Alan Blum, MD, is professor and Gerald Leon Wallace, MD, Endowed Chair in Family Medicine at University of Alabama School of Medicine. He also is director of The University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society.
You’ve heard it a gazillion times—breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
So how come about 31 million Americans still skip it?
Alan Blum, MD, a family physician and professor of family medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Tuscaloosa, has heard just about every reason in the book, since he counsels his patients about their diets.
And he chatted with me about the most popular reasons that he hears.
One of the main arguments that he hears from patients is, “Breakfast will make me gain weight.”
But that argument (and many others) couldn’t be farther from the truth, he said.
Here’s what you need to know…
Here are some common excuses that Dr. Blum has heard from patients about why they don’t eat breakfast—and here’s why they aren’t valid.
“Eating breakfast will make me gain weight.”
Actually, according to scientific evidence, the opposite is true, Dr. Blum told me. For example, research has shown that people who eat a breakfast of ready-to-eat cereal, cooked cereal or quick breads (which contain a leavening agent such as baking soda—i.e., muffins or cornbread) tend to have a lower body mass index, compared with breakfast skippers. Another reason that breakfast may help keep you slim is that it revs up your metabolism, and the higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn.
“I don’t like breakfast foods.”
There can be much more to breakfast than just cereal, sausage and eggs. You can eat anything healthful! For instance, try your favorite flavor of hummus with carrots and celery…or have a few slices of turkey on multigrain bread with some fresh apple slices…or grab a Greek yogurt. You could also eat like the Scandanavians often do—have a piece of chilled salmon, tuna or whitefish, along with either a slice or two of any type of cheese. Or graze on last night’s leftover dinner like you do the day after Thanksgiving—who’s to say no?
“I don’t have time to eat.”
This is generally a dodge, not a valid reason. You almost certainly can make the time to eat breakfast—even if that means setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier. Sitting down with a healthy meal for that 15 minutes not only lets you gather fuel for the day—it also lets you enjoy some serenity before the day gets crazy. But if you can’t take those few minutes, then at least consume some fuel on the go, such as a whole-wheat waffle with peanut butter, a stick of low-fat cheese, a hard-boiled egg or a granola bar that is high in fiber and low in sugar. For more ideas, check out this story from sister publication Bottom Line/Personal, which offers some easy and healthful on-the-go breakfast recipes.
“I’m not hungry when I wake up.”
Your body has been fasting for quite some time and needs to restore your blood sugar to healthy levels, so that means that you should eat anyway—even if you’re not hungry. Eat at least a little bit of something healthy until you’re ready for something more substantial. Even a handful of nuts or trail mix (with diced dates, dried apricots and/or figs) is better than nothing (and much better than something like soda, juice or even coffee).
If these aren’t reasons enough for you to change your morning routine, in Dr. Blum’s experience with his patients, he has noticed that breakfast skippers are more likely to have headaches and experience overall weakness and fatigue, among other undesirable symptoms.
So what are you waiting for? If you don’t eat breakfast, you are unnecessarily stressing your body and your mind every day—and you might be pleasantly surprised at how a morning meal makes you feel great.