A balanced breakfast: Healthy choices start the day right

Photo Illustration | Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Wil Story

It is that time again. The 8 a.m. exam is here. Heads are drooping from fatigue because everyone stayed up into the early hours to study. It is all quiet, save the clicking of pens or scratching of pencil lead. Suddenly, a noise erupts like a volcano that just awoke from hundreds of years of dormancy. However, it is not a raging natural disaster; it is a stomach crying out for food.

This is a scenario that happens everywhere. The cause: not eating breakfast. The thought seems to be that it is fine to skip breakfast. However, this is not the case. People have heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Some do not take this concept seriously, but it cannot be ignored. Breakfast is a meal that provides benefits for the body that are needed in the morning and throughout the day.

Why is eating breakfast such a big deal?

During sleep, the body’s metabolism slows down and only works hard enough to keep breathing. So the body needs something to help jump-start the metabolism. That is breakfast’s job.

“If you do not eat breakfast, your body goes into starvation mode,” said Chrystal Armenta, nutritionist and personal trainer at Jackson Sport and Fitness Club.

Breakfast gives the metabolism its nutrients so it can begin to work off calories. After being fed, the metabolism works like the Energizer Bunny to burn those calories off. Without eating, the metabolism stores everything until lunch, when the body will crave lots of food while looking for the nutrients it needs. However, when the body is satisfied with breakfast, it does not need as much food at lunch. This is why people who eat breakfast make healthier food choices throughout the day and also lose more weight than those who choose to skip breakfast.

Many students do not give themselves time to take a nice shower and say hello to their roommates because the alarm goes off 10 minutes before class starts. However, people do need to make time for a good breakfast.

The healthy breakfast of champions

“The best breakfast is one that has a lot of nutritional value,” Armenta said.

One example of a great breakfast is oatmeal, which is 100 percent whole grain. Whole grain foods have all the nutrients in them other processed foods do not have. For some color, add fruit or almonds on top of the oatmeal. Fruit does not do anything wrong in the breakfast but, like every food, it must be eaten in moderation. High protein foods are also a good decision to eat with whole grains. Two foods to find protein in are egg whites and peanut butter.

Hearty breakfasts for roadrunners

Then there are those times where people get into a rush and do not have time to sit down and enjoy a nice breakfast. However, this does not give people an excuse to eat unhealthy for a quick fix. A fast and easy food is whole grain bread. The bread can be toasted while other chores are going on, like brushing teeth or tying shoes. Hard boiled eggs can be made the night before. Just slice the eggs, throw them onto the toast and make a quick getaway in the morning.

The Joe Schmoes of breakfast

Cereal is a great breakfast staple that can be followed easily. Cold cereal with milk provides fiber and calcium while hot cereal like oatmeal can give other nutrients as well. However, do not fall into the trap of Lucky the Leprechaun on the front of the Lucky Charms box or Tony the Tiger with his Frosted Flakes. Sugary cereals are the worst cereal to eat because their sugar content will only feed the body for a little bit. Instead, try cereals like Raisin Brain or Special K. These will give the energy needed to get through the morning.

Something that can be added to any breakfast is fruit. Pieces of fruit will not only add nutrition to breakfast, but it can also add color to cereal. But beware that just because something is added does not make it healthy. Honey or maple syrup may add color, but the nutritional content is lacking. Top off cereal or oatmeal with fun flavors, but make sure the calories in the additives are worth the color and taste.

Do not touch that latte

“Many people think they can get some coffee to go and that will help them through the morning,” Armenta said. “This is not a good decision at all.”

Coffee and doughnuts have no nutritional value but give a sugar rush for a few hours which results in an energy “crash.” The only thing doughnuts and bagels contain are carbohydrates and a high amount of calories. People need to eat a real breakfast, and face it, a quick breakfast can be made in just as little time as making coffee or standing in line and ordering a 10-word Starbucks drink.

The Michael Phelps breakfast

There are days when big breakfasts are wanted, but it is not always the best idea. Sure, it sounds good to have pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage, but do it in moderation. Most people make the mistake of eating until they feel full. When the stomach gets full, it stores extra food as fat, and that is a fact no one likes to hear. One way to fix this is to eat slower and chew more. Chewing slower helps the stomach break down smaller pieces of food rather than large chunks of it. Eating slower also gives people time to realize if their stomachs are full or not.

“Nutrition is not a black-and-white issue,” Armenta said. “You have a lot of gray areas.”

No one should be afraid to try what breakfast works best for him or her. Everyone’s body needs different nutrients in different amounts. Some need more vitamin C than fiber, while others need calcium. Try whatever fits, just remember to eat breakfast.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.