Thursday, March 31, 2011

ABCs of Breakfast ... U through Z


Teen boys, especially those involved in sports, are often looking for ways to ‘bulk up’ and build muscle. A hearty breakfast, with only moderate amounts of fat, is one of the best places to begin. Protein is essential – scrambled eggs or an omelet with a couple of extra whites are a wonderful choice. Smoothies made with couple of tablespoons of powdered milk are another delicious option (and much cheaper than fancy protein powders).


Variety is the spice of life and the foundation of healthful eating. The best way to get the 40+ nutrients your body craves is to eat a wide variety of foods at every meal, including breakfast. Around the world, people eat a wide variety of breakfast foods – so be creative in your choices and take time to enjoy a morning meal every day. Always remember, it can be as convenient and as inexpensive as a bowl of cereal and milk – which costs on average of $.50 and takes only a few minutes to eat.


This is a shameless plug for my personal favorite ‘American’ breakfast: Belgian waffles with fruit (like sliced bananas or berries) and a little whipped cream or vanilla yogurt. While not an every-day breakfast, they are a wonderful weekend or vacation treat. (And, consider sharing one with a friend, since many waffles are more than enough for two, especially if you splurge on some lean breakfast meat as a side.)

Xiang jiao

(I’ll admit that this is ‘cheating’ a little, but it’s hard to find an X breakfast food – this one means banana in Mandarin.) While you can easily eat nature’s fast food just as is, you can also enjoy bananas in almost all of the breakfast foods mentioned in this series: on hot oatmeal, cold cereal, and waffles, for example. You can also make a delicious Skinny Banana Split for breakfast … with ¼ cup vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate low-fat Greek (or other) yogurt; sliced nuts (almonds, peanuts, or pecans); and berries. If you need more detailed directions than the photo, visit the recipe page of the Western Dairy Association.

Yams (aka sweet potatoes)

Looking for a yummy way to add variety to a favorite breakfast food? Enjoy a variety of home “fries,” including yams (aka sweet potatoes in some produce departments), red potatoes, Yukon golds, or very fun purple-fleshed potatoes. Any of these roots can be sliced into ¼-rounds, lightly brushed with olive oil, and baked in a ____ degree oven until crisp on the outside and deliciously soft inside.


Like iron, zinc is an important mineral in brain development, cognitive functioning, and a strong immune system. Lean beef has zinc, iron and protein (ZIP) – which makes a lean roast beef wrap an especially powerful breakfast possibility. No time to wrap up a breakfast? No worries – pack some beef jerky in baggie, grab a banana, and you’ll be good-to-go when you pick up a carton of low-fat milk.

Monday, March 28, 2011

ABC's of Breakfast ... P through T


Protein is the missing ingredient in many breakfasts. Add protein (soy, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, or dairy foods) – and you have a high-energy start with LASTING POWER. Protein can be from common breakfast foods, such as eggs and lean Canadian bacon – and from less typical items like a piece of leftover steak, black beans for a breakfast burrito, or a small handful of almonds with dried fruit.

Quality vs. Quantity

All-you-can-eat restaurants and super-sized portions have become an American way (and weigh) of life. Make the most of your morning meal by enjoying all foods – just don’t overdo it. And, listen to your stomach; it will let you know when it has all it-wants-to-eat. Best way to hear the I-am-satisfied messages from your stomach – slow down and savor your breakfast.

Role models

In terms of food and kids, it’s monkey see, monkey do. Parents, grandparents, and teachers can all be positive role models for the habits that we want to see in young people. If you make breakfast part of your day, the children around you will see and learn that eating in the morning is important way to start their day too.

Shakes and Smoothies

Liquid breakfasts are popular with people who don’t like to eat early in the day. They are also great for athletes with early AM games or practices. The options range from very simple (instant breakfast with milk) to the more elaborate (blended milk, yogurt, fruit, juice, ice, etc.). If you choose a commercial product (canned or prepared in a store like Jamba Juice), check calories and added sugars, which can be very high.


