Getting Off to a Good Start with Breakfast: Part 2

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In last week’s blog entry (“Getting Off to a Good Start with Breakfast: Part 1”),
we talked about the importance of eating breakfast and all the health benefits that result from fueling yourself with food at the start of the day.

So maybe now you’re convinced that eating breakfast is a good thing. But perhaps you’re scratching your head, thinking “What the heck do I eat for breakfast?”

I suspect that a fair number of you would admit to eating some “unusual” things for breakfast. If you recall, in last week’s post I mentioned a poll done by ABC News in 2005 that focused on breakfast. Participants were asked about typical breakfast choices. Here’s a sampling of some of the more interesting items on the list:

  • Cold pizza
  • Spaghetti
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Eggs and steak
  • Cap’n Crunch (yes, adults eat this cereal too!)
  • Pork loin and cheese
  • Coffee
  • Beer
  • Liver and grits

What have you eaten for breakfast? The point of all this is that if you don’t eat breakfast because you dislike cereal, or are lactose intolerant, or just don’t know what to eat, no problem. There’s no rule that you must eat “breakfast” food for breakfast. (How many of you have eaten a bowl of cereal for supper on occasion?) On the other hand, it’s not such a great idea to grab, say, a candy bar, or wolf down a bowl of ice cream. Likewise, a hamburger and fries isn’t what dietitians have in mind either.

So what should you eat? Well, rules of good nutrition still apply. Try to aim for a breakfast that contains a balance of the three main nutrients that our bodies need for fuel and good health: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Make sure that your breakfast includes fiber, too. If you’re counting calories, carbs, and/or fat grams, a dietitian is the best person to help you decide how much you need. But a quick guide is for men to aim for 45–60 grams of carbohydrate at breakfast and women to aim for about 30–45 grams. You may need more or less depending on factors such as your weight, your activity level, and your blood glucose control.

That being said, and while there are no foods you can’t ever eat, you may want to save the bacon, sausage, and egg sandwiches with cheese for those special occasions. And if you eat cereal with milk or yogurt, go for nonfat or low-fat versions of those dairy products. If you’re lactose intolerant, try either lactose-free milk or plain soy or rice milk.

What about eggs? Eggs sure have gotten a bad rap over the years, but they are actually a highly nutritious food, containing high-quality protein, iron, and zinc. Yes, they also contain cholesterol, but it’s really the saturated and trans fat in foods, not the cholesterol in foods, that raises blood cholesterol levels. It’s OK to eat eggs; in fact, studies show that eating one or two eggs every day has little effect on cholesterol levels. So go ahead and enjoy eggs—just be sure to cook them either without fat or with a heart-healthy fat, such as canola oil or trans-fat-free margarine. And if you’re still concerned about the cholesterol in egg yolks, don’t forget you that can always eat egg whites or egg substitutes, too.

Here are some more good ideas for breakfast:

  • High-fiber cereal with fruit and a sprinkling of nuts
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Boiled egg, whole-grain toast, and fruit
  • Omelet made with low-fat cheese and vegetables
  • Breakfast burrito: scrambled eggs (or egg substitute) with chopped tomatoes, green pepper, and a little grated cheese, all rolled up into a tortilla
  • Instant breakfast drink
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Homemade bran muffins (whip up several and freeze for the week) with peanut butter and a glass of milk
  • Pizza—made with an English muffin or pita bread, spread with part-skim ricotta cheese, chopped tomatoes, and a drizzle of olive oil
  • Whole-grain toaster waffle spread with almond butter and a sprinkling of raisins
  • Energy bar (with at least 10 grams of protein) and a glass of milk
  • Liver and grits (just kidding)

Bon appetit!

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