Seniors, Start Your Day Strong with a Healthy Breakfast

We’ve all heard the mantra, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Having a healthy breakfast – within a couple of hours of waking – actually is very important to maintaining overall good health.

For seniors, the benefits can include better memory and concentration, lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and lower chances of getting diabetes, heart disease, and being overweight. Here are some more reasons seniors may want to start the day off with a nutritious breakfast:

Breakfast = Energy = Productivity

After eight or so hours of sleeping, your body needs a “break” from the “fast” you just put it through. When you first awake, your blood sugar is usually low. A nutritious breakfast replenishes the blood sugar your body needs to make your muscles and brain work their best. Without this “fuel” to provide you with energy, you’ll be like a car running on empty.

Energy needs vary person to person, depending on life stage and activity, level. Nutritionists advise eating within two hours of waking. They also suggest consuming  calories in the range of 20-35% of your guideline daily allowance. For most women over age 60 this means between 1,600-2,000 calories, depending on your activity level. For the majority of men over age 60, this means between 2,000-2,600 calories, again, depending on how active you are.

Breakfast = Healthier Weight

Seniors who skip breakfast are more likely to overeat later in the day, according to experts. This is because that early morning low blood sugar level can affect certain hunger-fueling hormones, leaving you “starving” by lunch, or earlier. Leigh Tracy, RD, a dietitian at Mercy Medical Center, says that when you’re really hungry, “you’re less likely to choose healthier options.” Those unhealthy choices will likely come from high-fat, high-sugar foods, which means extra calories and weight gain.

On the flip side, eating foods with protein and fiber in the morning keeps your appetite in check the rest of the day. If you are dieting, cutting calories by skipping breakfast won’t help. Studies show that most people who lose weight and keep the weight off eat breakfast every day.

Quick and Nutritious Ideas

Healthy choices that are good for those on-the-go or who aren’t regular breakfast buffs, include:

  • Whole-grain cereal, low-fat milk and fruit. Or try instant oatmeal.
  • A breakfast smoothie made from low-fat yogurt, fruit and a teaspoon of bran.
  • A banana wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter.

If you are an active senior who is rushed in the morning, plan ahead. Make an egg casserole with veggies on a Sunday, and store it in the fridge to provide you with a few days of breakfast during your busy week.

Many studies have shown how eating breakfast can improve memory and concentration levels as well as make you happier and improve mood and lower stress levels. Keeping stress in check and maintaining your cognitive functions as you age are very important factors in living a longer, higher-quality life.

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