The Daily Gamecock

Column: Balanced breakfast sets you up for success

As college students, we all know how easy it can be to overlook breakfast. As other commitments pile up, meals often get shoved to the bottom of our list of priorities, but eating a balanced breakfast is one way we can start prioritizing our health. 

In a survey conducted on 158 USC students, only 32.3% reported they eat breakfast daily. This leaves an overwhelming majority of students who either never eat breakfast or only eat breakfast three to four times a week.  

We’ve all heard the theory that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." But when it comes down to it, the desire for 15 minutes of extra sleep often trumps 15 minutes of breakfast preparation.

Eating breakfast is proven to boost metabolism, cognitive function and digestion. These are all necessary for our bodies to function optimally. As college students, it’s essential to give our bodies the nutrients it needs in the morning to stimulate our brains and bodies. 

First things first: coffee alone is not a sufficient breakfast. For some students, grabbing a coffee on the way to a morning class might seem like all they have time for. 

However, according to Kristin Coggin, USC director of football nutrition, consuming caffeine without food is one of the worst choices you can make in the morning. Not only can this habit hinder your ability to focus, but it can potentially lead to overeating at another meal. Pair your morning coffee with an egg sandwich for a balanced meal to avoid spending the rest of the day chasing after calories missed at breakfast time.

In the same survey, respondents had an option to explain why they eat breakfast. One student said their reason for eating breakfast is “because we were told that as children like every five minutes.” 

It’s true. Children are exposed at a young age to the idea that breakfast is important. 

In the impressionable minds of children, almost anything goes. This is especially evident in cases where cartoon characters are used to convey nutritional guidance. Most of us are familiar with the phrase "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." In a Cocoa Puffs commercial General Mills said its product is "part of a balanced breakfast." 

The idea of a balanced breakfast can easily be misconstrued in the minds of many young cartoon-watchers. Children’s television is littered with commercials that use animated characters to attract the attention of young kids and subtly implant inaccurate ideas. 

Sugary cereals advertised on children’s networks fail to satisfy the requirements of a balanced breakfast. 

In a study conducted by the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, children are consuming more than 50% of the recommended daily sugar intake at breakfast alone. Not only do many kinds of cereal contain a significant amount of sugar, but they also contain simple carbohydrates that lead to a blood sugar high, shortly followed by a crash. 

Consuming a combination of whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables at breakfast leads to more sustained energy throughout the day and keeps you full for longer. A breakfast packed with multiple macronutrients is truly balanced. 

Cereal does not need to be the enemy if you accompany it with another macronutrient. If cereal is your breakfast of choice, try to make it more balanced by adding Greek yogurt and fruit to include more protein and vitamins than a serving of milk would provide. 

When surveyed students were asked why they skip breakfast, lack of time was at the top of their list of reasons. 

If convenience is an essential factor in finding a breakfast that works for you, below are some balanced breakfast suggestions that require little to no preparation:

·  Oatmeal or overnight oats with nut butter

·  Chia pudding

·  Greek yogurt with granola

·  Protein bar/shake with a piece of fruit

·  Fruit and vegetable smoothie

·  Hard-boiled eggs and trail mix

While anything is better than nothing, the nutritional value of breakfast is critical to providing your body with sustained energy. Developing a healthy morning habit might require that you elevate breakfast on your list of priorities, but it’s one of the simplest ways you can invest in your health.