Breakfast: A Good Health Opportunity

Breakfast for many people is all or nothing: either all unhealthy stuff - pastries or fried eggs and fatty meats - or nothing if you're charging out the door in a hurry. However, it can and should be so much more. First, eating a healthy breakfast really helps weight control, according to studies. Breakfast gets your metabolism going after a night's sleep.

Although it might seem that skipping breakfast would make weight control easier, studies suggest that eating breakfast may help reduce overeating later in the day. People who skip or eat an inadequate breakfast may find mid-morning a time they are likely to eat high-calorie foods. They also may get extremely hungry at lunch and eat too much. Studies consistently link a pattern of eating little in the morning to consuming large amounts near the end of the day.

But what you eat for breakfast is just as important as eating the meal itself. Breakfasts that balance whole grains, some lean protein, vegetables and fruits slowly release carbohydrates into the blood. Refined grains - white bread, high-sugar cereals, or pastries - raise blood sugar levels quickly, only to cause an energy dive soon afterwards. Eating a nutritious breakfast also can help morning concentration and work performance.

Breakfast is an easy way to meet the goal of three or more servings of whole grains per day with whole-grain cereal, oatmeal or whole-grain toast. Breakfast also is a great time to get in at least one serving of vegetables - perhaps in an omelet or vegetable juice - or fruit with whole-grain cereal. It is far easier to get the recommended daily five to 10 servings of cancer-fighting vegetables and fruits when they are a part of a third meal.

For a long-lasting breakfast, combine a whole grain, a fruit or vegetable and a healthful source of protein like low-fat milk or low-fat yogurt, both rich in calcium and vitamin D. Or your protein source could be a small amount of peanut butter or walnuts, both of which also contain healthy fats.

Here's a quick way to wrap up breakfast and take it with you:

Breakfast Fruit Wrap

For variety, you can substitute a tablespoon of peanut butter or vanilla low-fat yogurt for the ricotta cheese in this recipe. Any sliced fruit may be substituted for the berries.

- 1 whole-wheat tortilla

- 2 tsp. all-fruit strawberry preserves

- 2 Tbsp. part-skim ricotta or low-fat cottage cheese

- ½ cup sliced strawberries (fresh or frozen, thawed and drained berries)

- 2 Tbsp. sliced almonds or walnuts

On a flat surface, spread preserves on tortilla. Top with ricotta cheese then sliced fruit. Sprinkle with nuts. Starting from one end, roll tightly. Wrap in foil for neater eating.

Per serving: 231 calories, 9g fat, 34g carbohydrate, 9g protein, 4g dietary fiber, 213g sodium.

Sarah Klein-Mark, R.D. is a registered dietitian at Flagstaff Medical Center. Information in this article was provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Is there a health topic you'd like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o Flagstaff Medical Center, Public Relations, 1200 North Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC's Web site at FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com.

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