The old saying, ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’ couldn’t ring truer. Beginning your day with a heavy breakfast will give your body enough fuel to keep you going without feeling sluggish or lethargic. Yet, statistics point towards a rather alarming picture — millions of people around the world tend to skip breakfast, choosing to have lunch as the first meal of the day. While recent years have seen increasing awareness about the importance of daily breakfast, health experts say that a large number of the population tends to skip it.
Why breakfast is so essential
Dietician Priya Palan says, “This is the first meal of the day after your body stays empty throughout the night, hence, breakfast helps kickstart the day. The work ‘breakfast’ itself means to break the fast that was maintained overnight. This important meal provides fuel to the body and brain, and also helps you meet the daily energy requirement to get you ready for the day. It restores glucose levels that help the brain function and enhances concentration and memory apart from lowering stress levels.”
Adds nutritionist Karishma Chawla, “People need to remember to have their breakfast within one hour of waking up. Studies find that food eaten at breakfast influences what you indulge in eating the rest of the day. The body is in a state of catabolism (muscle breakdown to sustain energy levels) in the night. Hence, it is imperative to replenish or fuel the body as soon as you wake up with the right kind of foods that help in kickstarting the metabolism for the day.”
Focus on a well-balanced meal
“An ideal breakfast includes complex cereals, portion of milk and a fruit. Food items like poha, upma, dalia, bhakri, idlis can sometimes be replaced with ready-to-eat cereals like oats, bran, cornflakes or wheat flakes. If you are in a hurry, eat a handful of nuts with cereal and milk,” advises Priya.
“An ideal breakfast must comprise energy enhancing foods like complex carbohydrates and low fat protein. The former helps maintain steady energy levels and give calories with minimal chance of fat storage. Low fat protein helps improve muscle growth, increases metabolism and fat burning. It also improves body composition and workout performance,” says Karishma.
Oats with low skim milk + egg whites
Wholewheat/ muesli (plain ) in skim milk
Oats/ moong dal chillas + egg whites or whey powder
Oats powder + skim milk + low GI fruit made like a smoothie
Urban professionals inviting health problems due to erratic eating habits
“Erratic meal timings affects the energy requirements leading to digestive problems, heart diseases, obesity and acidity. Small meals at regular intervals will be the best option for those with a busy schedule so that even if they do skip a meal, there will not be a huge gap between meals. The consequences will not be as bad in the long run in such incidents,” says Priya.
Ends Karishma, “It is important to eat every two to four hours to sustain energy levels, maintain metabolism to improve body composition (bodytone) and sustain good blood sugar levels. Having an erratic meal pattern leads to low energy levels, low metabolism leading to fat gain and low blood sugar levels, which lead to headaches, fatigue and irritability.”
What happens when you skip the first meal of the day
Explains Palan, “Skipping breakfast has an impact on the calorie count, which affects the intellectual development in infants and children. It reduces attention level, leading to slow learning and increases the risk of hypoglycemia wherein sugar level reduces causing dizziness, headache, lethargy and weakness. It could also lead to a decrease in levels of physical activity, triggering bad eating habits, which in the long run, can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.”
Skipping breakfast basically means you are letting the body be in a state of catabolism — definitely not a desirable environment for your body. “It further results in lowering the BMR (Body Metabolic Rate) to conserve calories, leading to fat gain and triggers off acidity. It also causes one to binge eat during the rest of the day,” adds Karishma.