17 May 2022

Rise and Dine: The importance of starting the day with a good breakfast

Laurann O'Reilly writing in this week's Nationalist

Tipperary Tipperary Tipperary

Laurann O'Reilly

We all know that life gets a little crazy sometimes and many of us prefer to get an extra few minutes of sleep than to get up and have a good breakfast.

However, we mustn’t underestimate the importance of this meal and how it can have an impact on us, not just throughout our hectic days but on our overall health.

Here, nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly and owner of Nutrition By Laurann, guides us through the benefits of breakfast and ways we can squeeze it in to our busy lives.

Breakfast Barriers: Whilst there are many reasons that we skip this important meal here are the top two factors which can get in the way of our brekky.

- Time: We can often feel that there isn’t enough time in the day, particularly in the early morning rush to get up, washed, dressed and out to the door to work or school. Unfortunately, as a result the poor breakfast gets sacrificed.

Tip 1 – Waking Up Earlier: Why not set your alarm to get up 30 minutes earlier and let this become part of your routine

Tip 2 – Be Ready To Go: You can try to lay out your breakfast, such as your cereal and bowls the night before so you’re ready to rock in the morning

Tip 3- On The Go Breakfast: Where time is tight, breakfast cookies to the rescue, check out my Multi-Seed Power Cookies recipe below and

Tip 4 - Preparation: For those who genuinely don’t have time in the morning, why not prep some overnight oats or chia pudding the night before, which can be eaten at home or brought with you on the go to work or school too, check out my Vanilla Chia Pudding Recipe here: easy-vanilla-chia-pudding/

- Not Being Hungry In The Morning: It’s very common that many of us don’t have the appetite or we’re not hungry early in the morning and this is totally normal, particularly if we have a seriously early start to the day. Here we have two options we can either 1) Get into the routine of eating breakfast in the morning (the body will soon pick up that it’s feeding time and you may even feel the belly rumbling) or 2) bring your breakfast with you such as those listed above.
Breakfast Benefits: There are so many benefits to having a delicious and hearty breakfast and here are a few.

- A Morning Kickstart: During the night when we’re sleeping, our metabolic rate runs slowly and our body goes into a state of starvation (this allows our body to repair). However, once we’re awake, our bodies need to speed up and break out of their fasting metabolic state. It’s also the prime opportunity to fit in a nutritious and healthy meal before the madness of the day begins, within which some people even skip meals (not recommended) but at least you’ll have had some food on board if that does happen on the odd occasion.

- Maintaining Energy Levels: We all know that food is our fuel and sleep is our battery, so our breakfast can help to fuel our morning.

Also, whether an adult or a child, a good breakfast can help to avoid those dips in blood sugar, which can contribute to poor concentration in work or in the classroom.

Research has found that a balanced breakfast can help regulate hyperactivity or irritability in children as it can stabilise blood sugar levels.

- Weight Maintenance: Breakfast can play a key role in maintaining our weight as again, it can help to regulate our blood sugar levels, preventing us from snacking on high sugar convenience foods.

Research has also found that developing the habit of eating breakfast may help children and adolescents better manage their weight in their youth and create a healthy habit that can be carried over into adulthood.

- An Opportunity To Nourish: People who eat breakfast are more likely to incorporate their recommended servings of vitamins and minerals each day and are less prone to overeat in the evening.

Research has found that breakfast cereal in particular helps get nutrients into children who might otherwise miss out on certain crucial vitamins.

I often say that ‘every meal is an opportunity to nourish’ and breakfast is one of the best. For example, cereal, and provides a great source of vitamins and minerals on top of which we can add milk or yoghurt, fruit, berries, nuts and seeds to increase the nutritional value even more.

Tip: Whether it’s porridge or Weetabix, think about how you can boost your breakfast.

- Increased Fibre Intake: We often underestimate the importance of fibre in our diets which plays a key role in regulating our cholesterol, stabilising our blood sugar levels, feeding our good gut bacteria as well as regulating our digestive health. I’ll go deeper into fibre in my next column but in a nutshell, we should try to include fibres such as wholegrain foods, porridge oats, chia seeds and flaxseed in our breakfasts to squeeze the right combination of healthy fibre into our diet.

- Improved Concentration: Studies have discovered that eating breakfast may enhance memory, improve cognitive ability, and help increase attention span.

Research has also found that children who eat breakfast perform better in school and on the playground.

They’ve also been found to have better concentration, problem-solving skills, and eye-hand coordination which may again be as a result of stabilised blood sugar levels. Nutrition also plays a key role in brain development, for instance the Omega-3 fatty acids not only provide energy to the brain but have been found to improve brain function and can be found in nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts), which can be easily added to our cereals, yogurts and smoothies.

- Mood: Research suggests that eating breakfast, specifically carbohydrate-rich cereals, can improve your mood. As the body goes into a state of starvation whilst we sleep, breaking the fast or ‘break-fast’ helps to provide glucose to your starved brain.

Many of us are also likely to be happier and less moody or what we call ‘hangry’, when we aren’t suffering from those dreaded hunger pangs. Whilst studies have shown that children who eat a balanced breakfast have more stable energy levels, which has a direct effect on mood and behaviour.

- Growth & Development: Both adults and children need particular nutrients in specific amounts on a daily basis to support repair, growth and development.

A healthy and balanced breakfast can often provide many of these. For example, the combination of milk/yogurt and fortified cereals provide us with calcium and vitamin D (which is essential for healthy bones and teeth), whilst citrus fruits and berries are a great source of Vitamin C (which helps the body make a protein called collagen the main component of connective tissues and also plays role in strengthening our bones)

- In Pregnancy: Whether you are already pregnant or you are preparing to conceive (this goes for men too). Breakfast can be a key opportunity to consume the valuable vitamins and minerals needed to optimise conception and a healthy pregnancy.

For example, calcium and folic acid intake are important, as in pregnancy a woman’s calcium requirement is higher than normal to meet the needs of the growing child.

Cereals are also often fortified with folic acid which plays a key role in preventing neural tube defects. Adequate energy intake during pregnancy is also vital not only to maintain the health of the mother, but as the growing child also relies on the nutrients obtained through the mother’s diet for optimum development.

Breakfast Recipe
Multi Seed Power Cookies

These are amazing for a nutritious on the go breakfast recipe, as a healthy treat, as a post work out recovery snack and are great for meal planning as they keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

1 Banana
1 ½ Cups Porridge Oats
¼ Cup Ground flaxseed
½ Cup Pumpkin Seeds
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
½ Cup Raisins
½ Tsp Baking Powder
¼ Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon
3 Tbsp Coconut oil, melted
3 Tbsp Agave syrup or honey
2 Tbsp Milk

Preheat oven to 160°Celcius
Blend half a cup of oats to a floury consistency (this makes oat flour)
In a large mixing bowl add your oats and your blended oat flour
Add your flaxseed, chia seed, raisins, baking powder, cinnamon and salt
Mash your banana with a fork and add to the bowl
Add your melted coconut oil, agave syrup/honey, milk and stir well allowing the mixture to bind
Line a baking tray (or two small trays) with parchment paper and with lightly coat with a little oil
Take a heaped tablespoon of the mixture, firmly bind and shape with your hands and place on the tray (be sure to leave space between each cookie as they will expand in the oven)
Bake for 18 minutes (fan assisted) or 20 minutes (non-fan assisted) or until they get a golden-brown colour, do keep an eye on them as each oven can vary.

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