Breakfast Pandemic-Style

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Art/Photo by Samantha Takeda

The virtual school year has its ups and downs, but many people choose to cherish the bright side of things, as they finally have the time to do things like simply sitting down and enjoying breakfast with their family before work or school.

Lauren Ng, Staff Writer

   Growing up, kids often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But just like nearly every aspect of life, morning eating habits have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual school year has brought a new bell schedule to West High, notably pushing the first class back to 9:00 a.m. Here’s how some have adapted to these adjustments, as well as why eating breakfast may be more important than ever. 

   For West High chemistry teacher Mrs. Nguyen, the virtual school schedule has allowed for easier mornings. Prior to the pandemic, Mrs. Nguyen’s commute was 45 minutes to an hour. She explained, “I used to wake up at 5:00 and I would eat breakfast at 5:00. But now, we wake up [around] 6:45 or 7:00, and we eat breakfast around 7:30 instead.” 

   Starting first period at 9:00 a.m. has had a positive impact on weekday mornings for Mrs. Nguyen: “It does give me a lot more time to eat more leisurely … we have more time to linger on our food.” In addition, the virtual schedule has allotted more time for other breakfast options, such as “[picking] up some coffee at Starbucks.”

   Not only has the new schedule created more relaxed mornings, but it has provided Mrs. Nguyen with more time to spend with her daughter. Having to eat breakfast at 5:00 a.m., she was not able to spend mornings with her daughter on regular school days. But now, “we’re eating together as a family,” Mrs. Nguyen expressed.

   Although the school day starts later, some students now have to wake up even earlier for early-morning sports practices. For athletes such as Allison Tsai (10), member of West High Girls’ Water Polo, the virtual school year has required them to wake up before dawn. Tsai has changed her morning eating habits to accommodate the new schedule: “Currently water polo practice is [from] 6:00 to 8:00 in the morning, so my pre-breakfast meal has become hot chocolate.” Afterwards, Tsai eats a post-practice breakfast, which is “the size of a lunch and is eaten in the car” on the way back from the Torrance Aquatic Center.

   Whether the virtual school year has made breakfast easier or more difficult, the importance of eating enough in the morning still remains. A recent survey of 104 West High students revealed that only about 58% of students eat breakfast regularly on weekdays. Primary reasons for not eating breakfast included not being hungry, preferring to sleep rather than eat, and not having enough time in the mornings. Many students may ask, is breakfast even worth it?

   The article “Is Breakfast Really Good For You? Here’s What the Science Says” by TIME magazine looks to science for the answers. As explained by registered dietitian nutritionist and clinical instructor Sharon Collison, “people who consume breakfast regularly often have increased physical activity. They have better dietary profiles and lower intake of snacks.” In addition, a 2017 study showed that breakfast can also play a role in “improving the body’s ability to burn fat and fight chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes  — at least among people who were already lean.”

   However, a main cause of skipping breakfast is simply a lack of desire to eat. According to Collison, this is “indicative of other problematic eating habits, like snacking at night. ‘If you eliminate that snacking and then wake up hungry and eat a good breakfast, your overall dietary pattern is going to be so much better.’” 

   But what is considered as a “good” breakfast? Collison believes that a sufficient breakfast includes four components: “protein, whole grains, healthy fat and a fruit or vegetable.” Including these elements in a morning meal encourages development in both physical and mental health.

   Especially during the pandemic, mental health has become increasingly important for students. Ms. Cole, the TUSD Director of Nutrition Services and registered dietitian nutritionist, explained the influential role of breakfast on students’ mental health and school performance: “Good nutrition and learning go hand in hand… A healthy breakfast helps lead to a positive behavior and even-keeled mood. Missing meals, especially breakfast, can cause blood sugar to drop, which may cause irritability, fatigue and a loss of concentration.”

  With a constant whirlwind of events occurring every day, feeling anxious and irritable has become common. Breakfast is one of the most straightforward ways to alleviate this stress, promoting healthy lifestyle habits and focusing on well-being. As Ms. Cole advised, “start the day with a healthy breakfast, and you’ll enjoy a more positive, upbeat, and joyful mood.”

   Understanding that breakfast is fundamental to physical and mental health is half the journey. Now, there comes the decision of which foods to eat. Whether you’re in a rush or have more time on your hands, there is a recipe for every occasion.

 

   Always in a morning rush? These “no-recipe” recipes are perfect for quick breakfasts.

Flavorful Toasts:

Bread of choice

Spread of choice: fruit jam, nut butters (peanut, almond)

Sliced fruit of choice: bananas, strawberries, apples

Suggestion: Top your next avocado toast with a fried egg for extra protein and a glamorous touch!

 

Fruit Smoothies:

Fresh or frozen fruit of choice

Plain or flavored yogurt: For additional protein, Greek yogurt is the way to go.

Milk of choice (alternatives include nut, soy, or coconut milk)

Sweetener of choice (optional): honey, maple syrup, agave syrup

 

   Have some extra time in the mornings? Here are some simple, healthy recipes for a sufficient energy boost.

Breakfast Burritos: Add refried beans for extra flavor and protein, and top with your favorite salsa to spice up the morning! 

These recipes for Homemade Granola from Cookie + Kate and No-Bake Energy Bites from Gimme Some Oven can be made ahead of time over the weekend, providing you with nutritious (and delicious) breakfasts throughout the week.