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Better grab breakfast! Don’t try to start the day on an empty tank or filled full of junk

By ALETHEA PRICE

The Kitchen Agent

A new school year is on the horizon. These last few weeks of summer are usually filled with school shopping and last-minute weekend trips. But this can also be a great time to get a jump on meal planning.

Breakfast can be the easiest meal to skip, especially when you’re in a hurry to get out the door in the morning. But prioritizing a healthy breakfast each day can really set you and your family up for success.

Busy schedules aren’t a good reason to skip; not to mention, this is a great opportunity to get some family time in. Sharing meals together is much more than just eating good food. It sets the stage for conversation that can build a stronger family bond.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. I mean really, is there a better way to start the day than with bacon? A balanced breakfast sets the day’s standard. Your body needs fuel to function, so you want to put good stuff in so you can get good stuff out. A balanced breakfast should consist of a carbohydrate, a protein and a fat. This balance of nutrients helps your brain function at optimal levels.

Have you ever experienced a mid-morning energy crash? This could be a range of symptoms from headaches and dizziness to irritability and fatigue. If so, think back to your breakfast that day, what did you have? Did you have something higher in carbs? Did you even eat breakfast at all?

The mid-morning crash is a perfect indicator of a breakfast fail. A breakfast high in carbs quickly converts to sugar, causing a spike in energy followed by a dramatic decline. Starting the day with a balanced meal gives your body an even amount of energy, resulting in a more productive day. Let’s hear it for productivity!

The type of carbs you choose can help prevent a crash from happening. Whole grains are broken down more slowly, causing a more even release of energy. This helps with regulation of blood glucose in the body. Whole grains are also high in fiber so they help you feel fuller longer. There’s nothing worse than being interrupted in a 10 o’clock meeting by awkward stomach grumbles because that toaster pastry didn’t get the job done.

Oatmeal, whole grain toast and whole grain cereals are great foods to power you through your morning. If you absolutely must turn to convenience foods for breakfast, keep these tips in mind. Choose foods made with whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy.

Both kids and adults can benefit from eating a well-balanced breakfast. Kids who eat breakfast have been shown to learn better and retain more knowledge. They are able to focus more and are more apt to participate in class.

The best tip for getting breakfast more often is to have grab-and-go options available. Now, this is not a free pass to go stock up on bulk boxes of pop tarts and toaster pastries.

Try making homemade breakfast sandwiches on whole grain English muffins, then freezing them. These can easily be made in advance, and wrapped individually for easy access. These are quick and easy to heat in the microwave before heading out the door. Other breakfast foods that can easily be frozen and microwaved include whole wheat waffles or pancakes and breakfast burritos.

Some other grab-and-go options with no assembly required include low-fat dairy products, like yogurt and cheese. These foods contain protein, which keeps you full like fiber does.

Make healthy dairy choices by choosing low-fat products with little to no added sugars, that way you can stay away from the mid-morning sugar crash. Remember, lots of sugar can cause a mid-morning crash.

Greek yogurt can be served in a lot of different ways and it packs a high-protein punch. Peanut butter is another source of protein, as well as heart-healthy fat. Two tablespoons of this spread can be a delicious addition to whole grain waffles or toast, added to oatmeal or even your favorite smoothie recipe. You can substitute for other nut butters if necessary.

(Hint: Double check that label on hazelnut spread —  it’s not quite as healthy as you may think. It may be the most delicious invention this world has ever seen but it can be a little calorie dense.)

When possible, make time to have breakfast together as a family. Mealtimes can be opportunities to interact with each other before the day gets too hectic. It’s so important to make eating breakfast a healthy habit for the young folks in our lives to latch onto. Make the choice for yourself and your whole family by providing them with a healthy, balanced breakfast each day — it can lead to healthier choices all day long.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at a.price@uky.edu.