Well, according to the latest research, breakfast does all kinds of great things. It helps you lose weight and live longer, and it improves your concentration. It almost sounds too good to be true, but apparently it isn’t.
“Eating a good breakfast that is high in nutrients and fiber is sound, healthy advice with significant benefits,” says Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Just look at the research on weight control: A study at the University of Colorado found that 78% of people who successfully maintain their weight loss eat breakfast every day. Another study reported by the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” found that eating cereal (either ready-to-eat or cooked) for breakfast is associated with significantly lower body mass index than either skipping breakfast or eating meats and/or eggs.
Plus, when you skip breakfast, that will only ensure you’re hungrier when lunch rolls around. According to a study by Yunsheng Ma, Ph.D., M.P.H, reported in the “American Journal of Epidemiology,” people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to be overweight than those who don’t. The problem is that when you eat a high-calorie, high-fat breakfast, you end up eating many more calories than you should — even if you eat balanced meals for the rest of the day.
Where you eat also matters. Ma found that if you eat your breakfast in a restaurant you are twice as likely to gain weight. Compared with home-cooked breakfasts, restaurant foods are usually higher in calories and fat, have less fiber and are served in larger portions.
“Additionally, there have been strong studies showing that children, adolescents and seniors experience an increase in concentration and cognition after eating a ‘proper’ breakfast,” says Popkin.
So what is a “proper” breakfast? Not eggs, bacon, sausage and toast — or soda. Yes, according to Popkin 10 to 12 percent of Americans have soda for breakfast. Experts recommend eating high-fiber, low-calorie, low-sugar cereals with skim milk and fruit — they’re simple, fast and good.
However, not everyone believes breakfast is the most important meal of the day. “You don’t need to obsess about breakfast,” says Arthur Frank, M.D., director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C. “If you enjoy breakfast — great — but if it’s not for you, don’t worry.” He adds one caveat: If skipping breakfast causes you to overeat at other meals or to have problems concentrating, you probably need to eat something when you wake up. Does Frank eat breakfast? Each morning he eats leftovers from the night before.
That got me thinking — what do nutrition “celebrities” eat for breakfast?
AL ROKER, weather and feature reporter for NBC’s “Today” show and food aficionado
Breakfast: Every day it’s a spoonful of peanut butter, yogurt and raw oatmeal (rolled oats).
Dream breakfast (if health didn’t matter): I would eat Nueske’s Applewood-smoked Bacon, waffles made with Russell Farms Pancake Mix and two eggs over easy.
WALTER R. THOMPSON, PH.D., professor of exercise and nutrition at Georgia State University
Breakfast: One English muffin covered with peanut butter and homemade strawberry jelly, and a cup of decaffeinated coffee. Sometimes I eat a bowl of Raisin Bran instead.
Dream breakfast: Shoney’s breakfast buffet — all of it. I last attempted this about 12 years ago.
GEORGE L. BLACKBURN, M.D., PH.D., director of the Center for the Study of Nutrition Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston
Breakfast: Black coffee; All-Bran, Total and Shredded Wheat mixed together with a banana. Ideally I’d mix this with strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, but berries are expensive and not readily available. This is eaten with 1 percent milk. I alternate this with oatmeal. I try to get as much fiber in at breakfast as I can.
Dream breakfast: Typical of my generation, we grew up eating eggs, bacon and white toast with butter. We would never think of whole-wheat toast.
DAVID L. KATZ, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, and author of “The Way to Eat” (Sourcebooks, 2002)
Breakfast: A big bowl of mixed whole-grain cereal with either skim milk or nonfat yogurt and fruit (mixed berries are my favorite). I drink either orange juice or French roast coffee using nonfat powdered milk because it provides the nutritional benefits of skim without diluting the coffee. My alternative breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal with banana and walnuts, and sometimes blueberries (cooked right into it). I then tend to add some more cereal, such as nonfat granola, and fruit.
Dream breakfast: Exactly the same thing! I love this food. I’m not giving up taste for health. Even at a buffet offering bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast, etc. — I would still choose oatmeal and fruit.
MICHAEL F. JACOBSON, PH.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Breakfast: A piece of fruit and a bowl of low-fat granola (from the farmer’s market) with skim milk.
Dream breakfast: I’m perfectly content with the above, though I’d add blueberries or strawberries whenever possible.
EMILY LISTFIELD, editor-in-chief of “Fitness” magazine
Breakfast: Oatmeal, oat bran or Egg Beaters with whole-wheat toast.
Dream breakfast: Muffins with jam or bagels with cream cheese.
JACK LALANNE, 90-year-old fitness guru
Breakfast: A protein drink made with soy powder and soy milk. In addition, whole-grain cereal mixed with fresh pineapple. I top it all off with apple juice made from my Power Juicer.
Dream breakfast: I’ve been eating natural foods in their natural state since age 14, and I’ve never missed eating any kind of unhealthy foods. Healthy foods, if prepared properly, taste as good as anything unhealthy.