In order to define a diet as “correct”, there are many factors to take into consideration. In spite of the increased awareness Italians now have regarding the importance of choosing the right foods to promote one’s state of health, there is still little attention paid to the time of day when meals are eaten and to the right distribution of foods during the day.
Consider this: over the last ten years in Italy the number of people who regularly eat breakfast has unfortunately decreased, and the number of those who omit it – the “breakfast skippers” – has almost doubled, going up from 8% to 14%.
This is the overview of the situation recorded in research by Aidepi/Doxa, from which some interesting data nevertheless also emerge: attention to food characteristics is growing and many consumers are interested in low-calorie foods and those with reduced fat content; almost all Italian women (91%) especially in the North eat breakfast regularly and strictly in the home.
The reasons why we tend to skip breakfast are many and varied: a lot of people give their reason as not having time to eat it, while others prefer to have a mid-morning snack or a more plentiful lunch, and some say they find it difficult to eat first thing in the morning.
If we try to understand why children do not have breakfast, we discover that this may be influenced by two other bad habits:
– going to bed too late: consequently, children cannot wake up in time to have breakfast, or they have no appetite;
– snacking in the evening: the body slows down all its activities in the evening, and excesses will therefore be di digested with less difficulty, favouring a lack of appetite in the early hours of the following morning.
Specialists agree that “breakfast is an essential meal for the correct functioning of the body”, and there are many studies that have investigated the damaged caused by fasting:
– those who do not eat breakfast have greater difficulty in concentration, attention and learning, which thus affects academic performance of children and adolescents;
– if it lacks energy the body’s systems break down, and this may cause unpleasant sensations such as tiredness, headache, reduced tolerance to stress, irritability and mood swings;
– those who go to school or to work without breakfast have a greater probability of becoming overweight or developing obesity.
There is no “ideal breakfast”; in many countries, right from very early in the morning they eat: omelets, spreadable cheeses, fish, cold pork meats, fried foods, etc., but this does not mean it is necessarily correct to eat these foods.
It is important to structure breakfast on the basis of the body’s needs, one’s lifestyle and personal tastes.
A balanced breakfast should include carbohydrates, the main source of energy for the body, especially for the brain (bread, French toasts, cereals, biscuits, cake, etc.) avoiding all products that have too many sugars and fats among their ingredients.
To promote the sense that we have eaten our fill, it is better to consume wholegrain foods (rich in fibre and with a low glycaemic index), or to add seasonal fresh fruit right from the early morning.
For those who do not have a “sweet tooth” and have a heavy day ahead of them, we also have positive confirmation about high protein foods: these can be consumed first thing in the morning, since they promote a sensation of being full and can play a positive part in controlling glycaemia. But in this case, too, it is a good idea to choose foods that are low in fats, such as yogurt, ricotta, eggs, bresaola, etc.
For those who carry out a sporting activity or heavy work in the morning, consuming a portion of fats – walnuts, almonds, seeds, spreads, etc. – may be advisable.
It is essential to hydrate oneself correctly right from the start of the day by consuming: a large cup of milk or vegetable drinks (soy, oat, etc.), tea or warm tisanes, squeezed fresh fruit or juices, or water.
Haste is the real enemy here: setting the alarm a few minutes early, or laying the table on the previous evening can be useful tips for those who find it hard to devote the right amount of time to this meal – at least 15-20 minutes.
If possible it’s better to eat in company with others: this is especially important for children who must not consider this meal to be optional, so avoid resorting to a takeaway breakfast eaten in the car or on the bus.
And for all those who appreciate a nice cup of coffee first thing in the morning, I would advise consuming it on a full stomach.
Dr. Elena Piovanelli, dietician