Better Breakfast Month: Building the Routine

Story Number: NNS170918-45Release Date: 9/18/2017 3:23:00 PM
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By By Mass Communication Specialist Petty Officer 2nd Class Anna Van Nuys, USS George Washington Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia (NNS) -- As the end of summer draws near, children begin to finish their outdoor games and head back to school. Instead of relaxing on the beach under the warm sunlight, people are returning indoors to plan for the autumn festivities.

Whatever the season has in store, September is here, and with it comes an unofficial holiday period: Better Breakfast Month.

While it may seem daunting to whip up a creative and healthy breakfast every morning, especially on a military schedule, there are ways to cut down on preparation time. With all the benefits a healthy breakfast has to offer, dieticians across America, including the physician's assistant aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) (GW), urge people not to skip out on breakfast, no matter what.

"What I come to find is especially with a job like ours in the military that is fairly demanding is that by completely skipping breakfast you are going to impair your ability to perform, both physically and mentally," said Lt. Ruth Cortes, the ship's physician assistant. "We've seen a lot of people come into medical because their sugar has been dropping or they are dehydrated and shaking."

Cortes said the most common complaint she would hear is that breakfast just isn't convenient for many schedules, so she recommends planning ahead and preparing your meal the night before. At the very least, she said, is to grab an apple or banana, something to jump start your metabolism.

"The people who don't eat breakfast are typically complaining about their struggle with weight," said Cortes. "They skip breakfast, binge out on lunch, and what that really is doing is stalling the metabolism. When you starve yourself, your body goes into a 'survival' mode and craves high calories and things with high sugar, things that are an instant relief for hunger."

Weight isn't the only thing to consider when choosing whether or not to skip breakfast. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, research suggests that those who don't eat a regular breakfast are at an increased risk of becoming overweight and obesity. This can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, both of which are among the leading causes of death in Americans.

"Health is a huge issue in the United States," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Alejandro Lazo, a Sailor aboard George Washington, who is a Fitness Enhancement Program (FEP) facilitator and CrossFit coach. "People want to say, 'It's not that bad,' but it really is that bad. There are young kids even in elementary school developing type 2 diabetes. If we can impact those kids lives and impact their parents lives, you can do a lot. It all starts from the top. My son is going to do whatever I do, and so on and so forth. So, if I set a good example for my son, he might follow in my footsteps, and his son might do the same thing."

In an effort to help those who don't eat breakfast due to time constraints, Maxine Smith, RD, LD, a registered clinical dietitian who works in the Department of Nutrition Therapy at Cleveland Clinic, suggested spending time over the weekend to plan out your mornings.

"Consider batch cooking on the weekend, particularly foods that take more time to cook," said Smith. "You can then use them for a few days or freeze in individual portions. It takes some planning but frees up so much of your valuable time during the week. Frozen fruits and vegetables are healthy, non-perishable options. There are some great frozen options for whole grains such as quinoa with roasted vegetables and brown rice. These shortcuts may help."

In addition to eating smart, Cortes wants Sailors to keep a watchful eye on their caffeine intake in the early morning.

"One thing we really like to discourage is waking up and just consuming an energy drink, anything with only caffeine. If that's a daily routine in the morning, the person doing that develops this dependency on the caffeine and the drink itself is not enough to hold you out throughout the day. Ingesting too much caffeine causes poor concentration, irritability, and it ends up slowing the metabolism, because they have nothing in their body aside from the caffeine to sustain them throughout the morning time."

Cortes also addressed those who may not eat breakfast in the morning simply because they just aren't that hungry. She warns that this may be due to a poor diet overall, not just a poor morning routine.

"I think that some of the problem lays with people eating their dinners really late," said Cortes. "What happens is that people wait to eat later at night and then they aren't hungry at all in the morning when they wake up. But by the time it's 9 or 10 in the morning they are famished and overindulge on lunch. If you eat [dinner] by 7 p.m., you aren't going to have any acid reflux or indigestion by the time you are laying down and getting ready for bed. It's better for your metabolism too because now you are letting your body properly metabolize things and it just keeps you on a good routine and good rhythm."

While breakfast is important year-round, the month of September is a time to reflect on diets and healthy eating and ways to improve.

"Focus on where your weaknesses are," said Cortes. "If you don't like fruit, explore and try to find something you do like. If you don't already take a multi-vitamin, maybe consider adding that to your diet. As always, if there is something wrong, any Sailor always can come to medical for help."

In addition to the ship's medical department on the Floating Accommodation Facility (FAF), Sailors can utilize the knowledge of their ship's Fitboss, Nate Owen, as well as visit the site

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