Both Moms and scientists agree: breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. A recent study in teens showed that eating breakfast, particularly one high in protein, reduced hunger later in the day. Teens who skipped breakfast showed increased activity in regions of the brain associated with reward-driven eating behaviors.
Ten teenagers were asked to skip breakfast, eat a typical breakfast of cereal with milk or consume a high-protein meal of Belgian waffles and yogurt. Researchers then compared functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) among the groups and found that those who skipped breakfast showed increased brain activity associated with hunger and food cravings prior to lunchtime. Those who ate the high protein breakfast verses the low protein meal showed the least amount of food driven brain activity. When participants were asked about feelings of hunger, those who skipped breakfast reported a greater urge to overeat at lunchtime. Don’t feel like you have to cook a huge breakfast for your teen every morning though, cereal (particularly high protein) is fine. In a USDA study of over 9,000 adolescents, cereal was found to be a healthy breakfast choice for adequate nutrition and weight management.
Benefits of Breakfast
Between 1980 and 2008, the number of overweight adolescents has tripled and currently accounts for one in five American children. Many teens skip breakfast as an attempt to control this excess weight gain yet previous studies have shown that individuals who consume breakfast daily have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who skip the meal. Missing out on those vital calories in the morning may contribute to overeating later in the day, selecting unhealthy snacks due to uncontrolled hunger and therefore foster weight gain.
Previous studies have shown that children who eat breakfast are generally more physically active, maintain healthier body weight, eat more vitamins and minerals, and perform better in school. Eating breakfast has even been linked to minimizing the risk of lead toxicity.
Sounds like a few good reasons to get breakfast back on the menu in the morning. Here’s how to maximize your morning meal with tips from the American Dietetic Association:
Start with Whole Grains
Whole grain carbohydrates provide energy, fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals. In order to add healthy carbs to your breakfast, try oatmeal (yet not the instant packs) and whole-grain products such as breads, cereals muffins, waffles or pancakes.
Proteins contain amino acids, which build, maintain and replace tissues of the body. Try lean proteins like an egg, slice of cheese, low-fat yogurt, peanut butter or a sprinkle of wheat germ atop just about anything.
Remember Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are just loaded with anti-oxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s easy to incorporate fruits at breakfast since Mother Nature packages each one in a ready-to-go container for us. Before heading out the door, grab a banana, pear, apple, grapefruit or whatever else might be in season. Don’t forget about frozen fruits like blueberries and strawberries, which can be whipped up into a smoothie. Chopped vegetables like spinach, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes can be added to your morning omelet or served up raw in a juice.
Afraid you don’t have time for breakfast? Learn more about how to grab a quick and healthy breakfast on the go.