Eating balanced breakfast smartest start to your day

Q: How important is breakfast?

A: There are many reasons consumers should start the day by refueling themselves with a nutritious breakfast. According to the American Dietetic Assn., breakfast eaters will have more strength, endurance and enhanced brain activity such as better concentration and problem-solving skills. In addition, breakfast can have a marked effect on weight control. Skipping breakfast can cause severe hunger pains, which can lead to increased snacking of high-calorie foods. Research has shown that consumers who eat breakfast are more successful at losing weight and keeping the weight off. Breakfast also can increase nutrients in the daily diet.

Regardless of your activity level, breakfast is an essential part of a healthful lifestyle and also is important for maintaining energy all day long. The motto here is anything for breakfast is better than nothing at all. Think of your body as a car and food as gas. Without gas, your car cannot get from one place to another. The rate at which your body uses calories for energy is known as metabolism.

Think of metabolism as the motor of your car. Metabolism is directly related to energy levels, so the higher your metabolism, the more energy you have throughout the day. When you are sleeping, your body naturally decreases its metabolism. When you wake up, there is an increase in metabolism, which peaks by noon. How much energy you have during this time is contingent on how much food calories your body has to use for energy.

Breakfast becomes the first stop to the gas station before your road trip. So basically, eating breakfast actually helps maintain high energy levels throughout the day. In fact, the more hearty a breakfast you have, the more your metabolism motor will roar. You do have to stick to some guidelines, of course, to promote optimal energy:

Calories: The best range of calories for breakfast is between 350 -500. Below 350, your body will not fulfill the requirements for morning energy usage; above 500, your body may store unneeded calories as fat.

Balance: Plan and eat a balanced breakfast meal. Pick one food from at least three of the following food groups:

¢ One-ounce equivalent of grains, such as one slice of 100 percent whole grain bread, 1 cup of cooked oatmeal, 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal, half an English muffin, one mini-bagel, one (4 1/2-inch diameter) pancake, or small (2-1/2-inch diameter) muffin.

¢ One cup equivalent of fruit or vegetables, such as a half-cup of fruit or vegetables and a half-cup of fruit or vegetable juice.

¢ One cup equivalent of milk or calcium-rich foods, such as one cup of milk, one cup of yogurt or 1-1/2 ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

¢ One-ounce equivalent of protein, such as 1 ounce of lean meat, poultry or fish, one egg, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, one-quarter cup cooked dry beans or a half-ounce of nuts or seeds.

Q: Can you tell me a few recipes for quick and healthy breakfasts for kids who are around 13 years?

A: Taking into consideration that, just sometimes, younger people are a little picky about what they’ll eat, not to mention the energy it can take a groggy chef to whip up something in the morning, here are a few easy, interesting, and nutritious breakfast recipes:

Apple-cinnamon oatmeal

2 cups skim milk

1 cup rolled oats

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 apple (peeled, cored and chopped into cubes)

In a medium pot, heat the milk over medium heat, almost to a boil. Add the oatmeal, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until all of the milk is soaked up by the oatmeal. Add the brown sugar, maple syrup and apple pieces. Stir well and serve. Makes two servings.

Berry parfaits

2 (8-ounce) containers of yogurt (vanilla, lemon or peach)

2 cups mixed berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries

1 cup low-fat granola

In two glasses or plastic cups, add a layer of yogurt to the bottom. Cover with a layer of berries and then sprinkle on a layer of granola. Repeat the layers until the glasses or cups are full, ending with a sprinkle of granola. Makes two servings.

These are great to “grab ‘n’ go” if made the night before.

Egg Scramblers

1 egg

1 toasted whole wheat pita or toasted English muffin

Optional item(s): mushrooms, peppers, grated cheese, chopped tomatoes, onions, salsa or whatever else you like.

Microwave directions: Crack egg into a glass measuring cup and beat well. Mix in any of the optional ingredients you like. Cover tightly with a microwave-safe plastic wrap. Microwave at 70 percent for one minute – slightly longer if you add other ingredients, or if you like your eggs more well-done. Spoon into a pita or onto a toasted English muffin. May also cook on a stovetop over low heat in a nonstick pan. Makes one serving.

Banana smoothies

1 banana, cut into 1-inch chunks (works great if already frozen)

1/2 cup yogurt

1/2 cup milk or soy milk

2 tablespoons honey or jam

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put all of the ingredients into a blender. Mix until all of the fruit is pureed. Pour into a glass and drink immediately. You can freeze this beverage overnight, then toss it into a blender and pour it back in the plastic cup you froze it in. If you run out of time in the morning, you can bring your smoothie with you on the way to school. Makes one serving.