Prairie Fare: Make every day ‘Better Breakfast Day’

Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist
North Dakota State University Extension
Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

Before going to a mid-morning meeting at work, I usually quickly grab a granola bar or a cup of yogurt to eat.

Who wants to interrupt a meeting with a growling stomach?

That is kind of embarrassing.

My mid-morning snack attack hits when I do not have enough protein in the morning.

Breakfast has been called the “most important meal of the day” for many years. Breakfast literally “breaks the time of fasting” during sleep.

Early references to breakfast date back centuries. The food served for breakfast often related to the amount of wealth you had.

Centuries ago, people with less money had hot cereal (gruel) made from rice and oats. Their wealthier counterparts often had eggs and meat.

A combination of protein-rich and fiber-rich foods is now the recommendation for a healthful breakfast.

Now that school is back in session, breakfast becomes important to spur learning. Children who skip breakfast have trouble staying on task. Feeling hungry can make children and adults feel tired and irritable.

Many schools offer breakfast programs. Participating in school breakfast can help fill potential nutrition gaps and potentially boost learning.

Sept. 24 is designated as “Better Breakfast Day.” The goal is to inspire regular morning meals with healthful options.

Nutrition researchers have reported nutritional advantages with eating breakfast. People who have breakfast have a higher-quality diet. In fact, skipping breakfast makes you less likely to meet the daily recommendations for vitamins and minerals. Children who eat breakfast are more likely to meet their daily needs for calcium, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, vitamins A and D and other nutrients.

Eating a healthful breakfast has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. People who consume breakfast have a lower risk for diabetes and are less likely to be overweight or obese. Eating breakfast also helps with mental alertness.

According to recent research, many people do not eat enough protein in the morning. Ideally, adults should have about 30 grams of protein at each meal.

In other words, a donut and a cup of coffee is not the best breakfast. Usually, one donut has less than 3 grams of protein and a lot of added sugar.

Protein is available from eggs, cheese, beans (such as black, white, red beans), nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, soy butter), Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and meat or poultry (including lean beef, pork and chicken).

Having protein throughout the day helps you build or maintain your muscle strength. Adequate protein also helps keep your blood sugar levels normalized.

Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast usually more than make up for the calories later in the day.

When choosing breakfast, aim for three of the five food groups.

When choosing breakfast, aim for variety. Choose foods from at least three of the five food groups: grain, protein, fruit, vegetables and milk. How about an omelet stuffed with veggies, black beans and melted cheese?

Cooked or dry cereal is a convenient breakfast option. Be sure to read and compare the Nutrition Facts labels on food packages. Aim for whole-grain cereal with less added sweeteners and more protein and fiber. Top with milk and berries.

When shopping for cereal, look high on the shelves instead of at eye level where kids’ cereals usually are placed. Kids can exert a lot of “pester power” when it comes to food. Young readers can be food detectives and help you choose healthful options by comparing different products.

If you are not in the mood to flip individual pancakes, how about making pancakes in a sheet pan? This recipe combines whole-wheat and white flour, so they have more fiber than typical pancakes. Pair with lean sausage, top with yogurt and enjoy a glass of milk to boost your protein intake. Visit ag.ndsu.edu/food for more information about nutrition and health.

Sheet Pan Pancakes

  • 1 ⅓ cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup margarine, melted
  • Optional: Assorted toppings (vanilla yogurt, fruit, syrup, butter, sugar, cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat an 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, eggs and maple syrup in a medium bowl. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Gently whisk in melted butter. The batter will be lumpy. Let stand for five minutes. Spread the batter in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Add desired toppings (fruit, nuts, granola, chocolate chips, peanut butter, etc.) Bake for 15 minutes. Pancake should be golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cut with a pizza cutter and serve.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 200 calories, 6 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, 28 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber and 640 milligrams of sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson.