On a day, we eat three major meals and two intermediary snacks. The major meals are breakfast, lunch, dinner and the intermediary ones are mid-morning snacks and tea. The first meal of the day breaks the fast during sleep after previous night’s dinner and so is called breakfast. After a fast of 8-10 hrs during sleep, the various organs of the body crave for energy and brain craves it the most. That fresh surge of energy is supplied to the brain by glucose from the first meal. Hence breakfast is popularly known as brain food.
Breakfast is universally considered the most important meal of the day. It does not stop with nourishing the brain but also impacts cognitive function. Here is a gist of the benefits of regular consumption of breakfast given by researches conducted all over the world:
- Results in higher IQ scores in Kindergartners;
- Improves i) verbal fluency in undernourished children; ii) working memory, problem solving abilities and creative thinking in school children; iii) positive feeling/mood in adolescents;
- Quickens reaction time and reduces muscular fatigue.
- Ups metabolic rate by 3-4% above average (breakfast skipping downs it by 4-5% below average);
- Increases longevity;
- Decreases the risk of type-2 Diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol levels and obesity.
In short, regular consumption of breakfast improves overall physical and mental performance.
“No man can be wise on an empty stomach”.
“Hungry bellies have no ears”.
True to all these sayings, research has proved that having to function on an empty stomach undermines productivity, causes irritability and unpleasant disposition, especially during mid-morning which could be cured by just having a proper breakfast.
“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”, so goes an adage by a famous American Nutritionist, Adelle Davis. But unfortunately, in reality many skip breakfast, eat an improper lunch and binge during dinner. The India Breakfast Habits Survey conducted by the Home Science Department of Nirmala Niketan College, Mumbai in 2013 showed that 1 in every 4 persons in India skipped breakfast. That’s alarming!
The most common reasons people give for skipping breakfast are:
- No time.
- Not used to eating so early.
- Not hungry in the morning.
- Would rather sleep than prepare breakfast.
- Get hungry sooner when breakfast is eaten.
- Dislike breakfast foods.
- Want to lose weight.
How to overcome these problems? How to solve them and inculcate the habit of consuming breakfast regularly? Here are a few tips:
- Wake up 10 min earlier.
- Prepare as much as you can the night before (check if you have a stock of the ingredients required, keep dishes and utensils ready, etc.).
- Have grab and go alternatives (fresh fruit, individual boxes of cereal, yogurt or smoothies, trail-mix).
- If you are not a breakfast eater, begin with something as simple as whole wheat bread toast and /or a piece of fruit. In a few days add more food.
- Try split-breakfast. For Eg, eat a boiled egg and leave to college or work. At the earliest break you get there, have a sandwich and drink a glass of milk or juice.
- Stock your kitchen with healthy breakfast options and use your imagination to cook something interesting.
- Most important of all, understand that breakfast skipping does not help in shedding weight. On the contrary, breakfast skippers tend to eat more during other meals and crave for fatty foods. This would only result in weight gain!!!
It is also vital to learn what constitutes an ideal breakfast to eat a balanced meal. An ideal breakfast should:
- Provide 25% of the day’s nutrient requirement, especially that of vitamins and minerals.
- Contain more of complex carbohydrates and fiber that are filling.
- Contain less of saturated fats like butter but adequate amounts of good fats like nuts and avocado.
- Include good quality protein like milk or egg that can supply calcium for bone building.
- Include a seasonal fruit.
- Neither be too sugary nor too salty.
And finally, this topic would not be complete without the mention of a few breakfast quickies. Here are a few items that require less preparation time, minimal cooking but are still healthy:
- Cereal with milk and fruits.
- Oats porridge topped with dried fruits and nuts.
- French toast/Bombay toast.
- Breakfast bars (home-made ones prepared beforehand and stored in airtight containers) and a glass of milk.
- Instant Idiappam/String-hoppers with milk and jaggery.
- Vegetable poha.
- Bread toast with egg scramble or bread and egg sandwich.
- Idli and sambhar.
- Dosa and chutney (If the batter has been prepared, idli, dosa and aapam are also definitely quickies; Sambhar leftover from the previous day can also be used as a side dish if you are pressed for time).
- Lemon sevai.
- Ragi porridge or multi-grain flour porridge.
With a bit of prior planning and preparation, breakfast skipping can easily be avoided. So, vow not to skip breakfast; eat breakfast like a king to boost not only your brain power but also your physical power.