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Breakfast—the Meal of Champions

The alarm rings, but you’re not quite ready to get up. So you push the snooze button, not just once but twice. By the time you make it out of bed, you realize that all you’ve got is 30 minutes to get dressed and eat breakfast. Obviously you have to get dress. But that doesn’t leave enough time for breakfast. So you tell yourself you’ll grab something at break time from the vending machine.

Whoa! Let’s rethink this. You’re planning on passing up the most important meal of the day? You haven’t fed your body anything since dinner last night. For some, that could be more than 12 hours ago. You may remember what I said in Chapters 11 and 12: Your liver only has so much glucose stored away. It’s been using some of it during the night. What are you going to do to replenish its stores this morning?

If you want your brain to work at peak performance, it would appreciate a little nourishment, thank you. During the night, your body has been in the “starving mode,” using your energy stores to help you breathe, to help your heart beat and push blood around, to keep you warm, and so on. Now you plan to run off to work with nothing (and still expect your body to work on your behalf when your metabolism hasn’t gotten a jump-start yet)?

If you ignore the hunger signals now, what kinds of healthy choices do you think you’re going to make when everyone at work hears the grumbling sounds of your stomach emanating from your office? That’s setting you up for a grab-and-run eating event. (And someone in the office always seems to be nice enough to bring in something sweet you can eat.)

Let’s rewind the tape and you’re back in bed. You have a choice to make. Do you push the snooze button or get up? If you want to perform well today, I’d suggest you eat breakfast. You may think that the extra minutes of snoozing will do you more good. They won’t because it’s nutrition your body runs on. (This isn’t to put down a good night’s sleep because without that you’re not going to perform at your peak. Maybe it means going to bed 10 or 15 minutes earlier, equivalent to the amount of time you expect from using the snooze button for in the morning.)

It’s no different from not putting gas in your car. It isn’t going to get you to work on “empty.” So let’s think what would make for a good breakfast, both for one you sit down to and one you have ready to go for those mornings when you’ve cut it too close.

Fruit juice or cut-up fruit is a great start. Let’s follow that up with some protein and carbohydrates. How about a scrambled egg and bran muffin, or a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat toast with a little bit of low-fat cream cheese and cranberry relish? Have a cup of hot chocolate on the side. (Make it with an artificial sweetener or decrease the calories.)

Maybe there’s something left over from dinner last night. Or you could make your own breakfast sandwich like some of the fast-food restaurants, using an English muffin and scrambled eggs. If you’re trying to cut down on your cholesterol intake, use an egg substitute. If you don’t want any preparation, try a bowl of granola or bran cereal topped with sliced bananas, sunflower seeds, and milk. If you don’t like the idea of cooking breakfast in the morning, why not prepare it the night before?

You could make a big pot of hot cereal and refrigerate it. Then in the morning, spoon out how much you want, heat it in the microwave, and top with dried cherries, slivered almonds, and low-fat cottage cheese. You’ve got a meal-in-a-bowl. Make a breakfast sandwich the night before and warm it in the microwave.

I like the idea of making a big batch of whole-wheat pancakes on the weekend and freezing them. Pull out one or two the night before for breakfast and defrost in the microwave. Then roll up around a slice of ham and cheese. For another filling, you could spread some low-fat cream cheese on the pancake, a small amount of orange-flavored honey, and the ham. At least, if you don’t have time to sit down to breakfast, you’ve got some healthy eating to take with you.

I think it first comes down to your appreciating the value of breakfast. It is given very little respect for the big job it has to do. I have to admit that sometimes when I get up early, I don’t think that my stomach got up with me. I’m just not hungry. This is one of those times when I would have you go against the “eat only when you’re hungry” rule.

In most cases, I want you to respond to your body’s signals, not those of your mind. However, in this case, there are enough studies to show the benefits of breakfast. Those studies also show that without it, you set yourself up for binging and actually being hungry the rest of the day. It’s almost like your body is playing catch-up for not having gotten to eat in the morning.

© Roberta Schwartz Wennik 

 Excerpted by permission from Boomer’s Guide to Getting the Weight Off … For Good, published January, 2004, by Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

About the Author: Roberta Schwartz Wennik, M.S., R.D., is the owner and president of HealthPro, a nutrition consulting company in Edmonds, Washington. She is the author of five books, including Beyond Food Labels; Nutrition: Facts for Better Bodies; and Drawing the Line on Fat and Cholesterol. She has also written for numerous publications, including Fit, Fitness, Cooking Light, Health and Fitness, and Your Health. Roberta holds a Master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Washington and is a member of the American Dietetic Association.