Breakfast – Make the first meal of the day Count

The Oxford English dictionary defines the word breakfast as “a meal eaten in the morning, the first of the day”. Well, that does seem to be the popular definition of breakfast where it is the first meal of the day consumed when arisen from a night’s sleep, always in the mornings, before starting your day. Technically, it is the first meal consumed to break a fast, irrespective of the time of the day. In this guide, I take you through myths surrounding this meal and ways we make it count.

Myth 1: Breakfast (as defined, popularly) is the most important meal of the day.

Fact: This mantra is one of the most brilliant marketing strategies by cereal companies to sell their products. It has been hammered for so long and so often, that people now believe it to be an unequivocal truth. The reality is far from it. Most traditional cultures eat only 2 meals a day. Remember the age-old Hindi phrase ‘do waqtki roti’? Ever thought, why it is not ‘teen waqtki roti’ and which meal is not included in the original phrase? Yes, it’s breakfast, because we had no such concept. Physiologically, most of us are not that hungry when we wake up. Our hunger builds through the morning and peaks for the first meal depending on what your morning routine is. Learning to read our bodies for real hunger and eating when hungry vis-a-vis an allotted time because the world said so, is the first step to a healthy breakfast.

Myth 2: Eating breakfast will kick-start metabolism. Skipping breakfast will slow metabolism.

Fact: All unanimous untruths come from some incorrect study or research findings that have been repeated infinitely. This is one such statement. It came from a study that examined the health of breakfast vs. non-breakfast eaters over some time and it did show that subjects who ate breakfast were healthier. But this had nothing to do with breakfast alone in isolation, and there are were other major factors like exercise, clean eating, sugar-restriction, lifestyle, etc that contributed to the same but were conveniently not accounted for. The truth is eating or skipping a meal doesn’t impact metabolism. It is a complex factor of the kind of food you eat, the fasting window between meals, activity levels, hormone health, etc. In fact, skipping a meal and prolonging the fasting window to 16 hours or more, allows the body to use stored energy as fuel, thus metabolizing fat, lowering body weight. Go ahead, skip that meal breakfast, lunch or dinner and see the body do its magic.

Myth 3: Cereal, Milk and Orange Juice is THE POWER breakfast I need.

Fact: There can be nothing more nutritionally horrifying than the combination of these three! Even in isolation, these 3 categories are a disaster. If this is your go-to breakfast most days of the week, you might as well eat sugar by the tablespoons and be happy. Starting your day with an overload of processed carbs, sucrose and fructose will cause a massive insulin spike, followed by a devastating insulin crash causing you to eat more often and craving more sugary treats. Milk is the lesser evil, however, adults do better with other food categories than milk.

Myth 4: Traditional Foods are complicated and unhealthy for breakfast

Fact: Well, this is true if you’ve adopted SAD (Standard American Diet) or parts thereof as your breakfast. Processed meat, bread, waffles, pancakes, doughnuts, muffins, cupcakes, and cookies! Phew! But if you stay true to traditional food wisdom, you can be sure you’ve got the meal right. Thankfully as Indians, we have a plethora of breakfast options depending on the region we come from. However, one simple addition or change to bring in would be to consciously add protein to our breakfast. 80% of Indians a deficient in protein, we get less than 50 gms per day and that’s because we follow a carb-heavy diet which has become processed heavily over some time, reducing its nutritional value. Include eggs, paneer, sprouts, moringa powder, hummus, green moong dal, chickpea flour (besan) in your preparations to get enough protein for the meal. Don’t hesitate to consume a scoop of protein shake, this is the safest and easiest way to get your protein, especially for vegetarians.

Myth 5: A carb-heavy meal as breakfast will power me through the day

Fact: Contrary to this, a carb-heavy meal will make you sluggish, slow, and foggy throughout the day. There is a reason why heavy Sunday brunches/lunches are followed by an afternoon siesta! To keep your energy levels steady, proteins and healthy fats should be the star of your meal. Carbs should play a supporting role. Protein & fats cause the lowest insulin spikes and keep your mood and energy levels balanced through the day. Instead of aloo paratha, think whole wheat egg role. Moong dal chilla with veggies instead of chole batura. Grilled chicken and veggies instead of Naan and butter chicken. Got it?