Eating breakfast can boost performance at school, work

Area dietitians confirm what has long been suggested: Breakfast is the most important meal of the da

Mom was right. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. At least that’s according to local registered dietitians.

“A good rule of thumb is to have something to eat within one to two hours after you’ve awakened,” said Scotia dietitian Diane Pietrocarlo. “Your body has been sleeping all night and perceives that it needs to be fueled. If you don’t get it fueled, it perceives that you are keeping fuel from it, and it will lower your metabolic rate. Eating breakfast sets you up for having a healthy rest of the day.”

Studies show that children who eat breakfast perform better in school and pay better attention in class.

“Kids who don’t eat fall asleep in school and are not as attentive,” said Pietrocarlo. “Assuming you continue to eat throughout the day at regular intervals with meals or snacks, that metabolic rate will stay up. You’ll stay balanced, and your blood sugar will stay level so you won’t have those big ups and downs in energy that can affect your mood.”

Karen Ingoldsby, outpatient dietitian at St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady, said the word breakfast means literally “to break a fast.”

“After eight hours or more without a meal or snack, our body needs to replenish its glucose stores or its blood sugar in order to maintain its energy source,” said Ingoldsby. “Typically, breakfast skippers tend to feel tired, restless, irritable, have poor concentration and they don’t perform well physically. It all has to do with the lag in energy and blood sugar levels.”

Missing key nutrients

When it comes to eating breakfast, parents should be good role models by eating in front of or with their children, said Ingoldsby.

Joyce Bagyi, registered dietitian at Albany Medical Center, said skipping breakfast can lead to eating more food later in the day.

“By eating breakfast, it can possibly help you lose and at least control your weight,” said Bagyi. “People who don’t eat breakfast tend to potentially miss nutrients they don’t get later in the day.”

A healthful breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate.

However, it’s important to eat a variety of complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber.

Pietrocarlo recommended a bowl of whole grain cereal with low-fat milk and a piece of fruit, or a whole grain English muffin or bagel with peanut butter and a piece of fruit.

“If you’re really rushing, you could have a protein bar,” she said. “Yogurt is good too, with crunchy cereal mixed in. If you have to, don’t think of it as breakfast, think of it as a healthy feeding.”

People who exercise in the morning can wait until after they work out to eat, but then they should eat within 30 minutes of exercising, she said.

Pietrocarlo said there’s nothing wrong with having a cup of coffee in the morning, but you should have some food as well.

“If the thought of chewing and swallowing in the early morning makes you feel sick, as I hear from a lot of people, you might try picking up a smoothie and sipping on it, or if you like milk, have a glass of chocolate milk or Carnation Instant Breakfast as you’re getting ready for work,” she said.

Getting all of the basics

Ingoldsby said a good breakfast should have carbohydrates for energy, protein for sustaining energy and a small dose of healthy fat.

She recommended oatmeal with skim milk, a piece of fruit with a few nuts thrown in, topped with a little bit of sugar and cinnamon.

“Frozen whole grain waffles or pancakes toasted in the toaster with some light syrup, fruit and a sprinkling of nuts, are also good,” said Ingoldsby.

For someone running out the door, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or turkey on whole grain bread with a piece of fruit and a yogurt is fine.

Ingoldsby also suggested egg omelettes stuffed with chopped vegetables for fiber that can be wrapped in a pita pocket or eaten with whole grain toast with fruit on the side.

Or how about her own low-fat version of an Egg McMuffin, a whole grain English muffin, poached egg and Canadian bacon with low fat cheese, and a piece of fruit? She also suggested bran muffins with a piece of fruit and glass of low fat-milk.

Bagyi said smoothies made with low-fat milk, yogurt and fruit are also nutritious.

“A lot of people add protein powder or bran and you’ve got all your food groups,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with eating leftovers for breakfast, too,” Bagyi added. “If you want to eat pizza, that’s fine too — just add some juice.”

No matter what you choose, eating breakfast gives your body and brain the energy they need to carry you through the day. So be good to yourself and eat breakfast. You’ll feel better throughout the day.

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