Diet and Nutrition

Make time for breakfast – the day’s most important meal

Diet and Nutrition

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Mornings can be hectic – getting ready for work, getting the kids off to school, heck, sometimes just getting out of bed. It is therefore not surprising that breakfast is the most commonly skipped meal. This is unfortunate, though, because when it comes to improving your concentration and managing your weight, no meal is more critical.

An increasing body of research shows that eating more of your daily calories earlier in the day improves glucose control and reduces blood pressure and bad cholesterol. It also has the potential to promote weight loss. Therefore, if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to “get fit,” eating a quick, nutritious breakfast should definitely be part of your strategy.

Cereal as breakfast king

Cereal still reigns supreme as the most nutrient-dense breakfast food. Look for ready-to-eat, unsweetened cereal with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber and no more than 140 mg of sodium per serving. Top it with fruit and low-fat (skim or 1 percent) cow’s milk or unsweetened/flavored soy, almond, or hemp milk. Avoid coconut milk, which is high in saturated fat. Oatmeal and oat bran cereals are rich sources of soluble fiber that help lower bad cholesterol. Instant oatmeal may contain more sodium per serving than slow-cook versions, but several brands now have sodium-free, instant oatmeal.

If you would like to eat a very healthy cereal made with steel-cut oats but do not have time to cook them in the morning, prepare the recipe below beforehand and simply reheat a single serving for breakfast. This cereal is especially tasty on cold winter mornings:

Overnight steel-cut oats

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup dried strawberries
  • 1/3 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Turn heat on low, cover, and cook seven to eight hours until the oats are tender and creamy. Remove to storage container and store in the refrigerator. Makes eight 1-cup servings.

Nutrition per serving: 203 calories, 3 grams of fat (1 gram of saturated fat), 0 grams trans-fat, 6 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, 80 mg sodium

Other good breakfast foods

  • Vanilla yogurt – Top with granola, wheat germ, or Grape-Nuts.
  • Toast – Top with peanut or almond butter. Make sure nut butters have 0 grams trans-fat, and avoid any product with “partially hydrogenated oil” listed as an ingredient.
  • Fruit and nuts – Try, for example, a banana with walnuts, or an apple with almonds. Limit your serving of unsalted or lightly salted nuts to less than 1-1/2 ounces.
  • Eggs – Limit whole eggs to four or fewer per week (egg whites are unlimited). Serve with whole-grain toast and a boneless fresh pork chop (brown in a nonstick skillet with sliced onions). Avoid (or eat only occasionally) bacon or sausage – these foods are high in saturated fat and sodium and are not heart-healthy. 
  • Breakfast shakes or bars – These can be helpful in a pinch, but limit the protein to less than 20 grams per serving. Do not be swayed by extras like “isolated phytonutrients” or added vitamins or minerals.
  • Rice and beans or fish – These are traditional breakfast foods in other parts of the world.

Have a happy New Year, and remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!