Just How Important is Breakfast?

I recently posted about the upcoming changes to Canada’s Food Guide and that piece got me thinking about my own eating habits. In general, I’m pretty good about keeping everything balanced, though I probably succumb to the lure of junk food a bit too often.

However, one area in definite need of improvement is breakfast. I’m one of those people who is perpetually running late in the morning and given my duties, I absolutely need to be in on time at work. I have tried getting up earlier, but as I get older, my body is cooperating less and less. So, on those days when I am running late, breakfast usually doesn’t make the cut.

Of course, the old saying we know from childhood is “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” I have always doubted that (supper is the most important for me because it is the most elaborate and tasty), but will confess that I do feel rather lethargic during the mornings where I skip that first meal. I’m also more likely to fortify myself with caffeine until I get some of that lunchtime protein.

Leaving aside the vitamins that quality breakfast foods provide (sorry, Sugar Smacks don’t qualify), there is apparently a definite cognitive benefit. Breakfast helps to get your glucose levels up where they should be and your brain functions improve as a result. That means better memory and concentration, as well as a more stable and consistent mood. Basically, breakfast helps your brain to wake up, and does a healthier job than that big mug of coffee.

People who eat a proper breakfast are also less likely to be overweight. That seems counter intuitive (you’re eating less, right?), but as your energy needs are being met, you are less likely to snack and eat junk food laced with sugar for a quick fix.

Canada’s Food Guide is Changing

If you grew up in Canada, you probably learned about Canada’s Food Guide in grade school. It has been the hallmark nutritional guide for this country’s citizens since its inception 75 years ago. While some changes have occurred since that debut, it is now undergoing a major revamp that will reflect the latest data regarding what constitutes a healthy diet.

Last updated seven years ago, the guide’s new edition still aims to influence Canadians to make the best choices, though there are some concerns that must be addressed. Specifically, people in the medical community feel that the current incarnation does not do enough to address the growing problems of obesity and illnesses brought about by inadequate or unhealthy diets.

Environmental sustainability and animal welfare will receive more emphasis, so those who support a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle will no doubt applaud news that the new version reportedly has a reduced emphasis on meat and milk. Also, as the country has become more diverse with a wide range of diets, the guide seems behind the times with its largely North American outlook on food choices.

One thing that might represent a major change in approach is the four food groups. These have been part of the guide for decades, but may no longer be used.

The current guide has also received much criticism for the amount of calories it encourages people to eat per day, so expect that to go down.

Something everyone seems to agree on is that the guide is simply too long and too involved. At six pages, it is not something easily condensed into a size that is easily carried. Also, people will be more likely to follow the recommendations if they are more straightforward and easier to implement.

Do you use Canada’s Food Guide to plan your meals? Or is it just a vague memory from your school days?

Have You Disposed of Your Old Medications?

I’m going to bet that none of us are great at cleaning out the medicine cabinet. While we are supposed to finish most prescriptions, most of us stop taking the drugs when we feel better. The bottle with the remaining pills goes into the medicine cabinet and sits there. Sometimes for years. We justify this by thinking, “If I feel sick again, I can just take these instead of seeing the doctor again and getting another prescription.”

Well, you can try that, but it’s not very smart. In fact, it can be downright dangerous not only for yourself, but for other people in the household.

Most pills have a definite shelf life. After a certain amount of time, they will not be nearly as effective. That next time you get sick and reach for that old bottle of pills, you might find out the hard way that the medication is now useless and you end up in worse shape because you didn’t see the doctor sooner.

You must also consider the danger to children and the elderly. Having old medications sitting around in unlocked cabinets provides temptations for kids and seniors with cognitive issues. They may think they are vitamins or candy, and the results could be tragic.

Do yourself a favour and collect any old drugs you have lying around and take them to a proper place for disposal (chances are your pharmacy offers this service). Don’t just flush them down the toilet or wash them down the sink as they can taint the water supply in ways that normal filtration cannot address.

If you must put them in the trash, mix the pills into something that no one would eat (e.g. used cat litter) and place them in a sealed bag. Then place this bag in a sealed garbage container. We don’t want animals getting sick on our old meds either.