Health

Friday 29 August 2014

Doctor's orders: Breakfast like a king, not a 'nob'

Skipping the first meal of the day may seem like a good idea if you are trying to shed the pounds but, if you're not careful, it could actually lead to you gaining weight rather than losing it

CK IN: Dr Ciara Kelly recommends eating a high fibre, healthy protein breakfast rather than skipping a meal and caving in to hunger pangs later in the day. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Brown bread is the healthier option
Brown bread is the healthier option

I've never been a morning person. Even as a child I instinctively recoiled from early starts, alarm clocks and getting a good run at the day. I had a Snoopy duvet cover with the slogan "I think I'm allergic to mornings" emblazoned across it, whilst a wrecked-looking Snoopy lay in a heap on top of his kennel. If they made them in double bed size, I'd probably still have one now.

My anti-morning bias also extended to breakfast. I didn't feel hungry on waking, in fact, I often felt slightly sick at being forced from the comfort of my beloved bed before I was ready. I had little appetite for cornflakes, toast or eggs and mushy cereals like porridge or Weetabix were anathema to me. But that's not all that unusual.

Approximately 10 per cent of the population skip breakfast regularly, preferring instead to head out into their daily grind unfed. With some people that's because they don't make time for it. For some, because they dislike breakfast or are indifferent to it. And for some – often overweight –people, they skip breakfast in an attempt to start the day by being 'good'.

Many people view their daily food intake as 'good' or 'bad'. 'Good' mostly means skipping meals and going hungry for periods. And 'bad' means eating – especially overeating – particularly foods that inspire guilt. So non breakfast-ers often think they are being good – because at least they started well and didn't over eat in the morning.

But. They are wrong! On average, non-breakfasters ("nobs", we will call them) eat an extra 80 kcals per day. That's because as the day goes on they find it increasingly difficult to resist overeating due to their hunger pangs.

Many eat far more than 80 extra kcals, due to the fact that they starved themselves in the early part of the day and then "caved" later on, causing them to feel like they've blown it for that day – so they might as well eat what they like now and, instead, try to be "good" again tomorrow.

But even at 80kcals a day, that's an extra 29,000 kcals a year! We know that 3500 kcals = 1 lb of fat, so if you do the math, that's an extra 8lbs of fat that 'nobs' put on, per year – more than breakfast eaters ("smart", we will call them).

And that's with all other things being equal – except they're not. Eating breakfast first thing in the morning also causes a complex interaction between gastric secretions and your brain, which creates a perfect storm of hormones in your body that actually speeds up your metabolism – so that you burn calories faster all day after eating breakfast. It is what kick-starts your day.

So the old adage breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper, turns out to be true. And let's face it, there's not many things you can do in the current climate "like a king" and get away with it. So tuck in and enjoy your daily breakfast. And not only should you not feel guilty, you should feel really good about it.

Avoid sugary cereals and high-fat foods and instead go for high-fibre brekkies like brown toast or whole grain cereal, and healthy protein like poached or boiled eggs to start your day.

As for me? I'm still striving for self-improvement and now eat a healthy breakfast every day.

My snooze button still has a groove worn in it but I've embraced my inner royal and have taken to the porridge.

  • Dr Ciara Kelly is a GP in Greystones and is the doctor on Operation Transformation, 8.30pm, RTE1, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Irish Independent

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