Family Wellness: The Importance of Eating Breakfast

mom having breakfast with her two young children

Breakfast food—some people love it, while others are not hungry when they wake up, or may be rushed to get out the front door. Regardless, it is important to make sure you and your family have a good breakfast between 60-90 minutes after you wake up. There is no better way to nourish your body and get the fuel necessary to complete the tasks of daily life.

“A child needs breakfast to help supply the brain with the nutrients it needs to support brain and cognitive health, so the child can go to class and retain the information the teacher is providing, and an adult needs breakfast to power the body so they can have enough energy to be productive,” says Lorraine Kearney of Lorraine Kearney Nutrition.

The meal got its name because it is the break in the fast since the last meal you had the night before. “It helps balance blood sugar and hormones upon waking up after a night’s rest and helps decrease the stress response that can also decrease anxiety,” Kearney says.

There are great physiologic effects from this first powerful bite of the day. “The stress hormone, cortisol, is at its highest in the morning, and if we do not fuel our bodies accurately, blood sugar can drop, causing an increase in more cortisol production and adrenaline,” Kearney says. Skipping breakfast can spoil your whole day. “If we skip breakfast and the cortisol hormone is elevated, it produces more adrenaline that puts the body into a mode of fight or flight, which can be described as a feeling as always ‘on’ or wired,” said Kearney. This is negative, as it causes anxiety and stress levels to be raised. You want to plan your breakfast carefully so it has the nutrients you need on the cellular level to rejuvenate and repair the body from stress it may endure.

“Think of a meal consisting of cereal, juice, Pop Tarts, sugared donuts, or blueberry muffins—as this amount of excess sugar can cause a spike and crash in blood sugar levels that can make you feel like you are on a rollercoaster ride of an energy rush,” Kearney says. If you find yourself tight on time in the morning, you can begin to prepare breakfast the night before. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests hard-boiling eggs, or setting aside your child’s favorite cereal along with pre-sliced fresh fruit. It also suggested trying sliced apples, homemade muffins, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese. Once you find food items that your child likes, he will be more likely to look forward to breakfast.

When it comes to planning breakfast, all the food groups matter.

“If we fuel the body right and nourish it with fresh fruits, whole grains, eggs with spinach and toast, overnight oats, chia pudding; then we are eating foods that will not cause a spike and crash in blood sugar levels, thus providing the body with even sustained energy levels throughout the morning that will help keep the body and mind clear, leading to increased cognitive function so you can retain information easier,” Kearney says. If your child does not have an appetite first thing in the morning, talk about why it is important to have a small bite and what it does for his mind and his grades.

When you have a motivation for doing something, you are more likely to do it. Once you recognize the benefits of consuming this beneficial meal and make sure it is balanced, you will be kicking off the new year with a great start.

Jamie Lober, author of “Pink Power” (getpinkpower.com), is dedicated to providing information on women’s and pediatric health topics. She can be reached at jamie@getpinkpower.com