Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day

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By Cheryle Syracuse

Do you constantly find yourself eating breakfast “on the run” or worse yet, skipping breakfast entirely? Are you settling for coffee and a donut or whatever’s in the break room at the office? The first meal of the day is important, so don’t short-change yourself.
Why eat breakfast?
A healthy breakfast replenishes your body and mind, giving you energy to move and think. It’s just what you need in the morning after a seven-or eight-hour “fast.” If you feel sluggish when you miss your morning meal, you may have good reason: You’re running on empty. Eating breakfast restores your body’s supply of blood glucose, the brain’s main fuel source.
People who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall than those who don’t. Breakfast skippers usually don’t make up for the lost “good” nutrients they missed at breakfast. Researchers have shown that children who eat breakfast are more likely to meet their daily needs for calcium, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, vitamins A and D and other nutrients. They also eat less fat.
Skipping breakfast is not a good way to lose weight. While it might seem to be a way to eat fewer calories, it just doesn’t work this way. Not eating breakfast actually backfires for most people. Breakfast skippers tend to overeat later in the day. Breakfast eaters weigh, on average, less than those who skip breakfast.
Breakfast improves school performance. Children who skip breakfast have trouble staying on task in school and become tired and irritable. School children who regularly eat breakfast do better on standardized tests.
People who eat breakfast feel better all day. They are more alert and creative. They perform better and have a longer attention span and memory.
What’s the best breakfast?
So what makes up a nutritious breakfast? Like any meal, a good rule of thumb is to have at least three or four different food groups represented. Look for a grain, meat or other protein, fruit and milk.
Protein for breakfast is important. Researchers have shown that people who eat a protein-containing breakfast performed better on tests that involved thinking and concentration. Ideas for protein include a glass of milk, a container of yogurt, and a piece of cheese, peanut butter on your toast or a hard-cooked egg.
Cereal and milk with a banana or other fruit always works and is quick and easy, but for nutrition’s sake, choose the cereal wisely. When shopping, look high on the shelves instead of at eye level or lower, where the kids’ cereals often are placed. Check the nutrition facts label. The best cereals contain less than 200 calories a serving, have less than six grams of sugar and contain at least three grams of dietary fiber.
Chef Maggie Green from Crescent, Ky., in her Communicating Food for Health newsletter suggests these healthy and quick breakfast ideas:
• Juice, banana, and egg white sandwich on whole wheat bread.
• Oatmeal with raisins and skim milk.
• High-fiber muffins (make them in big batches and freeze them).
• Smoothies (use skim milk, frozen fruit and a little wheat germ).
• Pancakes and waffles (freeze a batch and toast what you need in the morning) – top these with fruit instead of butter sweet syrup.
• Homemade granola made with toasted rolled oats, nuts and raisins.
• Breakfast burritos — use scrambled egg whites, beans and a little salsa.
You can freeze the muffin batter in muffin papers, and then bake them in the morning.
A little planning and a few extra minutes can go a long way toward a healthy start, no matter how hectic your morning routine.
Source: Communicating Food for Health www.foodandhealth; North Dakota State University Extension Service www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart; and Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less from N.C. Cooperative Extension.
Cheryle Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, at 253-2610.