Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day
Remember your mom or grandma’s advice about breakfast being the most important meal of the day? Well, they were right that breakfast is very important, especially for young growing kids, as research suggests that it has a number of benefits:
- Healthier food choices. Having breakfast is associated with more nutritious food choices like fruits, dairy products, high-fiber foods (ie. whole grains) and vegetables.
- Research also suggests that children who eat breakfast are less likely to eat unhealthy snacks later in the day.
- The majority of studies have found that having breakfast improves brain functioning in children, especially memory and attention, particularly later in the morning when performance tends to decline in kids that skipped breakfast.
For the optimal breakfast, try to choose foods that don’t take your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride and instead provide long-lasting energy. Making sure to include a source of high-quality protein in your breakfast is a key factor in increasing feelings of fullness and keeping energy levels up throughout the morning.
One study examined the impact of different breakfasts containing varying ratios of carbohydrate to protein on the cognitive performance of male students in the morning. The three different types of breakfast were a) carbohydrate-rich with 4 times as many carbohydrates to protein, b) balanced with an equal ratio of carbs to protein and c) protein-rich with a ratio of carbs to protein of 1:4. The carbohydrate-rich breakfast caused blood sugar and insulin levels to spike within a half hour after a meal and then rapidly decline. In contrast, the balanced and high-protein meals were followed by much more stable blood sugar and insulin levels.
Keeping the level of blood sugar stable is important as it has been associated with better cognitive performance. Indeed, the study found that the meals that had more protein (either balanced or protein-rich) resulted in better overall cognitive performance.
To get enough protein in your breakfast try adding dairy products, high-protein cereals, nuts and seeds as a topping to cereal or oatmeal, peanut butter on toast, and my personal favorite – eggs. More on that next week.