Who hasn’t heard the (almost!) famous expression: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? As a nutritionist-dietician, we repeat it often, but we also allow ourselves to make a few adjustments to this very popular saying. Here’s everything you need to know about the first meal of the day. Words by Science & Fourchette
The importance of having breakfast.The word “breakfast” means to “break the fast.” In scientific terms, it’s the time of day to restore the body’s glycemic levels (or blood sugar levels) after all those hours of sleeping and not eating. According to several studies, breakfast also has a beneficial effect on cognitive performance, especially in terms of memory and attention span. A breakfast that contains enough protein can also increase the body’s production of dopamine, a hormone that affects the neurotransmitters, which in turn help increase alertness and liveliness. So in short, breakfast is a very important meal . . . but so are lunch and dinner!
But I’m not hungry.That being said, not everyone has to eat the second they roll out of bed! It’s not a law or a dietary rule! You should eat breakfast when you start to feel hungry . . . which can be later in the morning. If you never feel hungry in the morning, it could be because you had a late snack before going to bed. But don’t worry—we’re not here to tell you that eating a late-night snack is wrong or unhealthy—especially if you’re doing so because you’re hungry. Just have a later breakfast, that’s all!
How to tell when you’re hungry and when you’re full.It’s not always easy to listen to your body and be able to tell when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Especially if you’re not in tune with your body or tend to ignore the signs. The signs our body gives us are pretty incredible and allow us to know when and how much to eat. Remember: you’re the expert of your own body! Hunger is the physiological sensation felt by the body when it has an energetic and nutritional deficit that needs to be met. Satiety is the feeling of fullness that comes after eating. These are two important definitions (and feelings) to keep in mind. Here’s how to tell the difference between the two:
Hunger feels like:
- A drop in energy;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Rumbling stomach;
- An empty belly feeling;
- Nausea or headache;
Satiety feels like:
- An increase in energy;
- A full belly feeling;
- An overall feeling of wellness and fullness, without feeling stuffed.
How to make the most out of breakfast.Of course, everyone wants their first meal of the day to be balanced and healthy. You can choose from a variety of healthy foods that you love, whether they’re fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. Here are a few basic guidelines:
- Fill half your breakfast plate with fruits and vegetables, ideally local and in-season.
- Prepare your oatmeal with milk or an enriched plant-based beverage. Add seeds (flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower) and nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts).
- Pair your wholewheat toast with cheese (cottage, cheddar, ricotta, etc.) or vegan cheese. Or slather with nut butter (peanut, almond, soya, etc.).
- Add a source of protein to your smoothie (milk, Greek yogurt, skimmed milk powder, enriched soya beverage, soft tofu, nuts, or seeds).
- Add some eggs to your plate (scrambled, hard-boiled, omelette, etc.), or opt for a plant-based alternative.