Three Cheers for Breakfast!

Does your day start like this? The alarm rings, and you're off and running, maybe without enough time to have breakfast. Even if you're not in a rush, breakfast foods may not appeal to you. Or, you think that skipping breakfast will help you lose weight. Whatever your reason, you may be missing out on more than a meal.

There are at least three great reasons to have a morning meal, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • You need the energy. Imagine trying to start your car with no gas in the tank. That's what it's like when you begin your day without breakfast. When you eat something in the morning, your body converts the food to fuel, which gives you energy.

  • It'll keep your mind sharp. A morning meal can help improve your mood, concentration, and ability to problem-solve. Studies show that students have higher test scores and pay better attention in class when they eat breakfast. Many schools recognize this and offer breakfast programs.

  • You may lose weight. Are you surprised to learn that the first meal of the day may help you control your weight? Eating breakfast can help set your metabolism and may help you lose weight. It can also help you avoid snacking and filling in the needed calories with less-healthy foods.

What to eat?

A nutritious breakfast doesn't have to be boring or consist of traditional breakfast foods, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says. Just be sure you include high-fiber carbohydrates such as fruit or whole-grain foods, protein, and a little fat. These nutrients provide lasting energy and help you feel full. If you crave something sweet, focus on fruit, a nonsweetened cold cereal such as corn flakes or shredded wheat, or oat cereal sweetened with a noncaloric sweetener. Sugary cereals and pastries may make you feel energized at first, but you'll probably feel tired later. And, anything that's off limits for other meals isn't a good idea for breakfast. This includes foods that are high in fat, cholesterol, sugar, and salt. If you're on a special diet, talk with your health care provider about what you should eat.

Mix and match traditional breakfast foods with items you associate with lunch or dinner. You may be surprised by how many options you have. Here are some ideas:

  • Half of a whole-grain bagel with a slice of turkey

  • One slice of pizza right from the refrigerator

  • One piece of whole-grain toast topped with one thin slice of your favorite cheese

  • A portion of last night's leftovers

  • Low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese and a small can of unsweetened fruit cocktail

If you're pressed for time, pack whole-grain crackers, a low-fat granola bar, a box of raisins, trail mix, or a juice box to enjoy safely during your commute. Or, once you're at work, stop by the cafeteria before you settle in.