Make your toast do double-duty. First, for a morning fiber boost, choose whole grain bread – like whole wheat, honey wheat, oatmeal, or seven grain. Then, let your toast deliver protein – by topping it with a light layer of nut/seed butter (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower, or sesame) or some melted cheese. A sprinkling of dried fruit (raisins, craisins, blueberries, or cherries) or few thin slices of fresh fruit (bananas, apples, or pears) will make it a complete breakfast!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

ABC's of Breakfast ... K through O


Kumquats?!??! There are tons of tasty ways to be adventurous at breakfast time. Try a new food (mangoes in the morning) or new concept (tortilla wraps with meat and cheese). Allow children to be creative with breakfast – after all, they are the ones that have to eat it! My personal fav of unusual breakfasts is still the olives in Turkey, which usually include sliced tomatoes and cucumbers as well.


Quick, easy, tasty, and almost always available, leftovers are awesome in the morning. Try ‘em for breakfast – and you may have a practical, convenient way to keep your fridge cleaned out! Leftover breakfast can be everything from a slice of leftover pizza to slices of leftover steak or leftover lasagna to leftover beans for a breakfast burrito.


This one is a serious no-brainer. Milk provides lasting protein power – along with bone-building calcium and at least a dozen other nutrients. Chocolate has all the same nutrients and, in most cases, only about 10 grams of added sugars. Warm it up and you have the fav breakfast beverage of French children (un bol de chocolat chaud). If you prefer soymilk, be sure to choose a brand that is fortified with calcium and soy’s missing vitamins (A and D).


In reasonable portions (like a handful), nuts offer powerful nutrition in a delicious package. Eat them alone, or create your own trail mix with nuts, whole grain cereal, and dried fruit (plus a few chocolate chips for your sweet tooth). Sprinkle walnuts onto hot or cold cereal – or pump up your yogurt parfait with a crunchy layer of almonds.


If you skip breakfast to try and control your weight, you’re on the wrong track. Numerous studies have shown that breakfast eaters have healthier weights than breakfast skippers. Remember, starving in the morning almost always leads to stuffing sometime later in the day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ABC's of Breakfast ... E through J

Fast food

While the drive-thru lane may seem like a tempting morning solution, a typical egg, cheese and bacon biscuit has nearly 500 calories – and 31 grams of fat. To cut the calories and the cost, pack a simple to-go breakfast from home. If you do end up in a drive-thru lane, how about a yogurt parfait or small hamburger (one of your best bets for maximum protein and iron with minimal calories)?


This juicy citrus fruit used to the most popular breakfast fruit – and it is still a refreshing choice. The banana has replaced it, since it’s difficult to eat a grapefruit in a car! For dashboard dining, dried fruit is another delicious option – try dried apricots, cranberries, mangoes, pears, pineapple, or raisins.


The scientific evidence is overwhelming: hungry kids cannot learn. For better grades and better behavior, kids need a balanced breakfast. Check with your child’s school to see if they offer breakfast – and the teacher to see if he /she allows healthful snacks in class. Many do, because they see the difference in children’s behavior! For more on school breakfast, visit the Beyond Breakfast blog from the School Nutrition Association.


Low iron levels (the most common childhood nutrient deficiency in the US) can lead to many problems, including low energy levels and poor school performance. Fortified breakfast cereals are one of the tastiest ways to make certain that your whole family is getting enough iron.

Juice Smoothie

A glass of juice is better than no breakfast, but not by much. You get calories and a few phytonutrients (like antioxidants) – but nothing to ‘stick to your ribs.’ Turn your juice into a smoothie by adding a container of yogurt and some fresh or frozen fruit. You’ll feel better – and the office candy bowl will be much less tempting!

For a super simple, simply delicious Create-A-Smoothie recipe, visit Western Dairy Association’s page.

Friday, March 18, 2011

ABC's of Breakfast ... A through E

Any breakfast is better than no breakfast.

Research results validate the importance of breakfast, especially for children in school. Skipping breakfast seriously affects brainpower and can lead to school ‘daze.’ The benefits are impressive:

Academic success: Kids who eat breakfast regularly have higher grades and better scores, especially on math exams and standardized achievement tests.

Better attendance: School breakfast programs have been shown to decrease absence rates, tardiness, and visits to the nurse’s office.

Classroom behavior: Schools with high participation in breakfast programs report a 40 to 50 percent decrease in morning discipline referrals.

