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Health Hint of the Week: Eat a Healthy Breakfast!

Posted Jan 22 2010 12:00am

Not too long ago, as part of my Cardiology rotation, I was asked to design a bulletin board which would be displayed in the cardiac rehab center. The importance of breakfast is a topic which I am very passionate about, and thus it is the theme I chose for my board. The following is an adaptation of the information from that project.

There are many benefits to starting the day off with a healthy breakfast. Unfortunately, this happens to be the meal people skip most often!

Breakfast Benefits

  • Breakfast wakes up our brains, so we are more mentally alert
  • Breakfast eaters tend to be more productive and do better at tasks that require memory; breakfast skippers often feel tired, irritable, and restless in the morning
  • Breakfast eaters tend to weigh less than breakfast skippers
  • By eating in the morning, we are less likely to overeat during the day

Why Breakfast?

As we sleep, our bodies go into a “fasting” mode. We become hungry overnight, but since we are not eating, our metabolism rate goes down as to not waste energy. Once we wake up, we need to BREAK our FAST. This wakes up our stomach and reboots our metabolism, so that we can get on with our day. Ideally, we should eat something within 1 hour of waking up.

So… What makes up a healthy breakfast?

The combination I would highly recommend includes whole grains, protein, and a serving of fruits or veggies. Grains give us energy for now, while protein keeps us full throughout the morning. Fruits and vegetables do a couple of things: 1, they add fiber to the meal which will also help keep us full; 2, they pack in extra vitamins and minerals to help us meet our daily requirements. We do need at least 5 servings of fruits/veggies every day, so you may as well get a jump start on those in the morning!

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WHOLE GRAINS
Carbohydrates (which have gotten a bad rap in recent years) remain an important component of a healthy diet They give us instant energy. However, we still must eat the right types of carbs, and in the correct portion sizes. Fiber-rich whole grains digest slower than simple carbohydrates, therefore we absorb their energy slower, meaning they will “fuel” us for a longer period of time. Plus, they contain more vitamins than refined carbohydrates, who tend to be stripped of their nutrients during heavy processing. Make your toast, bagels, pancakes, waffles, and English muffins whole wheat. Look for whole grain cereals, such as shredded wheat and Cheerios. Oatmeal is also a great source of soluble fiber, which is important for heart health.

PROTEIN
Protein adds a power punch to our breakfasts, and also helps keep us full throughout the morning. Incorporate lean protein sources into your breakfast, such as a scrambled egg (or egg whites), low-fat yogurt, lean deli meats,  peanut or almond butter, or a sprinkle of low fat cheese.

FRUITS AND VEGGIES
Breakfast provides a great opportunity to fit healthy fruits and vegetables into your diet. A piece of fruit offers a grab-and-go solution during a busy morning. Try sliced bananas or berries atop of peanut butter toast. Top low-fat yogurt with fruit. Vegetables can be incorporated into breakfast too – try baby spinach and mushrooms in an omelet or scramble, or serve grilled tomatoes alongside scrambled eggs.    Whole fruits and vegetables are preferable over their juices, since they contain fiber which juice lacks.

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Ideas for…

Breakfast on the Run

Image from http://zestycook.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/blueberry_toast.jpg

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Ideas for…

When You Have More Time

Image from http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_UIXOn06Pz70/R9wd1F7fDoI/AAAAAAAACOM/XidF3xniSEs/s800/Mushroom+and+Spinach+Omelet+Closeup.jpg

  • Try a healthy breakfast burrito! Scramble an egg with bell peppers, onions, garlic, and a little cilantro. Roll up in a whole-wheat tortilla with a bit of low-fat cheese and a spoonful of salsa.
  • Make a batch of pancakes using a whole-wheat mix. Top with sliced fruit and a small handful of chopped walnuts.
  • Try some steel-cut oats flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of maple syrup as an alternative to instant oatmeal packets. Top with a palmful of sliced almonds and dried cranberries.

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Ideas for…

Eating Breakfast Out

Image from http://cdn.newsone.com/files/2009/10/calories-fast-food-menu.jpg

  • A lot of restaurants offer nutrition facts on their website. If possible, look at these before going out so you can plan ahead.
  • Opt for whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, bran muffins, oatmeal, or whole wheat pancakes. Since toast is usually buttered in the kitchen, ask for toast “dry”
  • Eggs are a great protein source, but too many egg yolks stack up excess calories and cholesterol. As for egg whites or egg substitute in your omelets and scrambles.
  • Instead of hashbrowns, ask to substitute fresh fruit or low-fat yogurt. Most restaurants will do this at no charge.
  • Stay away from high-fat breakfast meats such as bacon and sausage.

For more information on this and many other nutrition topics, visit the American Dietetic Association’s website at http://www.eatright.org


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