They say ignorance is bliss but there are times when ignorance of people makes me sad. 1 such example is when people do not believe breakfast is important and decided not to include it in their routine. It is said that one should eat like a king for breakfast, queen for lunch and popper for dinner. Unfortunately for many people, for reasons of their own, dinner happens to be the biggest meal and breakfast is the first one to be skipped. I have always believed that to a large degree, you are what you eat so I think food has an important part in your life, especially the quality of life. That’s one of the reasons why I take time and effort to not just prepare good food but also to write a lot about it so I spread some awareness in whatever small way I can. Reason I say it makes me sad is because the effects of skipping breakfast may not be seen immediately. But over time an individual will have to deal with the consequences. When some of my friends say they do not have breakfast I feel bad because they aren’t doing any good for their body. In this article I hope to summarise what I have read and understood about the importance of breakfast and also some simple yet fast breakfast ideas to make it easier for you.
Let Us Examine the impact of having or not having breakfast to better understand why bother with breakfast
1. Weight management – many believe that skipping breakfast so they reduce calories would help them lose weight. It can’t be further from the truth. When we sleep during the night, our body slows down, so metabolism slows down. When we have something to eat in the morning, we are effectively giving the signal to the body the day has started and metabolism should increase. However, those who skip breakfast deny their own body of the signal so they feel lethargic as they continue until lunch with slow metabolism. When one feels sluggish and tired, one tends to work less, physically and in turn burns fewer calories. Also, once the body is deprived of food for a very long while, cravings begin, particularly sugar cravings. This is when we feel like snacking on a chocolate bar or a big fat muffin or cakes etc.. This effectively increases the calorie consumption. In summary, a slow metabolism, tired body burning lesser calories and high calorie/fat snacks effectively contribute to weight gain and not weight loss. All of us keep hearing about the numerous health conditions that may come with being obese, especially risk of heart ailments and skipping breakfast could possibly lead to becoming overweight.
2. Lowered cognition – studies have stated to have shown that children who have breakfast fare better in problem solving than children who skip breakfast.
Remember that it is not only the rest of the body that gets energy from digested food but also the brain. After the mind is low on energy, one can’t expect it to function effectively. Some studies also show that children who skip breakfast are more likely to have problems focusing and also have issues with memory in comparison with children who have breakfast. Type 2 diabetes – skipping breakfast is thought to increase the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. If one is already diabetic, it is even more important to keep sugar fluctuations low so the body needs to be fed at regular intervals. Diabetes is a state of the body that is not particularly easy to handle as the complications of diabetes can be quite serious from losing eye sight, heart attacks, having to be amputated. If a person is overweight, the complications get even worse. The effect of diabetes might not be understood immediately but the body will be deteriorating gradually. Keeping the blood sugar in check is absolutely important while living with diabetes and skipping meals, that too breakfast will be tremendously counter-productive for diabetes management.
4. Menstrual irregularities – a few studies are said to have shown that girls/women who skip breakfast are likely to have irregular periods.
5. Poor disposition – low glucose is said to be responsible for irritability fatigue and tiredness. Some studies show that people who skip breakfast snap at others more easily.
To me the risk of weight gain (and all associated health risks because of being obese) and risk of diabetes alone are enough to make me run for my breakfast. When it comes to kids, it is very important to set up healthy eating habit at an early stage and therefore, having breakfast is important. With kids getting less and less playtime and exercise these days it’s even more important for them to eat healthy. There is not any point in sending them to school to learn things if they can’t focus and as parents, we will need to give them sufficient support to enable them to learn. Hopefully, by now you’re at least thinking about getting breakfast.
I come from a tamil Brahmin family and Brahmin meal program is very well known because many of them have a big mid morning meal, later in the afternoon a tiffin or lighter meal is consumed while dinner sometimes is liquid intake or fruits or some cereals, maybe curd rice. Reason I mention that is that although some people criticise them for having a heavy meal that early, what modern day dieticians are advising is pretty much similar – have a big breakfast. The meal would usually consist of rice (carbs), dal (protein), vegetables (vitamins and minerals) and ghee (fat) and unless I got it all wrong, this is what constitutes a balanced meal. At this era, we barely have enough time to make these before we walk out of the doors to work and neither would our working hours allow such a schedule. So, what are a few quick breakfast alternatives you could try.
