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Dietitians Dish: The power of breakfast

By By Stephanie Markman, RD, LD
Aug. 28, 2012 at 3:28 a.m.

Stephanie Makrman

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, or so they say. But why is breakfast so important?

There are many reasons, but one of the most obvious is that you need to break the fast that was taking place during your sleeping hours. During this time, your body goes into semi-starvation mode, and your digestion also slows down, since your body and mind are resting.

Therefore, it is very important to wake things up with some nutrition. You will have more physical and mental energy if you start the day with breakfast, even something small is better than nothing.

Studies show that those who eat breakfast tend to eat less throughout the rest of the day, and are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight, and thereby, have healthier cholesterol levels. A final reason why breakfast is so important is because missing one whole meal a day also means missing vitamins, minerals and fiber. Additionally, skipping breakfast makes it even harder to get your five servings of fruit and vegetables each day.

When planning a healthy breakfast, there are three things to keep in mind: protein, fiber and fruit. Protein is important at any meal and slows the digestion of food in the stomach helping you feel full for longer. Good breakfast examples of protein are eggs (whites contain most of the protein), low-fat dairy, Canadian bacon, beans, sausage and center-cut bacon.

Fiber is another important component of breakfast because most Americans do not get enough in a day, so it needs to be incorporated into every meal. Fiber is the part of a plant that humans cannot digest. It acts like a brush cleaning out our gastrointestinal system - very important for colonic health. Since fiber is not digested, we receive no calories from it, therefore it is a good nutrient to help you feel full without packing on the pounds.

Since fiber is from plants, any fruit, vegetable or whole grain is a good source. Finally, fruit is an important part of breakfast for most people. Of course, vegetables are, too, however it is more common for people to have fruit in the mornings. Try to get at least one if not two servings of fruit (or vegetables) at breakfast. This will bring you that much closer to reaching your five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Remember, juice is not considered one of these five servings because oftentimes most of the fiber and many vitamins and minerals are removed in the process. Fresh, frozen and canned fruits are all good choices; just make sure you choose canned fruits packed in their own juices, water or light syrup. Incorporating these three components into your breakfast is a good foundation for the rest of your day.

Here are just a few breakfast examples that will be sure to help you start the day right:

Yogurt parfait; light yogurt, fruit and a small handful or granola or cereal.

Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and some fruit on the side or right in the bowl.

Whole-grain pancake or waffle topped with low-fat yogurt and fruit or peanut butter and banana slices.

Egg white (or egg substitute) omelet with low-fat cheese and vegetables with whole-grain toast and fruit on the side.

Whole-grain tortilla spread with peanut butter and wrapped around a banana.

Oatmeal made with milk topped with a spoon of brown sugar (or your favorite sugar substitute) and a small handful of nuts or dried fruit.

Granola or protein bar with low-fat string cheese and a piece of fruit.

Whole-grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese and sliced fruit on the top.

Stephanie Markman is a registered and licensed dietitian DeTar Healthcare Systems. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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