May 21, 2013

Breakfast too important to skip


---- — Everyone has heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It wakes up your body and metabolism and gives you energy. However, many of us are not naturally inclined to eating first thing in the morning, and skip breakfast.

For those who do not wake up hungry, having breakfast is easier if you try to eat it within two hours of waking up, not necessarily right away. Breakfast can be any food you like, but including a few key components will help you feel full longer and give you lasting energy.

Carbohydrates: Since these are known as quick energy, it makes sense to eat them to wake up. Choosing more complex carbohydrates (choices with fiber) will help that energy last. Carbohydrates are found in grains, fruit and some dairy foods.

Fiber: Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that does not get digested in the same way that sugars and starches do. Since it helps slow digestion, fiber is especially important in the morning. Some good sources of fiber are whole grains, especially bran flakes or shredded wheat, and fruits or vegetables. 

Protein: Protein will help you feel full. Dairy is a great source of protein, as well as eggs, nuts and meats.

Try to include at least three food groups in your breakfast. Eating from more food groups at each meal helps to ensure you get enough from each one. Many breakfast choices can be quick, easy, inexpensive and hopefully too tasty to skip. Some ideas include:

Banana roll-ups: Spread peanut butter (or other nut butter) on a whole-wheat wrap, and wrap tightly around a banana. If you are taking this on the go, spread the peanut butter on the wrap and fold it in half and bag it. Peel and add the banana when you are ready to eat it. This prevents the ends of the banana from browning. 

Oatmeal: Add some fruit, such as a chopped apple or raisins, to oatmeal, and cook it with milk. Any oatmeal will cook quickly in the microwave. You can add cinnamon, vanilla or a sweetener if you like.

Breakfast burrito: Add an egg and a chopped tomato to a whole-wheat tortilla with reduced-fat cream cheese spread on it. To save time, you can microwave a beaten egg in a coffee mug; just stop and mix it every 30 seconds until fully set (they usually cook in 1 to 1:30 minutes). 

Peanut butter banana shakes: Peel and freeze your overripe bananas. Add at least 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter to a frozen banana and puree. To make it thicker, add flax seeds, oatmeal, yogurt or any other smoothie favorites.

Berry parfaits: Layer some vanilla or plain yogurt with frozen berries, and refrigerate overnight so the berries thaw and their juices release. Add granola or your favorite cereal when you are ready to eat it.

Waffle sandwiches: You can make this popular breakfast at home with whole-grain waffles. It is great to freeze your own waffles and use them; it saves quite a bit of money per serving and is easy. Using half of a large waffle or two mini waffles, add an egg and cheese for a crispy breakfast sandwich.

Muffins: Most store-bought muffins are loaded with fat and sugar and have little to no fiber, but you can make a much healthier version at home. Using whole-wheat flour or adding bran cereal will increase the fiber. Try using mashed ripe bananas and decreasing the fat and sugar by half, since the bananas are moist and sweet. With a glass of milk and a piece of fruit, they can make a full meal. 

If you skip breakfast, start small by eating just one easy-to-grab snack each morning, such as an apple. Often, if you eat a little in the morning, you are hungrier as the morning progresses. After a while, add another component. Once breakfast becomes a habit, you will probably wake up looking forward to it.

Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.