Sunday, March 7, 2010

March: Breakfast

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day, as folk lore (and probably your mother) would have it? For those of us who find eating breakfast a chore and would just as soon skip the meal entirely except for a couple of cups of coffee, the answer is depressing. Yup. Studies clearly show that eating breakfast has a multitude of benefits… more than either of the other two main meals of the day.
Several studies of school children have made it clear that for children and adolescents especially, a healthy breakfast is a huge factor in the ability to concentrate, problem solve, and perform tasks requiring hand-eye co-ordination. Additionally, breakfast provides increased strength and endurance for physical tasks.

There is also clear evidence that a healthy breakfast is an important factor in weight loss. Those who skip breakfast calories more than make up the caloric intake later in the day, either by eating high sugar snacks (like doughnuts or candy bars) to keep them going during the morning, or by having a larger lunch. The National Weight Control Registry reveals that of people who lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for a year, more than 80 per cent regularly eat breakfast.

There’s an important factor here: not just any breakfast will produce the beneficial results. We’re talking about a nutritional breakfast, one high in lean protein and fibre. No doughnuts, no high-sugar processed cereal, no white bread with jam. Many nutritionists say that the best way to get a good shot of lean protein in the morning is to eat an egg with pea meal (Canadian) bacon, while fibre can be added with whole grain cereal or bread. How you cook your egg and bacon also has an effect: a McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin with Egg, for example, gives you 51 per cent of all the saturated fat you should have in an entire day, 86 per cent of the cholesterol, and 39 per cent of the salt! Boiled or poached eggs are best, but any preparation that uses a minimum of fat and salt will provide the protein you want without the nasty stuff.

So, according to nutritionists, an ideal breakfast might be two boiled eggs, a slice of Canadian bacon, whole wheat toast, and an orange. But what about those of us who find breakfast a) a chore to undertake first thing in the morning, and b) more than we care to put in our stomachs before heading off to work or school? While it isn’t perfect, a thoughtfully concocted Smoothie will supply many of the benefits of the ideal breakfast without the hassle or bulk.

My recipe for a breakfast Smoothie is infinitely variable, and there are lots of good recipes out there (try for example). But I’ve been enjoying this morning drink for years, and find it (along with two cups of strong coffee) both gives me a good start to the day and keeps me from snacking until lunch. Far from being a chore to drink, it tastes like a fruit milkshake.

Breakfast Smoothie
Put 1 to 1 ½ cups of orange, pineapple, or other juice in a blender. With the blender running, add ½ cup of yogurt, ½ frozen banana, ¾ cup frozen fruit (strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are favorites), ¼ cup of whey protein (available at health food and other stores), and ½ cup of granola or other whole grain cereal. When all the ingredients are dissolved and the shake has a smooth consistency, it’s ready to drink. Hint: While the blender is running, make sure you have the lid on and add the frozen stuff through the feed tube, or you’ll redecorate your kitchen.