We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation understood it (possibly just for its deliciousness)! But how many of us actually eat it on a daily basis? And unfortunately, that cup of coffee doesn’t really count as breakfast.
A 2005 study found that 35% of college students do not eat any kind of meal in the morning. This is a bit more common with men than women.
Many students skip this meal due to lack of time or because it has become a habit to rush to class on an empty stomach.
“I know it’s probably not a good idea, but I’ve gotten used to it,” explains a second-year UNC student. “I usually study late and I would rather sleep an extra 20 minutes than wake up to make breakfast.”
While college students may lack time, it is still very important to eat in the morning. What kind of impact does this have if you decide to skip breakfast?
- Your grades will take a hit! Your brain needs food to function, specifically glucose. Things like toast, cereal, and fruit are good sources of this. A number of studies found a link between academic performance and breakfast. Those that ate breakfast scored noticeably higher on tests than those that did not eat breakfast. Other studies have found that when you’re hungry, you tend to be more forgetful. If you want those A’s, you should start with breakfast.
- You’ll be cranky. When your body is running on empty, your blood sugar drops and your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels spike. Your mood will suffer, and it’ll make it hard to sit through an entire lecture. Being hangry is a real thing!
- Your metabolism slows down. Breakfast helps to rev up your metabolism. Without food in your system, especially at the beginning of your day, your body goes into protection mode and works to conserve calories, rather than burning it. In prolonged cases, it causes wasting of your muscles.
- You’ll be more at risk for certain diseases. A number of studies found links between missing breakfast and increased risk of weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. Yes, skipping breakfast can cause weight gain.
An ideal breakfast is balanced. The Clinical Nutrition Specialist at Campus Health, Antonia Hartley, often recommends using the MyPlate for just that reason.
“I tell my clients to choose a starch (like toast, a tortilla, or granola), choose a protein (like peanut butter, eggs, or yogurt), and choose a fruit or veggie (like a banana, spinach or berries),” Hartley advises. “Putting together any three of these takes two minutes tops, especially since you can scramble an egg in the microwave.”
If you’re short on time in the morning, there many other quick breakfast recipes. There’s really no excuse to skip breakfast in the morning.
Justin Chu is the Information and Communication Program Assistant at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He previously worked as a nutritionist in the clinical, community, and commercial settings after earning his bachelor’s in Clinical Nutrition at the University of California at Davis.