Breakfast may have a reputation for being the most important meal of the day, but how many people actually begin each day with a healthy bite?
A recent online poll from The Daily Aztec asked students if they incorporate breakfast into their daily routines. The results found that, of 34 total voters, 59 percent eat breakfast every day, 15 percent eat in the morning more often than not, 21 percent sometimes manage to eat breakfast and 5 percent never do.
That 41 percent who claimed not to regularly partake in a morning meal are missing out on the abundance of nutrients and benefits breakfast can offer.
According to livestrong.com, eating breakfast improves memory and enhances cognitive performance, particularly when processing complex visual challenges. But the benefits of a healthy breakfast don’t stop with the brain.
Eating breakfast, preferably within an hour of waking up, can jumpstart the metabolism process. However, if the meal is skipped it can result in the opposite effect.
“When you skip a meal, you slow down your metabolism so you store fat, you raise stress hormones and you break down muscle,” Aztec Recreation Center personal trainer and holistic health coach Evelyne Lambrecht said. “Studies show that people who eat larger meals in the morning eat less the rest of the day, and lose more weight and keep it off easier than people who ate smaller meals or nothing.”
On days when the “snooze” button has been hit one too many times and mornings are hurried, Lambrecht suggests consuming a well-balanced meal to give the day some much-needed momentum.
“You should have a balanced breakfast, meaning it should include some good protein and good fat as well as some healthy carbs,” she said. “The morning is a great time to eat some starchier carbs.”
Have leftover grilled chicken sitting in the refrigerator? Use it. Lambrecht recommends incorporating leftovers into a morning meal as long as that meal includes those healthy proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
“You don’t have to eat breakfast foods for breakfast,” Lambrecht said. “I love eating dinner leftovers in the morning.”
Some students may reach for foods that require as little preparation as possible, such as bagels and toaster pastries. Or they may stop by Starbucks to pick up a quick Frappuccino and decadent blueberry muffin before class. Lambrecht advises against this.
“Stick to real foods, not processed,” she said. “A Frappuccino is not breakfast. A Starbucks mocha Frappuccino has 60 grams of sugar. That’s about 15 sugar cubes. You’re better off getting a cup of oatmeal there and getting a regular coffee or Americano on the side.”
Is the inevitable crash worth a moment of satisfaction? Muffins and other sugary foods may not be such a good idea if a long day of classes and study sessions is in store.
“Muffins are dessert foods, not breakfast food,” Lambrecht said. “Same with bagels, Pop-Tarts, donuts and most cereals. They not only contain way too many bad ingredients, (but) they are very high in sugar. When you eat these high-sugar foods, your blood sugar spikes and then crashes and you’re irritable, hungry and can’t pay attention in class.”
To put an end to energy rollercoaster rides and possibly improve academic performance, be sure to wake up earlier. This allows adequate time for morning meal preparation.
One simple meal option is a protein shake. Blend together a nutritious shake with half a bag of frozen berries, a generous helping of spinach, about half a cup of coconut milk, water, cinnamon and vanilla extract, followed by a scoop of protein powder that does not contain artificial sweeteners.
For those who consider sleep just as important as breakfast, Lambrecht has a bit of advice: Set aside time during the evening prior to prepare a well-balanced morning meal. One great option is her specialty, little egg “muffins.”
To make these muffins, simply mix scrambled eggs with chicken sausage and fresh veggies. Then pour the mixture into a muffin pan and bake. In no time, a healthier alternative is created.
Director of San Diego State Dining Services, Paul Melchior, recommends another dining option for students living on campus: The Dining Room at Cuicacalli Suites.
“(It) is your best alternative to create a balanced diet full of variety due to the customization concept there,” Melchior said.
With so many simple and healthy dining options available, it’s time for breakfast to reclaim its role as the most important meal of the day.