In defense of a healthy breakfast

“I’ll take a large vanilla bean Coolatta.”
Sound familiar? 990 calories. Couple this with a sausage, egg & cheese on a croissant – add 650 more calories. Total for the morning, a whopping 1640 calories! This exceeds the average number of calories an adult woman needs in a day (about 1500 calories). Most adult men only need about 1800 calories daily. So a man is having more than 90 percent of his total calories needed in a day by 9 am. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the breakfast skippers. These are the folks who have only coffee and/or nothing to eat or drink until lunch or even dinner. Then, starving at that point, eat enough food for three people. Are people still wondering why we have an obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country?
It is time that we, as a society, take a step back and rethink how we are starting the day. Breakfast is exactly what is says it is, a time to break the fast we just went through, since we don’t consume calories while we are sleeping. Even if you are a midnight snacker, most people wake up for the new day having not eaten for 4- 6 hours. It is strongly recommended that this fast be broken within an hour of waking up, with no more than 2 hours elapsing. So, for those who argue they just can’t eat right away, it is okay to wait a bit. But the question remains- is it really necessary to eat a breakfast?
By having something to eat after fasting, you establish the foundation for the day. You are literally saying to your body and brain, here is some fuel so that everything is charged and ready to go. There is extensive research that supports the eating of a morning meal. The benefits of having breakfast are nothing short of astonishing. The breaking of the fast has been linked to:
• Better weight control
• Lower risk of heart disease
• Improved control over blood sugar
• Improved cognitive abilities (you can think better)
• Higher intake overall of vitamins & minerals needed for the day
• Appetite control is boosted, particularly if some protein is eaten at that meal
• Feelings of enhanced health
Want to start out your day putting your best foot forward? Then consider what you are putting on your plate every morning. There is no exact definition of a breakfast, however there are some useful guidelines. A good breakfast contains foods from three different food groups, has a source of protein, and is about 15- 25 percent of the calories needed for a day. For the average woman, this means a meal of about 375 calories. For a man, this is approximately a 450 calorie meal. Portion sizes of foods and actual calories obviously would be tailored to the individual person, making sure that any breakfast meets the unique needs of that person.
Now that it is established that breaking the fast is important, and this meal has a definition, the question remaining is, “What should I eat?” The first answer is to choose foods and drinks that you enjoy. This meal does not have to be “breakfasty” foods at all. If you are not a cereal eater, no worries, as there are many foods you can choose to put on your plate. Some examples of healthy breakfasts are detailed below (all meals 375- 390 calories; those needing higher calories simply need to increase portion sizes)
• One slice wheat toast with 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter with 8 ounces of skim milk with a peach
• A six ounce Greek low-fat strawberry yogurt topped with ¾ cup of blueberries and ½ cup low-fat granola cereal
• One Nutri Grain bar (strawberry) with an apple with 2 low-fat mozzarella cheese sticks
• Steel cut oats, 1/3 cup dry, (cooked in water) with ½ cup of skim milk stirred in after cooking, topped with ½ cup cut strawberries and 2 tbsp. of roasted almonds
• Four egg white omelet cooked with ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese and ½ cup diced peppers, 2 tbsp. Diced onions, ½ cup diced tomatoes served atop one slice whole wheat toast
• A Turkey sandwich- 2 slices of whole wheat bread with 2 slices of low sodium turkey deli with 4 tomato slices with ½ cup baby spinach leaves, drizzled with 2 tbsp. balsamic vinaigrette
If you are interested in starting the day in the best frame of mind, with a treasure chest full of nutrients, and energy to fuel your actions, having a breakfast is a necessity. Keep in mind that what foods you choose to put on your plate and how much you serve up, makes a big difference in how you tackle the day. So, choose wisely and you will be prepared daily for whatever comes your way.
Jennifer Giffune, R.D., L.D.N. is a freelance author, professional speaker and nutrition counselor. On the last Wednesday of each month, Jennifer can be heard on 89.5 WSKB radio on the “Wake up Wednesday Morning” Show. To make an appointment with Jennifer at Mercy Medical Group, call 786-1500.

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