Breakfast: The most important meal of the day

Sandra R. Cain For Better Living

You have often heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many studies have shown that starting your day with breakfast offers many benefits. Eating breakfast is associated with a better attitude toward work or school, higher productivity and an improved ability to handle tasks that require memory.

People who eat breakfast also tend to have more strength and endurance as well as better concentration and problem-solving ability. In contrast, people who skip breakfast are more likely to be tired, irritable and restless in the morning.

If breakfast is so important, why is it often skipped? The most common reasons include: “There isn’t time,” “Food that early makes me sick,” “I don’t like breakfast foods” and “I’m skipping breakfast to lose weight.” Almost every excuse for not eating breakfast has a simple solution.

For example:

— Not enough time? Have quick-to-fix foods on hand, such as ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, instant oatmeal, bagels, English muffins, bread for toast, toaster waffles, fresh fruit, yogurt, juice or milk. Do as much preparation as possible the night before. Make a pitcher of juice and place dishes, utensils and non-perishable foods on the table. If you don’t have time to sit down for breakfast, have easy, no-mess options readily available so that you can grab them as you walk out the door, like a banana, granola bar, a hard boiled egg or peanut butter and crackers.

— Food that early doesn’t set well with you, or you’re not hungry in the morning? Start with something light, such as a glass of milk or fruit juice and lightly buttered toast or a small piece of fruit such as a banana. Later in the morning, when you feel more like eating, have a nutritious snack handy, such as a bagel, bran muffin, low-fat yogurt or homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit.

— Don’t like traditional breakfast food? No problem. Breakfast doesn’t have to consist of cereal, toast and juice. Breakfast can be any food that sounds good. For example, try a slice of last night’s cheese pizza, heated leftover rice with chopped apples, nuts and cinnamon, or a breakfast wrap with cut-up fresh fruit and low-fat cream cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla.

— Trying to control your weight? There is no evidence that eating breakfast leads to weight gain. In fact, just the opposite may be true. Skipping meals often leads to overeating during the day. In a research study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers examined the effects of eating or skipping breakfast on calories eaten and burned throughout the day as well as circulating insulin, glucose and cholesterol levels in 10 healthy women of normal weight. Results indicated that when the women ate breakfast, they consumed approximately 100 fewer calories per day.

Researchers also found that total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels were significantly lower in the women who ate breakfast. Furthermore, the women who ate breakfast had a better insulin response to eating, which suggests their risk of diabetes may be lower.

Your morning meal doesn’t have to mean loading up on sugar, fat and cholesterol. Making nutritious breakfast choices can set you up for healthier eating all day long.

Source: Colorado Cooperative Extension


Oatmeal Date Bars

1 cup chopped dates

½ cup water

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ cups quick cooking oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 egg white

In a small saucepan, combine the dates, water and sugar. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce hear. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until mixture is smooth and thickened, stirring constantly.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the butter and egg white until blended. Pat half of the mixture into an 8 inch square baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Carefully spread with date mixture. Gently pat remaining oat mixture over date mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Yield: 16 servings.

Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at or 910-862-4591.

Sandra R. Cain For Better Living R. Cain For Better Living