breakfast do better in school, Falk said. The meal helps improve memory, alertness, concentration, problem-solving abilities, test scores, school attendance and mood.
Do you have questions about healthy eating habits? Baptist Centers for Healthy Living provide health coaching at locations throughout the community. You can request a free health screening online.