summer berries on wooden surface

Starting the day by eating breakfast is important for people of all ages. According to experts, there are numerous health benefits to eating breakfast: breakfast gives you energy, speeds up your metabolism and keeps you fuller longer.

“Breakfast is an important meal for anyone, but especially children. Their metabolism is much higher than an adult’s. This makes them more susceptible to feelings associated with low blood sugar. Symptoms include sleepiness, irritation and difficulty concentrating,” said Dr. Alisha Farris, an assistant professor at Auburn University in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to a 2013 article from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “studies show that breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomach aches in the morning. Their overall test scores are higher, they concentrate better, solve problems more easily and have better muscle coordination.”

Christina Levert, a Regional Extension Agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said, “We all benefit from eating a balanced breakfast. It helps give us energy needed to start our day. It also helps us to stay focused and it plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight.” Levert considers a breakfast that provides higher amounts of fiber and protein to be the most nutritious. She claims that such nutrients will help give needed energy and keep you fuller longer than higher sugar foods.

It is common for people to jump to the quick and easy ways of making breakfast. For example, some may choose fruit on-the-go or a quick bowl of cereal to do the job. However, preparing a healthier, more filling breakfast will reap endless benefits throughout your day.

It is extremely important to read the labels on cereal.

“Cereal can be a good choice if it is low in added sugar and contains whole grains,” Levert said.

People tend to assume all cereal is healthy because we either grew up eating it or because it’s filling and a good source of vitamin D when added with milk. However, a lot of cereals can actually be less beneficial to your diet than helpful.

Food labels are crucial. Companies try to sell people on non-GMO, gluten-free or organic, which are all great, but can also be deceiving. It is common to see those labels and disregard any other nutritional information. Be sure to look for the amount of sugar, carbs, calories and protein listed on the side panel as well.

“I would say that the biggest mistake I see is people choosing breakfasts that are too high in sugar. Eating a breakfast of doughnuts or other high sugar foods lacks important nutrients. Healthier choices are those that include whole grains, fiber and fruit. Fruit is an excellent choice for breakfast. However, adding a good source of protein to it would make it even better,” Levert added.

Most fruits contain natural sugar. However, too much of it can cause a sugar high followed by tiredness later on. Fruit is also less filling due to a lack of protein. That is what causes people to feel hungry sooner and more often throughout the day.

Dr. Farris’ most recommended breakfast foods include yogurt with fruit and granola or oatmeal. She also enjoys peanut butter and a banana, a banana and walnuts, or eggs and fruit. “Eggs are a great breakfast food, healthy and delicious. You can add in some veggies to your eggs, pair with fruit and you’ve got a great breakfast,” she added.

For more information about healthy eating and upcoming nutrition programs, contact the Chilton County Extension Office at (205)280-6268.