Monday, August 3, 2009

Breakfast done right!

While an overwhelming 90% of Americans think breakfast is the most important meal of the day, fewer than half consume breakfast on a regular basis, according to the Food Information Council. Breakfast is not only important…but sets the tone for the entire day – be it for the better or the worse [1].

There’s no “perfect” meal, as everyone has different nutritional needs. However, a good breakfast starts with a “moderate meal of mixed foods,” says Richard Mattes, a professor of food and nutrition at Purdue University [1]. What does THAT mean? Keep reading.

WORST: No breakfast at all. Not hungry in the morning? This makes sense. Your body slows down its metabolism throughout the night due to the prolonged fast. If you’re sleeping 8-9 hours like we all should, your body is going a long while without food, especially since we typically don’t eat LAST thing at night and FIRST thing in the morning. Those who skip breakfast are more likely to be over-weight and eat more calories and fat throughout the day says Susan Biali, a physician specializing in dietetics. If you’re one of those people that claims eating breakfast makes you hungrier throughout the day, you’re probably starting off your day with too much sugar. If it’s a choice between nothing or something bad (i.e. a donut)…go with the donut and limit it to one [1].

BAD: Coffee or tea only. Hydration and caffeine – not enough. You’ll likely end up over-consuming at lunch when you’re famished [1]. A simple piece of fruit in the mornings would go great with your hot liquids, don’t you think?

(Pretty) BAD: Coffee/tea + a donut = quick, easy, and yummy. The 90-minute boost will leave you crashing into sleep-mode before mid-morning has even hit. Same goes for sugary cereals and bagels. Such foods high in “simple sugars” cause your blood sugar to both rise and fall too quickly, leaving you needing more. Think juice is a great option? Wrong. Physician John LaPuma says, “Think of juices as desserts because ‘their sugar content hypes up your insulin level and craving for a real, gut-filling food'” [1].

BETTER: A bowl of low-sugar, high-fiber cereal with non-fat or low-far milk, banana, and whole wheat toast with jam and coffee. Look for cereals containing at least 3 grams of fiber and 10 grams of sugar or less per serving. Cheerios, Kashi GoLean, All Bran, or Fiber One are great options. If your cereal has a mascot, leave it on the shelf at the stores. Tony the Tiger provides you nothing GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAT!

BEST: A hard-boiled egg and a bowl of slow-cooking oatmeal topped with berries, walnuts, raisins, flax seeds or sunflower seeds with coffee or tea. THIS meal is a nutritional powerhouse and easy to do as you can prepare the oatmeal and egg ahead of time and have on-hand. The high-fiber / high-protein make-up of the meal help regulate blood sugar, and are much more satisfying during a long morning of work. The flax seed and walnuts provide heart-healthy omega-3’s which are shown to reduce LDL-cholesterol (the bad kind), and also reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease. You can also add a slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter or avocado for added healthy fats [1].

And how about Sunday brunch? Timothy Harlan, a professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine says that a weekend "binge" isn’t likely going to have huge negative effects. He goes on to explain, “Eating healthy is all about balance. Sure, you can eat perfectly 21 meals a week and be healthier, but at what price? Having a large, friendly meal works for all of us on a social level that transcends the perfect diet. It’s the same with eating out.” Splurging on a meal every now and then is nothing to lose sleep over. Besides, the very term “brunch” translates into just 2 meals being consumed. Even if your brunch choices aren’t the best, you have one less meal contributing calories to your daily totals [1]. Sure sounds like Mr. Timothy is an "80-20" advocate in his own way, don't you think? ; )

Side note: I feel WAY better about the Sunday brunch Mark and I had with our friend Lena last weekend. It was DELICIOUS…and it did include a salad, for the record!

[1]. Deardorff, Julie. How To Eat Breakfast. Chicago Tribune. August 2, 2009.

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