September is Better Breakfast Month, a time to wake up to the benefits of eating a nutritious breakfast and give the meal the respect it deserves.
Numerous studies support the importance of eating breakfast regularly – and the potential negative consequences of skipping it.
For example, one study found that people who skipped breakfast were more likely to gorge on empty calories at night when they were under stress. The researchers also found that breakfast skippers were less likely to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans than breakfast eaters. And, breakfast skippers had the lowest intakes of every vitamin and mineral except sodium.
Another study found that children who participated in the school breakfast program had significantly lower BMIs than children who were not in the program. Adult breakfast eaters also tend to be slimmer than their non-breakfast eating counterparts, according to researchers.
With everything breakfast has going for it, why do some people opt out or rely on a couple of cups of coffee instead?
Here are a few of the reasons that skippers give – and my suggestions for putting breakfast on the menu:
Time can be precious in the morning, so advanced planning may be called for. Hard-boiled eggs, high protein breakfast bars, fortified breakfast drinks, yogurt, whole fresh fruits, and prepackaged cheese portions are all great grab ‘n’ go choices to have on hand.
Just because you’re eating in the morning doesn’t mean you have to have traditional breakfast foods. Why not have leftovers from last night’s dinner or enjoy a peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread? Add a side of fruit and a glass of low-fat milk and you’re set. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid consuming empty calories from sugary pastries or high sugar coffee drinks. If you like having something sweet with your breakfast, try using a low/no calorie sweetener like aspartame in place of sugar.
Some people just don’t feel like eating soon after they get up. If you’re one of those people, just shift your breakfast time until later in the morning. This may mean carrying your breakfast to work or to school – a nice break in the morning to look forward to.
The specifics of when and what you eat in the morning aren’t nearly as important as aiming for a better breakfast — one that includes protein, complex carbs, fiber, and some healthy fat. That way you’ll be getting important nutrients and energy, stay fuller longer, and be less likely to overeat later in the day.
Here’s a simple recipe that’s a favorite of mine for breakfast, particularly when I’m craving pizza.
100% whole wheat English muffin, split in half and toasted
2 slices muenster cheese
Fresh green pepper slices or spinach leaves
Fresh tomato slices
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Freshly chopped basil to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Dried Italian seasoning to taste (optional)
After toasting English muffin halves, place in toaster oven with one cheese slice on top of each. Broil until cheese is melted. Remove muffin halves from oven and place green pepper and tomato slices on top. Return to toaster oven for 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil on top of each muffin half. Sprinkle with freshly chopped basil and ground pepper. Serve immediately.
Ellen Stokes, MS, RD, LD is an award-winning video producer, director, and writer in addition to being a registered dietitian. Ellen writes and creates videos about nutrition education, food safety, menu planning, grocery shopping, and healthful cooking on a budget. Ellen has worked with organizations and companies including WebMD, the Partnership for Food Safety Education, and the University of Georgia Food Science Department. Ellen formerly worked for CNN as a writer and producer and teaches food safety and nutrition for Georgia State University. Check her out on Twitter @EllenS_RD.