Prairie Fare: Is breakfast the most important meal?
“It’s the most important meal of the day, of the day. It’s the most important meal of the day, of the day…”
I still remember that song about breakfast that my kids enjoyed when they were little.
Unfortunately, the song was like an earworm that would not leave my brain, even after I ejected the videotape. As I recall, the entire video was filled with fairly annoying songs.
I was kind of happy when our video player finally stopped working.
Years later, I have heard my kids singing about the “most important meal of the day.”
But how important is breakfast, really?
Breakfast literally breaks the fast. During sleep, we are not eating. In very early times of Roman and Greek civilization, breakfast did not involve cooking. The meal was simple and included bread, cheese, honey, oil and maybe even a little wine.
Having alcohol for breakfast is not a current recommendation, by the way.
In early times, breakfast was viewed as an important meal for babies, sick people and perhaps laborers who needed the energy. While people of lower class ate grains, the upper classes had eggs and meat.
As time went on and the science of nutrition evolved, breakfast was recognized as providing needed vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
In fact, people who consume breakfast are more likely to meet the daily nutrition recommendations. Breakfast has been the subject of international and U.S. studies.
A study done in Europe with 200,000 children showed that that breakfast eaters consumed more fruits and vegetables, had higher vitamin and mineral intake, and drank fewer soft drinks.
In a U.S. study, people who ate breakfast consumed less sugar and more fiber, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid and calcium.
A study done in Japan found an increased risk for heart disease and stroke among those that did not consume breakfast regularly.
Other studies have shown that eating breakfast helps you manage your weight and blood sugar.
If you skip breakfast, does that mean that dire consequences await? You can make up for lost nutrition, but being hungry mid-morning might prompt less healthful decisions at the vending machine. If you want to optimize your nutrition, a healthful breakfast can go a long way toward that goal.
Aim for breakfasts with at least three food groups represented, and try to have some protein. Including a protein source such as eggs, yogurt, milk or meat will help curb your appetite until your next meal opportunity.
Be a nutrition facts label reader if you like cereal. Aim for whole-grain cereal that is higher in fiber and lower in added sugar.
Do you have the same foods for breakfast? These are some ideas to add variety and nutrition to your menu.
- Whole-grain cereal with sliced bananas and milk.
- Homemade cereal mix with whole-grain cereal, nuts, dried fruit and milk.
- Graham crackers with peanut butter and a fruit and yogurt smoothie.
- Waffles with fresh strawberries, lean ham and low-fat milk.
- Oatmeal with raisins and low-fat milk.
- Peanut butter on whole-wheat toast, apple slices and low-fat milk.
- Minipizzas made with English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese, Canadian bacon or other toppings and orange juice.
- Scrambled eggs, whole-wheat toast, orange slices and low-fat milk.
- Leftover pizza, sliced cantaloupe and low-fat milk.
- Scrambled eggs with salsa wrapped in tortillas, sliced peaches and low-fat milk.
If time is an issue, set out your bowl and cereal box before bedtime. If you like fresh muffins, measure out the dry ingredients in a bowl and store the mixed liquid ingredients in the refrigerator. In the morning, do a quick mix and bake. Try a smoothie with yogurt, fruit and maybe a handful of spinach.
Aim for filling whole grains in your morning meal. Whole grains contain all parts of the wheat kernel: the bran, germ and starchy endosperm. This muffin recipe is courtesy of the Wheat Foods Council. Top with peanut butter or other nut butter and have an orange and a glass of milk to keep hunger at bay.
100% Whole-wheat Muffins
- 1/2 cup margarine or butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup milk, 1% or fat-free
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
Preheat oven to 400 F. Have ingredients at room temperature. Line muffin tin using paper baking cups, or use cooking spray to coat the bottom of the muffin tin.
With electric mixer (or by hand), cream margarine, granulated sugar, brown sugar and baking soda together, scraping bowl with spatula. In a small bowl, using a fork, beat together the egg and vanilla; add to creamed mixture. Beat until light and fluffy. Add milk to creamed mixture. Gradually add whole-wheat flour and lightly stir ingredients together so dry ingredients are barely moistened. Overmixing will make the muffins tough and form tunnels.
Fill muffin tins two-thirds full and bake 15 to 17 minutes, or until browned. Remove from muffin tin and cool on wire rack.
Makes 12 muffins. Each muffin has about 200 calories, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber and 190 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.