Is it really that important to eat breakfast?
Having breakfast, not having breakfast, what to have for breakfast and what not… There are many doubts about breakfast. There are no fixed rules, but my opinion is that, in general, it is healthy to eat breakfast, and it is good for losing weight and suppressing hunger.
It is true that breakfast does not have to be the most important meal of the day, and that if you do not eat anything first thing in the morning, you do not have to force yourself and eat. Nor is it mandatory to have the same breakfast every day, much less that breakfast has to be a meal dominated by pastries or sugary cereals.
As it is something that I answer very often in the consultation, I take advantage of this office to resolve any doubts that may be going through your head about breakfast. But I can tell you in advance that in my opinion –and this is what I recommend to my patients– it is better to have breakfast than not to do so.
WHY IS IT BETTER TO HAVE BREAKFAST?
Because to face the physical and intellectual activities that await us until lunchtime, we need to break the overnight fast. Many hours have passed since dinner and the body, despite sleeping, has continued to spend energy performing its night functions. And you have to replace it by eating breakfast.
HOW IS A HEALTHY BREAKFAST?
I’m not talking about amounts, but about what you have to contribute. You must include foods from the different groups, but without abusing them. The ideal is to combine a dairy for the contribution of calcium; carbohydrates, such as cereals –better without sugar, such as oat flakes– or bread, because they provide energy; proteins (egg, cheese, yogurt…) and fruit. But neither is it mandatory that you have all this, since the balance between the different food.
HOW MANY CALORIES SHOULD IT PROVIDE?
A breakfast of between 400 and 450 calories is usually recommended , but this is not a fixed rule either. What happens is that, culturally, we usually eat between 3 and 5 meals a day. Therefore, it is logical that within a diet of between 1,800 and 2,000 calories, at breakfast we take more or less 25-30% of the calories that we consume throughout the day.
IS IT OBLIGATORY TO TAKE IT ALL AT ONCE?
No, but not doing it that way doesn’t mean going itching without control either. Breakfast should be consumed in one shot or divided into two at most: when you get up and mid-morning, depending on the type of life and the schedules you do.
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WHY IS IT A PROBLEM NOT TO EAT WHEN I GET UP?
Because if you wait to eat more than an hour after getting up, you will be tired and you will not be hungry. This can translate into uncontrolled snacking or eating the wrong things. Consider that you have gone eight hours without eating, so glucose is at very low levels, which robs you of energy and causes ravenous hunger at midday. To avoid this, you have to replenish glucose as soon as you get up.
WHAT IF I DON’T GET ANYTHING FIRST THING IN THE MORNING?
Have only a yogurt with fruit or a smoothie, and leave a mini tortilla or ham sandwich for mid-morning. It may also be that you eat too much and that is why you are not hungry in the morning. In this case, it is important that you lighten your dinner. In addition to being hungrier in the morning, you will rest better.
BUT IF I EAT SO MUCH FOOD FOR BREAKFAST, WON’T I GET FAT?
Getting fat will not depend on having breakfast or not, but on your diet as a whole. In any case, there are inconclusive studies that do indicate that not eating breakfast correctly can cause obesity. Not eating breakfast and then having lunch and dinner a lot and snacking all day is more fattening than eating a full breakfast and then eating balanced meals without giving in to temptations.
AND IF I HAVE BREAKFAST I WILL BE LESS HUNGRY TO EAT?
A study conducted by the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Denver (USA) has shown that eating a proper breakfast reduces appetite throughout the day. And since there is less anxiety about eating, there is less snacking.
DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO HAVE SWEET THINGS?
No. You can vary according to what you feel like each day. If you are more salty, you can have yogurt and nuts for breakfast or, if you prefer something more robust, even eggs. You can do it twice a week, for example in an omelette or soft-boiled. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition has shown that eggs help curb hunger.
CAN I HAVE BREAKFAST JUST A BUN AND A COFFEE? IT DOESN’T HAVE THAT MANY CALORIES…
I know you’d love for me to say yes, but… no. Because it’s not just about the calories (energy) that add up, but where these calories come from. The pastry has an excess of sugar and saturated fat. It will give you a quick boost of energy, but then you’ll have a crash before mealtime that prompts you to eat more and can lead to snacking. Thus, a breakfast that includes a croissant + coffee with whole milk will provide you with more than 600 calories and 30g of fat (12.3g of which are saturated).
WHAT IF I USUALLY HAVE BREAKFAST AWAY FROM HOME? WHAT DO I DO?
Many cafes serve small sandwiches with whole-grain breads and light fillings. You can carry a piece of fruit in your bag for mid-morning and a yogurt if you don’t drink coffee with milk.
AND IF I’M AT MY IDEAL WEIGHT, CAN I GO BACK TO THE SCONE WITH COFFEE?
You can have a picky breakfast once in a while, but don’t change your breakfast routine. Also, following this type of balanced breakfast will help you maintain your new weight. The ideal would be, if you fancy something sweet, you should opt for a coffee with skimmed milk, 2 pieces of whole-wheat toast and 2 teaspoons of low-calorie jam, they are 255 calories and only 2 g of fat (0.5 g of fat saturated). Breakfast based on “light” cereals with skimmed milk will give you 245 calories but more saturated fat and cholesterol than the previous option.
BUT WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE TIME TO PREPARE BREAKFAST?
Foresight is the key. You can prepare an oatmeal cream at night and add only the fruit in the morning. If you have very little time, there are fruits that do not even need to be peeled, such as raspberries or blueberries. And if you usually take snacks for mid-morning, make them on the weekend with different ingredients and freeze them so you don’t have to prepare them every day.