1. Oats porridge – boil a few tbsp of oats in water till it’s done (regular oats is far better than quick cooking and honestly does not take much time to cook anyway). If you want it sweet, add some milk, sugar or honey or any other sensible sweetener of choice. If you like savory, then add some buttermilk and small salt and consume. In any event, have a banana or any other fruit of choice.
2. Breakfast shake – milk shake or smoothies make breakfast. Combine a banana sweetened with date syrup or some other natural sweetener (avoid synthetic sweetners or refined sugar) along with some milk. Top with crushed nuts and drink. Adding oat milk rather than cow’s milk can help reduce calories and fat and also contribute to fiber intake. You could try the same with apple also. You could also use a spoon of wheat germ. Muffin – with a low sugar, bran loaded muffin is a great way to fill you up for the morning. Top a healthy muffin with berries and eat along with a glass of juice. Plenty of healthy muffin recipes are available, consider making enough over the weekend itself. I’d say it probably takes about ten minutes to make the muffin batter and about 20 minutes baking time which would be your breakfast sorted for a week!
4. Breakfast sandwich – you could make those with leftovers too. You can use chapattis or pita breads or wholemeal breads and stuff them with leftover sabjis or some other vegetable of choice. This helps me get one of my five daily vegetables also. You can try the same with paneer or grated cauliflower, cabbage etc.. Peanut butter sandwich is an excellent option as well. Toast and legumes – beans also contribute to one of five a day. This alternative is okay if you’ve got enough time to sit down and have your breakfast. Low fat flapjacks – I make my own flapjack which is a bit more chewy than regular ones. I use very little brown sugar but add dry fruits and dates syrup to sweeten instead. Believe it or not small portions of those oats rich almost no added fat flapjacks are a great start to the day. Multi grain porridge – back home it’s common practice for mothers to make a multi grain powder. It normally consists or wheat, barley, finger millet, sago, almonds and cardamom for flavouring. An individual can add few heaped spoons of the to water, bring to boil while stirring, add jaggery or sugar and milk. Healthy pancakes – create your own pancake mix by adding either the aforementioned porridge powder or wholewheat powder together with some millet powder. Add mashed banana or pureed apple or blueberries, if you would like it sweeter, add syrup like dates syrup to make a batter. I tend to skip the baking powder or soda bicarb as it inhibits nutrition absorption. You could add small all purpose flour to facilitate flipping the pancake. Pour the batter on hot tava and drizzle oil/butter/ghee. Bread omelet – beat an egg and then add salt and required vegetables such as tomato, onion, mushroom etc. and make an omelet. Grab couple of toasts and a glass of juice. Having protein earlier in the day is believed to be better than later.
10. Museli – combine wheat flakes, oat flakes, rye flakes, barley flakes with a few dry fruits like raisins, currants, seeds like pumpkin seeds.
11. Quick French toast – cut couple of bread slices into four triangles each. Drizzle some oil or butter while cooking. Cook both sides and that’s a good breakfast on the move.
12. Millet gruel – Millet is usually considered poor man’s food but reality is many people who work hard physically possess ragi gruel frequently for breakfast. It keeps them full for long but they are involved in intense work. One way of preparing is very similar to multi grain porridge mentioned before. Another technique is to combine it with some buttermilk and let it sit overnight. Next morning add little water if necessary and cook while stirring, until it’s shiny. Season with salt and drink. Millets are low fat protein sources.
I hope at least one or two of the above options suit your taste and timing. On weekends one can indulge somewhat more by creating cooked breakfast and several such recipes are available on my site also.
Make healthy choices for your life, remember, prevention is better than cure. One can skip any meal, but not breakfast no matter whether one is hungry or not. For the other meals you’ll be able to go as per your body, eat when hungry but breakfast is an exception. Do not await the ‘right’ day to begin having breakfast, there’s absolutely no bad time to do the perfect thing. Live long, live happy, live healthy!