Choosing a great breakfast

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By Cheryle Syracuse

My mom has been visiting us this past month. One of the times I enjoy the most is having breakfast with her. We’ve had a variety of different “breakfast foods” from eggs, to cereals, to waffles, fruit and yogurt. One of our favorites is a big pot of oatmeal and other whole-grains with nuts and dried cranberries.
No matter what the food, most moms and nutrition experts are in agreement that you should eat something for breakfast. Fuel is just what you need in the morning. A healthy breakfast replenishes your body and mind, giving you energy to move and think. People who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall than those who skip breakfast.
It’s been proven that people who do eat breakfast eat fewer total calories and less fat each day. Breakfast eaters on an average are less likely to be overweight than people who skip breakfast. The logic behind this is that when your eat breakfast your body feels nourished and satisfied, making you less likely to overeat the rest of the day. Skipping meals sets you up to overeat at the next opportunity.
Many traditional breakfast foods are naturally low in calories and fat, while also providing you with valuable nutrients like fiber, vitamin C and calcium. What makes a good breakfast? Aim for three or four food groups. Look for a grain, meat or other protein, fruit or milk.
Fruit: Go with a fruit or 100 percent juice. Whole fruit is a better option because it gives you the fiber you won’t get from juice. If you do like juices, select one that is fortified with calcium.
Protein: Look for something with protein in it like eggs, milk, yogurt, peanut butter or nuts. This will give you “staying power” for the morning.
Grain or carbohydrate: Try hot or cold whole-grain cereal or whole-grain bread. This is a great way to get some of that fiber that many of us don’t get in our diets. If you make good choices, you can get almost half of your daily fiber requirement at breakfast.
The supermarket is filled with breakfast junk food that promises a quick meal that even kids will love, but honestly, you don’t get much nutrition from a toaster pastry, a donut or some of the sugar-coated cereals.
The Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less program has some recommendations for selecting for breakfast foods. They are good to follow when you’re shopping for breakfast cereals or breakfast bars. Look at the Nutrition Facts Label to see the calories, sugar and fiber in the products … these are the important key items.
Breakfast Cereal
Less than 200 calories per serving.
Less than 6 grams of sugar per serving
At least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving.
Breakfast Bars
Less than 200 calories per bar.
Less than 6 grams of sugar per 100 calories.
At least 3 grams of fiber per bar.
It’s interesting to go to through the grocery or big box store and look for cereals and bars that meet these specifications. There really aren’t many. Some that meet the calorie criteria fall short in fiber. It’s amazing which cereals — many of them are the ones people think are “healthy” — fall into the too much sugar category.
You may not have the luxury of sitting down and eating breakfast with your family every day, but even if you’re in a hurry, don’t forget to eat something. You can have some quick, easy and healthy options with a little bit of careful shopping and planning.
Source: Maggie Green, RD in Communicating Food for Health and Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less, a weight management program developed by NC Cooperative Extension and the Physical Activity Branch of the NC Division of Public Health.
Cheryle Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at NC Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, at 253-2610.