Many people think skipping breakfast will help them control weight, but nutritional studies show just the opposite.
The National Weight Control Registry surveys hundreds of people who have lost more than 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year. A whopping 78 percent of them say they eat breakfast every day. Only 4 percent say they never eat breakfast.
"When people skip breakfast, they feel like they can eat more at night, because they've 'saved' all those calories," said Sara Oldroyd, a nutrition agent for Utah State University Extension.
And often the foods they eat at night — maybe pizza, cookies, chips, soda and ice cream — pack on a lot more empty calories than a healthy breakfast of something like whole-grain cereal and milk, or eggs and orange juice.
A morning meal gets your mind up and running, said Oldroyd. "This is true for both children and adults. Glucose, which is what our body makes from food for energy, is the best energy source for the brain."
Yet more and more Americans are skipping breakfast, especially 11- to 18-year-olds, according to Dr. Julie Miller Jones, a professor of nutrition at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. At a meeting of food writers in San Antonio last spring, Jones cited research for eating that morning meal:
Breakfast skippers are 4.5 times more likely to be overweight. They tend to have a greater overall caloric intake over a 24-hour period.
Generally, breakfast skippers have poor or inadequate diets, snack more and omit other meals.
In a Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer, it was found that cutting breakfast is associated with increased deaths from heart disease.
Eating breakfast tends to improve well-being, attention and memory; and decreases depression, physical complaints and fatigue.
In 22 studies of children, it was found that breakfast may improve cognitive function related to memory and improved math and reading scores.
Kids who ate breakfast had a positive attitude toward school, were less likely to be tardy or miss school and created fewer discipline problems.
In a study of older adults from 60 to 79, those who ate breakfast daily scored higher on a National Adult Reading Test.
Breakfast helps control blood sugar throughout the day.
Breakfast can be a way to get more fruits into your diet, said Jones. As the national scientific adviser to the California Raisin Marketing Board, she added that raisins are an easy, cost effective way to do that.
Raisins add fiber and potassium, and they make whole-grain breads and cereals more tasty, she said.
But knowing you should eat breakfast doesn't always translate into doing it. Time is a big factor. But the hectic days when you feel too rushed to eat are when you need the benefits of a morning meal the most.
Some people avoid breakfast because many traditional foods are fat and sugar bombs: bacon, sausage, fried eggs, hash browns, sweet rolls, pancakes slathered with butter and syrup, or grits and gravy. These heavy foods can be hard for stomachs — and diets — to tolerate early in the morning.
"I tell people to eat what sounds good to them in the morning," said Oldroyd. "Leftover pizza, pasta salad, spaghetti or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are great options. It's just that in the morning, most people tend to want something more bland."
And don't overlook plain old cereal and milk. A Harvard study of more than 17,000 men found that those who frequently ate breakfast cereal — both refined grain and whole-grain types — consistently weighed less than those who rarely or never ate breakfast cereal.
Another study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, evaluated the diets of adults and found that breakfasts of ready-to-eat cereal were associated with lower body mass indexes in women than other, higher-fat breakfast meals.
A good breakfast should include a whole-grain cereal, bread, or muffin for carbohydrates and fiber. Add protein, such as low-fat cheese or meat, eggs, milk, yogurt or nuts. Include fruit or vegetables, for vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. A small amount of "good" fat will also keep you feeling full longer.
It's better to eat something than nothing, even if it's a sugary doughnut, said Oldroyd. "But when you eat something sugary you feel good for only an hour, then your glucose levels drop and your energy drops."
Some breakfast ideas:
Pull out your slow cooker, suggested Oldroyd. Assemble your breakfast the night before, and let it cook while you sleep. "You wake up to the delicious aroma of a finished meal, it's almost like having a personal chef."
Stir up a batch of Microwave Muffin batter and store in the refrigerator. It just takes one minute to bake a fresh muffin in a custard cup.
Use your food storage. Add powdered milk to smoothies for a calcium boost; simmer whole wheat kernels in your slow cooker overnight for a chewy, whole-grain hot cereal.
Make trail mix using dried fruit, cereal and nuts to munch on your way to work.
Take some of the mess from pancake-making by mixing the batter in a zipper-top plastic bag and snipping a bottom corner to use as a pour spout.
Add more fruit or vegetables by stirring some applesauce or raisins into cooked oatmeal or serve it warmed, on pancakes. Make muffins with shredded carrot, zucchini, dried fruits or nuts.
Pre-cooked bacon until it just needs reheating in the microwave. Set a layer of paper towels underneath to absorb excess fat.
Make and freeze several batches of breakfast burritos. Then it's just a matter of heating them in the microwave or oven each morning.
Invest in a portable immersion blender and mix your smoothie ingredients in your drinking glass.
Find out if your child's school serves breakfast.
Try bagels and lox: Cured salmon on a whole grain bagel spread with light cream cheese.
Hard-boil eggs the night before.
Try making peanut butter and banana sandwiches and serve with milk.
Spread celery sticks with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese. Top with raisins.
Stuff a whole-grain pita pocket with ricotta cheese and Granny Smith apple slices. Add a dash of cinnamon.
Microwave a small baked potato. Top with reduced-fat cheddar cheese and salsa.
Make snack kabobs. Put cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes on pretzel sticks.
Sprinkle grated Monterey Jack cheese over a corn tortilla; fold in half and microwave for 20 seconds. Top with salsa.
