Hello, DA community, and welcome to Balanced Bites, a new monthly nutrition column where I will be addressing nutrition, eating topics, and questions from around campus and in the news.
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Karyn Mancari, and I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I have a Bachelor’s in Biology through Springfield College and a Post-Baccalaureate degree and Master’s in Applied Nutrition through Russell Sage College. I’ve worked with all ages and in all areas of nutrition, but have done the most work in sports nutrition (thank you, Springfield College) disordered eating, and wellness. This is my second year on campus and I’m looking forward to spreading the word about how good nutrition can affect every part of your life.
Let’s dive in. And since we’re just beginning, let’s start with the beginning of our day: breakfast. We’ve all heard about how it’s “the most important meal of the day” and has a ton of health benefits, but what’s the reality behind that?
The point of breakfast is just that: breaking the fast. While we sleep, our bodies slow all of the non-vital functions like gut activity and metabolism, so it can conserve energy and enhance our sleep. “Breaking the fast” by eating something within the first hour of waking is a way to shift your body back into day-time mode and kick-start your metabolism. Some looking to cut calories for weight loss may see this as an easy time to do just that, but years of studies show that, even though habitual breakfast eaters may consume more daily calories, they are less likely to be overweight.
There are a few theories behind this conclusion. First, that metabolism meets its regular rate sooner in the day so the body works more efficiently at burning energy. Another is that those who eat soon after waking have more energy to be more active throughout the day.
In addition to being important for metabolism and energy, habitual breakfast eating was consistently positively associated with increased academic performance and ability to focus in adolescents in particular, according to 2015 study in The Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
If you’re not a morning eater, don’t fret just yet. If you’re trying to maintain an eating schedule, it generally takes 1-2 weeks to train our bodies when to expect food. This means that even if you generally don’t wake up hungry, consistently eating in the morning for 1-2 weeks, can teach your body to activate appetite hormones allowing you to wake up hungry.
Once you’ve established a morning appetite, we should look at the content. The ideal breakfast contains some kind of carbohydrate (fruit, whole grains, and dairy) and some protein — think oatmeal with nuts or nut butter, Greek yogurt with granola and fruit, two hard-boiled eggs and cereal, or a low-sugar granola bar. A source of healthy fat and a fruit or vegetable are a healthy addition but not always feasible. Building a breakfast like this can help with sustained energy throughout the day and meeting your nutritional needs.
Long story short, I personally encourage everyone to eat breakfast, but especially if you’re an active adolescent. If you’ve been interested in fasting or cutting calories, there are healthy ways to do it that can provide some health benefits but overall, anyone still growing (hello, DA students) need the additional nutrition.
For any more questions about any nutrition-related topic or ideas/questions for the Scroll, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to check out all of the offerings at our Dining Hall.