Which is Better: A Doughnut or Skipping Breakfast?

By , SparkPeople Blogger

We recently had a dailySpark team-brainstorming meeting. As we tossed around blog topics and ideas, Coach Nicole had a question that caught all of our attention. She asked, "If someone is running late in the morning, is it better to grab a doughnut on the go or skip breakfast?" I said it was better to grab the doughnut. I think my answer surprised her. Why would a doughnut be a better choice you ask?

No doubt, you have heard it said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. One reason is that it "breaks the fast" since your last meal or snack. The body uses less energy as you rest but energy is still used to run the body (circulation, nerve impulses, respiration, etc) as you sleep. Eating shortly after you arise in the morning tells your body to wake up from its slower conservation mode, allowing your metabolic rate to return to normal. Waiting hours to eat causes the metabolic rate to remain slow. The longer you go until you eat and the more active you are, the slower the metabolic rate can become to compensate and ensure adequate energy is available.

Eating breakfast is also important when trying to reach personal weight loss goals. One explanation for this is skipping breakfast causes the brain to crave high-calorie foods. It might be the reason people crave the doughnut while they are driving to work on an empty stomach. It can also be the reason people are drawn to high calorie, high fat lunches when they skip breakfast. In any case, eating a less than ideal breakfast is better than no breakfast at all. An average strawberry frosted doughnut contains about 240 calories, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein. It can take more than 40 minutes to walk off those sweet calories. While it isn't the best breakfast choice, if we look at a doughnut a little closer we find there is more balance than we might think. A recommended daily energy intake of 1500 calories consumed in three meals and a snack may easily allow for a breakfast of 375 calories, 50 grams of carbohydrates 12 grams of fat and 20 grams of protein. The doughnut easily fits within this framework although short in several key nutrients. The fat content slows the rate of metabolism so the sugar load doesn't spike a person's blood sugar as much as it might otherwise. If you order a Medium Lite Iced Latte to better balance out your breakfast, you would consume an additional 120 calories, 19 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fat, and 10 grams of protein. Your totals for your on-the-go breakfast would be about 360 calories, 52 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fat, and 13 grams protein. This would certainly get your metabolism going and help you resist vending machine urges at the office for a couple hours. Another possible benefit of the doughnut over no breakfast at all is allowing you to feel your healthy eating plan isn't so restrictive. This could mentally help you stay on track.

One of the best ways to avoid having to make a choice between a doughnut breakfast and no breakfast at all is planning. Keep several quick and healthy go to breakfast options on hand. This allows you to grab and go as you run out the door instead of stopping by a drive-thru. What you are grabbing will provide healthier secondary nutrients that a drive thru option may not. If you are someone that has not mastered the skill of pre-planning yet, keep this list of healthier fast food options in your glove box until you have. When you are short on time and are tempted to skip breakfast or wait until you get to work to grab a doughnut, choose something off this list instead. Make your choice based on whether calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein, or sodium content is of most importance to your overall meal planning.

Subway Egg & Cheese Muffin Melt with 100% Juice for a balanced low calorie and low fat choice

Calories – 270

Fat – 6 grams

Sodium – 465 mg

Carbohydrates – 42 grams

Protein – 13 grams

McDonald's Scrambled Eggs with an English Muffin for a balanced higher protein, lower carbohydrate choice

Calories – 330

Fat – 14 grams

Sodium – 460 mg

Carbohydrates – 28 grams

Protein – 20 grams

Starbucks Egg White, Spinach & Feta Wrap for a balanced lower calorie, protein and carbohydrate choice

Calories – 280

Fat – 10 grams

Sodium – 900 mg

Carbohydrates – 33 grams

Protein – 18 grams

Starbucks Perfect Oatmeal with Nut Medley and Dried Fruit Topping for a low sodium choice

Calories – 340

Fat – 11.5 grams

Sodium – 115 mg

Carbohydrates – 51 grams

Protein – 8 grams

Selecting a doughnut for breakfast isn't something we recommend. However, it is a better choice if skipping breakfast is the alternative. Planning and having quick, go-to options on hand for those days when you are running late is ideal. Until you get that skill mastered, keep a list of go-to on-the-go breakfast options readily available. This will allow you to make the most of your fast food breakfast stop when you need something on the go instead of skipping breakfast.

Do you find yourself having to make on-the-go breakfast choices because you are running late? Where do you typically stop? If not, what tips can you offer someone that needs help with breakfast meal planning?

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