For many years nutritionists, a hardy band who believe people should eat for health as well as for fun, have been trying to drive Americans from apathy to appetite. A bigger and better breakfast is the nutritionists' goal. Last week victory seemed just as far away as ever. Two surveys—one of adults, the other of teen-agers—indicated that across the U.S. breakfast habits have, if anything, worsened.
A five-year study of 610 New Jersey industrial workers just completed by a Rutgers University team shows that two out of five men polled eat little, if any, breakfast. Nearly 4% of these reported they ate "no breakfast." For 11%, breakfast consisted of only a cup of coffee; 26% said they breakfasted on sweet rolls or toast and coffee. The other poll—of 10,000 California junior and senior high school students—shows much the same situation among youngsters. Fully 32% of the teen-agers either "never" or "only sometimes" ate a breakfast meal.
NO TIME, NO APPETITE, NO GOOD
By far the most common reason was that they "didn't have enough time." Other explanations ranged from "not hungry" and "no one to eat with" to "breakfast wasn't prepared" and, if it was, "it was unpalatable." The New Jersey workers also said that they could count on getting coffee, pastry, candy or soda pop at the plant.
These excuses are making nutritionists mad—not at dad or the kids, but at "mom." Not since Philip Wylie attacked "momism" in Generation of Vipers have so many unkind things been said-about mothers. At the recent meeting of the Home Economics Association, Miss A. June Bricker, home economics bureau director for Metropolitan Life, hurled the first stone. The major reason families don't eat breakfast, said Miss Bricker, is that mom just doesn't get up. When she does, there's plenty of time to work up an appetite and to eat; the meal is well prepared and there is someone to eat with.
Dr. Ruth L. Huenemann, of the University of California, attacked from a different quarter. One reason that many teen-age girls eat inadequate breakfasts, or no breakfast at all, Dr. Huenemann said, is because they are dieting—like mom. And how does mom diet? By avoiding breakfast, stuffing herself the rest of the day—and getting fatter.
IN DEFENSE OF "MOM"
The nutritionists are right, of course, but it should be said that mom isn't the only one who's wrong. Most people share the notion that passing up breakfast is a painless way to reduce. Alas, not so. A strong case, in fact, can be made for the theory that short-cut breakfasts are one of the causes of the overweight dilemma. And not only that. By skipping or skimping on breakfast, individuals invite chronic illness, lowered resistance to disease, lost efficiency, accidents, headaches, fatigue and nervousness.
Whether you want to lose weight or simply keep your present shape, an adequate breakfast is the best way to start. This advice comes from Dr. Frederick J. Stare of Harvard, one of the country's foremost nutritionists. A big breakfast man himself, he suggests:
Fruit or juice
Cereal and milk
One egg with ham or bacon
Two slices of toast
Two cups of coffee with sugar
For calorie counters, the total is well within the 500 to 750 calories that nutritionists claim is ample. But, as Dr. Stare points out, calories are not the only consideration. The protein content (over 20 grams in this menu) is, in a way, more important. In the morning, the body, starved since the night before, is at its lowest nutritional ebb. The level of sugar in the blood—the trigger that sets off the feeling of hunger—is way down.
You should be hungry and you probably are. The danger is that you can temporarily satisfy your hunger with as little as a cup of coffee with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar. But what you need is fuel that will keep your body going until the next regular meal.
Sugar, being sugar already, is rapidly absorbed. In a matter of minutes a few spoonfuls will make the blood-sugar level skyrocket; hunger vanishes. But by midmorning it plummets and you become hungry and weak. Fat acts in just the opposite way. It delays the emptying of food from the stomach and is converted to blood sugar very slowly. Protein, however, is the most effective. It breaks down into blood sugar neither too fast nor too slow and keeps the sugar level up until lunch time.
EAT AND BE HAPPY
The person who dashes downstairs, gulps a cup of coffee and donut (carbohydrate with scant protein) and races to work is bound to feel hungry by mid-morning. When he can, he slips out for a "second breakfast." Starved again by lunch, he invariably eats more than if he had breakfasted on the larger, high-protein meal in the first place. The result; every calorie more than you need adds a little more weight.
Equally important, says Dr. Stare, is the psychological effect of a hearty breakfast. "It improves a person's outlook. If you start off with a healthy breakfast, you feel good. If you eat a lousy one, you're more apt to be down in the dumps. And—after all—eating itself is a pleasure."
In other words, don't ration your food—or your fun. Have some of both in the morning.