Breakfast really can be the most important meal of the day. Your mother wasn't making that up!
Breakfast provides the energy you need to start your day and many nutrients that you may miss later in the day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, on average, breakfast contributes 20 percent of daily caloric intake and 30 percent of calcium, iron, and B vitamins.
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So how do you make the very best of that morning meal?
First, actually eat breakfast. Some research shows that more than half of Americans regularly skip breakfast, frequently citing "lack of time" as the reason. Research also suggests those who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, and take in less vitamin A and C, calcium, riboflavin, zinc and iron.
Second, make that hearty breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes and syrup a rare and nostalgic experience. Those foods are filled with saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and concentrated sweets that we should minimize in our diets.
For maximum benefit, that healthy breakfast should include at least three of the five food groups -- whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low fat dairy. The best breakfast foods such as whole grain cereals and breads, low fat dairy like skim milk or yogurt, and fruits of all varieties provide an array of vitamins, minerals such as calcium, and antioxidants.
Some breakfast cereals also are an excellent source of fiber, which aides in digestion, helps lower blood cholesterol, and can even help maintain normal blood sugar levels.
View breakfast as an opportunity to nourish your body with healthful foods and make a habit of eating a healthy breakfast a holiday gift to yourself and your family.
Some favorite quick and easy ideas include
• a yogurt parfait using lowfat Greek yogurt mixed with whole grain cereal and fresh fruit
• whole grain toast spread with peanut or almond butter and sliced banana
• sliced turkey wrapped in a whole grain tortilla and a piece of fresh fruit
• a hard-boiled egg, whole grain crackers and an orange
• a "cheese Danish" made by topping a toasted whole grain waffle with lowfat cottage cheese sliced almonds, cinnamon and berries.
Give the gift of breakfast this holiday season, and help you and your family start each day with the energy and nutrients needed to stay healthy this winter and throughout the year.
Try this recipe: This time-saving hot cereal and fruit recipe can be prepared on the weekend and served all week long. The spicy aroma will call everyone to the breakfast table.
•Toby Smithson, a registered dietitian, works for the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center and is a national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.