We’ve all heard the old adage breakfast is the most important meal of the day! (or is it?)
But when it comes to catching a few more winks or getting up early to start your day off with a hearty meal… well, let’s just say that for many people, sleep trumps nutrition in the early hours. So just how important is eating breakfast?
There is a lot of controversy as to whether a person should eat three solid meals or six times per day, or just snack continually throughout the day. I’ve heard of “rules” that one should quit eating after 8:00 p.m. and others that state one should eat every two hours (read about Intermittent Fasting).
Everybody has an opinion about how you should eat.
But what is the right answer? As it turns out, the answer isn’t clear because the research isn’t clear. I mean, when you take a look at a group of people and how they eat, there are a lot of variables. What type of food? How much? What about exercise?
However, a lot of research has been done on the subject of when is the right time to eat, and there are a few rules of thumb to follow:
Eat breakfast every day. Yes, that’s right. Breakfast is important! Eating breakfast has been shown to reduce snacking and help people eat less at meals later in the day. In addition, epidemiologic studies (that is, looking across populations), skipping breakfast is associated with higher weight for height and greater risk of obesity, even if those people reported lower calorie intake overall.
Eat a healthy breakfast everyday. As it turns out, one of the big variables that has confused the research is the health of one’s breakfast. When I encourage people to eat breakfast, I’m not recommending donuts and bacon. Although delicious, treats such as those should be enjoyed only on occasion. Eating a healthy, balanced breakfast (see: carb + protein + fruit/veg) within about an hour of waking up will set your day up for success!
Eat between three and six times per day. There’s not a perfect number. You should figure out what works for YOU! However, research has shown that eating fewer than three times per day or more than six are both associated with higher body weight. It makes sense: eat only once or twice, you’ll likely be very hungry and are more likely to overeat. Eat more than six times per day, you’ll find yourself munching on food constantly and never allow yourself to feel hungry — and thus you’ll never really feel full.
After the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviewed the evidenced, they summarized it well: “Normal weight subjects and people maintaining weight loss tend to eat breakfast regularly and generally consume a breakfast consisting of high-fiber cereal that contributes approximately 20% of daily energy intake. However, breakfasts that are very high in energy has also been associated with higher BMI [Body Mass Index, a measure of weight for height]”
So, as we’ve decided how important breakfast is, let’s talk about how to make a quick, tasty, balanced breakfast. Overnight oatmeal jars are the perfect summer alternative to hot oatmeal in the morning. I make eight jars on Sunday and my hubby and I have breakfast to-go for almost the entire workweek!
Start by adding a fourth of a cup of old-fashioned oats to each of your jars.
Next, grind some flaxseed. I use an old coffee grinder, but in a pinch you could use a blender. Flaxseeds are best purchased whole, as they can be stored for much longer (ground flaxseed can go rancid). However, whole flaxseed aren’t digested — they must first be ground so the body can enjoy all of the great health benefits!
Add two tablespoons of ground flaxseed to each of your jars.
Next, it’s time for your healthy dose of healthy fat and protein in the form of nuts. One of the greatest mistakes of breakfast eaters is to eat only carbs for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong — I love fruit and cereal for breakfast, but if that’s all I eat I am HUNGRY two hours later. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I add a little fat to my life and then can easily make it until lunch, even with a busy morning. In half of the jars, I used sliced almonds. In the other half, I used chopped peanuts. Add two tablespoons of your choice to the jars.
After the nuts, add a half cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is heartier, with more protein, than regular yogurt because they strain off a bit more of the liquid part of yogurt. I choose non-fat because I prefer to get my fat from healthier sources (i.e. flaxseed and nuts) and save the saturated fat that yogurt has for something I enjoy more (like cheese and ice cream). Plus, in these jars, you can’t tell the difference, anyway.
It’s time for some color! Add a half cup of your favorite fruit. I had some frozen peaches and cherries that were waiting for just such an occasion. I’ve also used fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, peaches) or canned fruit in colder months (pineapple, peaches).
Finally, add a little sweetness (two teaspoons of honey) and a little liquid (a fourth cup of milk — either low-fat cow’s milk, soy, or almond). Now, stir!
Put lids on the jars and put ’em in the fridge! The oatmeal will soften overnight and be ready for you to grab on your way out the door in the morning! It’s thick enough to eat with a spoon, so make sure to take one with you. No need to heat these jewels; in fact, I prefer them cold on a hot summer morning. They’ll keep in your fridge for up to five days. Enjoy!
Overnight Oatmeal Jar
1/4 c. oatmeal
2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
2 Tbsp. chopped almonds, walnuts, or peanuts
1/2 c. plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 c. fruit (sliced peaches, cherries, berries, or pineapple)
2 tsp. honey
1/4 c. skim milk
Add all ingredients to mason jar and stir to combine.
Cover with lid and refrigerate at least overnight.
Enjoy for up to 5 days after making.
Serves 1 – Serving Size: 1 Oatmeal Jar – Nutrients per serving: 449 calories — 21g total fat — 3g saturated fat — 12mg cholesterol — 115 mg sodium — 51g total carbohydrates — 8g fiber — 19g protein