Make it hot: Breakfast month emphasizes meal’s benefits

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By Maddie Galassi

When the melted butter runs down a stack of hot pancakes or french toast, breakfast is ready. And there’s no time more appropriate to enjoy the morning time meal than during February — National Hot Breakfast month.

With breakfast still considered the most important meal of the day, according to Sharon Donovan, University nutrition professor, breakfast comes from the idea of “breaking the fast.” 

“Overnight, your body will break down the glycogen in your liver to maintain your body glucose,” Donovan said. “By eating breakfast, you will stop that catabolic state and give your body the fuel it needs to be ready for classes. Studies have shown that eating breakfast can improve aspects of mental performance.”

According to a 2012 study sponsored by Kellog’s and Weight Watchers through the nonprofit organization Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, students who eat breakfast scored an average of 17.5 percent higher on math tests. According to Donovan, there are innumerable breakfast foods to choose from, but the ideal meal to start the day should contain carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber. The mix in nutrients is important due to the benefits that each food group will provide throughout the day. 

“The carbohydrates will give you quick energy, but the protein, fat and fiber will sustain you for a longer period of time,” Donovan said.

While it can be tempting to just pick up a muffin or bagel to eat on the run, this isn’t considered to be an adequate fuel source and may cause more harm than good in the long run. 

“If you only eat carbs, they will trigger a rapid rise in blood glucose and insulin. You will get a rush of energy, but later in the morning your blood glucose can drop and you will feel hungry and have less energy,” Donovan said. 

Even when in a rush, there are healthy options that can provide sufficient energy for longer periods of time than just carbohydrates. Donovan suggested yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, bagels or an English muffin, or a smoothie with yogurt. 

“Try to get a little of each food group. For example, an English muffin with peanut butter would be a good source of carbs, protein and fat,” she said. 

When choosing a breakfast, Donovan said it is also important to not get stuck in the mindset of only thinking of breakfast foods, especially for those foods people aren’t interested in. She said cheese or hummus with pita or crackers or even leftovers from the night before can serve as a just as good breakfast.

According to Donovan, skipping breakfast can also lead to binging later in the day and packing in unhealthy calories.

“Some studies show that people who skip breakfast eat more at lunch, because they are hungrier,” she said. “Spreading your calories throughout the day keeps your blood sugar more stable, which gives you more energy and helps you maintain your muscle mass.” 

Fortunately for University students, the Champaign-Urbana area is abundant in breakfast restaurants and restaurants that can provide a quality start to the day.

Le Peep, located at 2209 S. Neil St., deems itself as a “casual breakfast and lunch chain with a long menu of straightforward American fare and coffee drinks.” Le Peep offers everything from a pancake sandwich or a waffle sandwich to cheeseburgers and fresh salads. 

Merry Ann’s diner is a family-owned and operated restaurant with three Merry Ann’s locations surrounding the University. From Neil Street, downtown Champaign, Gregory Place in Urbana and Normal, Ill., Merry Ann’s serves traditional breakfast foods such as hash browns, pancakes, bacon, eggs and French toast.  

Although some of its options are less-nutritious than other campus-based breakfast providers, McDonalds serves breakfast until 10:30 a.m. and can be an option for a quick inexpensive meal. 

“I like to get a coffee and two hash browns from McDonald’s on Green Street if I’m in a rush to class,” said Brendan Valyo, freshman in DGS. 

For those with a University meal plan, Ikenberry dining hall serves breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m., along with other University dining halls. Offering different dishes each day, the dining halls have batter for waffles, an assortment of fresh fruit daily along with many other options. 

Sarah Seidner, freshman in Engineering, is a self-described Ikenberry breakfast enthusiast and can be seen devouring an early meal daily. 

“I usually get eggs, a hash brown and a pancake and get a bite of each on the fork,” she said. “It’s delicious.” 

Maddie can be reached at [email protected]