Microwave a cup of tomato or vegetable soup and enjoy with whole-grain crackers.
Fill a waffle cone with cut-up fruit and top with low-fat vanilla.
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups raisin bran cereal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
3 tablespoons dark molasses
1 large egg
1/4 cup Craisins
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts
1 large egg
In large bowl, combine flour, cereal, baking soda and salt. In a medium-size bowl, mix buttermilk, water, brown sugar, oil, molasses, and egg.
Add liquid ingredients to dry, stirring just to blend; batter will be lumpy. Stir in Craisins and pecans. Cover and refrigerate at 1 hour, or up to one week.
To bake, place a large paper cupcake liner in a 6-ounce custard cup, or in a silicone muffin pan. Fill about half-full with batter. Microwave one muffin on high for 50 to 60 seconds; cook 2 muffins for 1 minute 20 seconds to 2 minutes; and allow 3-4 minutes for a 6-muffin pan.
Rotate muffins if baking looks uneven. Muffins will be flat on top, and will look dry on top when done. When touched, it will feel moist but should spring back. Let stand about 1 minute before eating. Makes about 12 large muffins, eventually.
— Valerie Phillips
2 cups frozen fruit (berries, peaches, etc.)
1/3 cup dry nonfat milk powder
1-2 tablespoons sugar or artificial sweetener to taste
2 cups water
2 tablespoons protein powder if desired
Place fruit, milk powder and sugar in a wide, 32- to 44-ounce glass. Pour water over all. With an immersion blender, whir the ingredients until smooth.
Option: Use 2 cups milk instead of dry milk and water. To using fresh fruit, use 1 cup of crushed ice and 1 cup of water.
Crock-Pot Apple Oatmeal
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup regular oats
1 cup peeled, cored, chopped apple
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Spray the inside of a 3-4 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker and mix well.
Cover and turn on low setting. Cook overnight or 8-9 hours.
Stir well before serving. Serves 8.
— Sara Oldroyd, USU Extension
Southwest Crock-Pot Breakfast Casserole
2 teaspoon butter
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage, cooked and drained
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
4 ounces can chopped green chiles
2 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack Cheese
Grease inside of slow cooker with butter. Starting with sausage, layer meat, onions, peppers, chilies and cheese, repeating the layering process until all ingredients are used.
In large mixer bowl, beat eggs until combined, then pour over mixture in the Crock-Pot. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours. Serves 12.
— Sara Oldroyd, USU Extension
Grab 'n Go Raisin Energy Bars
2 cups California raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup slivered almonds
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, pulsing on and off until raisins and nuts are finely chopped but not pureed (mixture should not be sticky).
Press firmly into a 10-by-4-inch rectangle on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut into 10 bars, each 1-inch wide. Separate bars slightly to cook evenly and bake for 1 hour; let cool and wrap individually. Makes 10 bars.
Nutrients per serving: 250 calories; 15 grams fat, 52 percent of calories from fat, 1 gram saturated fat, no trans fat, no sodium, 27 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 18 grams sugar, 6 grams protein, 356 mg potassium, 2 percent vitamin C, 6 percent calcium, 8 percent iron.
— California Raisin Marketing Board
No-mess Banana Nut Pancakes with Cinnamon-Raisin Syrup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: about 10 minutes total
1 large ripe banana
2 cups whole-grain pancake mix
1 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cinnamon Raisin Topping:
6 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons raisins
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Banana slices (optional)
Place banana in a large resealable bag and squeeze well to mash. Add remaining pancake ingredients; seal and squeeze to mix well. Snip a small corner off the bag and squeeze batter onto a large hot griddle coated with nonstick cooking spray, using about 3 tablespoons for each pancake. Cook over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes on each side. For topping, combine ingredients in a small bowl; microwave on high for about 30 seconds or until warm. Top with banana slices, if desired. Serves 6.
Nutrients per two 2 1/2-inich pancakes: 310 calories, 5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, no trans fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium, 477 mg potassium: 62 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 30 grams sugar, 9 grams protein, 4 percent vitamin A, 4 percent vitamin C, 25 percent calcium, 15 percent iron.
— California Raisin Marketing Board
12 eggs, beaten
1 pound bulk sausage, cooked (or crumbled links)
1/2 cup chunky salsa (your choice of heat)
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
24 flour tortillas (you can also use whole wheat)
1 green pepper, finely diced
6 potatoes, shredded and cooked through
Small can chopped green chiles
1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 onion, finely diced
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
Scramble and cook eggs in large skillet until done.
Stir in cooked sausage and salsa and any optional ingredients.
Warm tortillas in microwave 20–30 seconds or until warm and flexible.
Place 1/2 cup egg mixture into tortilla; sprinkle with cheese; roll burrito-style.
Freeze burritos in single layer on lightly greased cookie sheet.
When fully frozen, wrap burritos individually; place wrapped burritos in large zippered freezer bag; freeze.
Makes 14 burritos.
To serve, unwrap burritos from foil or plastic wrap that you used for freezing. Wrap in a paper towel. Cook in microwave until heated through (about 2 minutes). Or thaw burritos (remove plastic wrap if used in freezing), wrap burritos in foil, and bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes. Serve with salsa or hot sauce, if desired.
— "Frozen Assets," by Deborah Taylor-Hough (Sourcebooks Inc., $14.95)