Build a Better Breakfast to Build a Better You! By Lauren Jacoway

We all have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but what does this mean to you? Does this mean that grabbing a honey bun will suffice for breakfast? Building a well-rounded breakfast is like putting together a puzzle, and the foods you choose are the puzzle pieces. Individual foods are clustered into food groups: dairy, grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein. The combination and kinds of food you choose to eat for breakfast have an impact on weight control, how quickly you feel hungry, and energy levels.

An important way to build a better breakfast is by incorporating as many of the food groups into your breakfast as possible. The Nutrients journal suggests that eating a balanced breakfast on a regular basis is associated with a higher intake of key vitamins and minerals. These nutrients include vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, fiber, riboflavin, zinc, and iron. The importance of building a breakfast that includes many food groups cannot be stressed enough. Breakfast is your chance to begin meeting these daily recommendations for each food group.

Research endorsed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that eating breakfast regularly is strongly related to maintaining a healthy weight. When a person skips breakfast, he or she is more likely to eat more calories at the next meal and nibble on high-calorie snacks to ease hunger. A smart breakfast strategy is to eat low-energy-dense (i.e., low calorie, high impact) foods in the morning. Experts in maintaining a healthy weight report that this can be satisfying, filling, and help to reduce the amount of food eaten the rest of the day. Low-energy-dense foods include those that are high in fiber, low in fat, and high in water content. Examples include whole grain cereal with fresh fruit or oatmeal topped with raisins. Numerous studies show that eating a balanced breakfast leads to sustained and consistent energy levels. Adults and children who eat breakfast in the morning are better able to focus, perform, and concentrate throughout the day.

If finding time for that first meal of the day is a challenge for you, try this fun and easy way to build a well-rounded breakfast. This nutritious parfait is low in fat, high in protein, and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It also contains four of your main food groups: dairy, protein, grains, and fruit. Low-fat Greek yogurt is an amazing way to build sustained energy into your day-it provides 15 grams of protein in one serving! It also is important to choose low-fat granola because many types of granola can be high in fat, despite their health claims.

Blueberry Granola Parfait Nutrition Fast Facts

Ingredients:                                                    Calories: 230
6-ounce container low-fat Greek yogurt                  Fat: 1 gram
1/4 cup low-fat granola                                         Carbohydrates: 39 grams
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries                             Fiber: 3.5 grams
(ed. Note - other fruit will work too!)                 Protein: 16 grams

Use a spoon to create layers in a 12-ounce glass, alternating between Greek yogurt, granola, and blueberries. Stack these yummy flavors any way you like!

You can find all these ingredients at your local farmers market. This will give you the satisfaction of knowing your ingredients are not only nutritious but also local. With this all-in-one breakfast, you can be sure to start your day off with the fuel needed for success!

Lauren Jacoway, from Fort Payne, Alabama, currently is completing post-graduate training at Vanderbilt Medical Center's Dietetic Internship Program. She is finishing in June 2012 and will take a national board examination to become a registered dietitian. Her passion is working with children who have diabetes.

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De Castro, J.M. "The time of day food intake influences overall intake in humans." J Nutr. 2004; 134: 104-11.

Gavin, M.L. "Ready, Set, Breakfast!" KidsHealth. September 2010. Accessed March 8, 2012.