Archived Story

Why breakfast is the most important meal

Published 10:17am Monday, February 4, 2013

Column: Dietitian Speaks, by Amy Pleimling

As some of you may have seen in the Tribune, I developed a nutrition program for all fifth-graders in our district public schools. I very much enjoying teaching nutrition to this age group (10- and 11-year-olds). They are very receptive to the information and get excited about the topic.

Amy Pleimling

In many of the classroom visits, the kids have nutrition questions for me. Because the kids need to stick to their school schedule and move to their next classes, I often haven’t had time to answer their questions.

I encouraged the kids to send me questions through their teachers via email and many of them have done just that. Their questions are so intelligent I soon realized that any age might be able to benefit from hearing my answers. You can easily see the interest these kids have in nutrition by their intelligent questions. Enjoy!

Question from Maddie Shimon, Halverson Elementary School fifth-grader:

What are the two most important meals of the day and why?

Dear Maddie,

As a registered dietitian, I think eating regular meals that are well-balanced and controlled in portion size throughout the day is the most important thing. But this doesn’t answer your specific question, so if I had to pick the two most important meals of the day I would say “breakfast” and “lunch,” and here is why:


1. Breakfast

We do not eat while we sleep and our bodies start to store the calories we did not need from the food we ate. As we sleep, our bodies are in “slow” mode. When we skip breakfast, our bodies continue to stay in “slow” mode, and if we do this many days in a row, we are telling our body to slow down. And then what happens is that we slow our metabolism.

This is a very big word and hard to understand. But it basically means how much we need to eat to stay fueled and have energy throughout the day — to grow, but not gain extra and unnecessary weight. Slowing down one’s metabolism would make it much harder to maintain a healthy weight. When we eat breakfast, we actually are telling our bodies, “Wake up!” and to start burning calories better for us.

The other reason breakfast is No. 1 on my list is the nutrition the meal gives you to tackle your day. Remember when we talked about good nutrition helping us stay at a good energy level and helping our minds to think better? A good breakfast of three food groups will help us all day long.

There is a lot of research out there about the benefits of breakfast — and I am convinced it is the most important meal of the day.


2. Lunch

Lunch comes second on my list. I see many adults eating too small a lunch, mainly because it needs to be quick. When we have too small a lunch or an unbalanced lunch, we do not have the energy we need to get through the rest of our day.

For kids — this could affect athletic or sport performance. For both kids and adults, an unhealthy or too-small lunch can leave them starving after school or work, and then overeating in the afternoon and dinner time.

Here is an example with a lunch of dinner roll and milk (maybe because you didn’t like the menu, let’s say):

This lunch will be digested and gone in two hours. If you ate at 11:30 a.m., you will then be hungry by about 2 p.m. So now after school, there is a good chance you are hungry. Then you snack, but you tend to overeat unhealthy foods because you are just too hungry to make a good decision. What can also happen is that you overeat unhealthy foods after school and you are not even hungry for your next healthy meal.

You can see that eating regular meals that are balanced in nutrition affect what we do, our eating choices and our food behaviors.

Great question, Maddie!

Amy Pleimling is the dietitian for the Hy-Vee grocery store in Albert Lea.