Better breakfasts are as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Even on the busiest days, everyone can enjoy the benefits of a morning meal. Eating a smart breakfast every day of the week is as simple as 1, 2, 3. Simply choose the following:

1. A high-energy carbohydrate from the bread and cereal group

2. A juicy and refreshing fruit or vegetable item

3. A protein source (nuts, meats, or milk group foods)

Cooking is optional for high-octane breakfasts.

Hot, homemade breakfasts are a weekend treat for many families. Fortunately, a ‘cookless’ breakfast can provide all the nutrition needed for work or school. Here are just a few cold breakfast bonanzas for busy families:

For breakfast-to-go, try peanut butter on a bagel with a box of your favorite juice.‘Un-breakfast’ items can be huge hit with kids – like leftover cheese pizza or pasta with a piece of fruit and a glass of fat-free milk.

Be creative with a breakfast parfait – layers of crunchy cereal, creamy yogurt, and your favorite fruit (fresh, frozen, canned, or dried).


Since hot, fresh doughnuts are hard to resist, enjoy them sensibly. Savor a smaller one slowly (Starbucks has some delightful mini-donuts these days) or eat half a large one. To balance the fat and sugar, enjoy your doughnut with a glass of low-fat milk.


These breakfast favorites had a bad rap due to cholesterol in their yolks. Newer research shows that one egg a day has little effect on blood cholesterol in most healthy people. So, enjoy occasional eggs in the AM (unless your MD or RD suggests otherwise, of course).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sharing the Goodness of Breakfast

I’ve been thinking a lot about breakfast recently. First of all, it is my favorite meal of day, especially when I travel. My top two international breakfast delights have been in Turkey (yogurt, nuts, dried fruit, multiple cheeses, breads, tomato, cucumber, and – best of all – olives) and Central America (mango, papaya, tortillas, and black beans).

Then last week was National School Breakfast Week. On School Meals That Rock, we celebrated by showcasing three beautiful breakfast baskets from Newport, RI, and a simple, but critical, breakfast in the classroom from PS 146 in the Harlem section of New York. Please check out the photos, as well as the link to Big Sky country school breakfast on the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) Beyond Breakfast Blog. According to Solange Morrissette, Director in Newport, “The muffins are made from scratch right in our High School kitchen by our head cook Scott Gleason. Scott takes great pride in baking these muffins made from wheat flour, sweet potatoes, and local fruit such as strawberries when available. They can also be made with commodity apples, peaches, and blueberries. We served them warm and they have completely replaced any processed packaged products.”

Finally, I spent Wednesday in a NYC studio doing a Satellite Media Tour to support Kellogg’s new Share Your Breakfast campaign, a partnership with Action for Healthy Kids. In over 30 interviews, I was able to deliver key messages about the importance of breakfast for school children – and explain the charitable goals of Share Your Breakfast. For every breakfast photo or description uploaded to, or sent via text with the word “Share” to 21534, from now until July 31, 2011, Kellogg will help increase participation in school breakfast programs. Each time a photo or description is shared, Kellogg will donate the monetary equivalent of a school breakfast. Kellogg will donate up to $200,000 – the equivalent of one million breakfasts.

The goal is to help share one million breakfasts by the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. You can help spread the word on Twitter by using the #shareUrbreakfast and changing your Facebook profile picture to what you had for breakfast and encouraging your friends to share as well. Share your breakfast today to help Action for Healthy Kids increase participation in school breakfast programs.

So, to keep the breakfast momentum going, I am going to spend this week on the ABCs of Breakfast, especially COLORFUL breakfasts to continue the celebration of National Nutrition Month 2011.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Making it EASY to put COLOR in your plate

(Many thanks to Sandra Frank for her whimsical Nutrition Month collages of children and food. See more at Dietitians Online. )

Nutrition experts agree that vibrant, brightly-colored, whole foods are often the healthiest bargains in the grocery store. They tend to be nutrient-rich - meaning that more nutrition is packed into every calorie.

Processed and packaged foods tend to have more fat, sodium, and added sugars (with bright artificial colors rather than natural goodness). These items also tend to come with higher price tags since you pay for fancy packaging and advertising.


Savvy shoppers know that planning ahead is the best way to get the most delicious nutrition for your grocery dollar. Smart shopping isn’t necessarily more complicated or time-consuming - it is just more deliberate and thoughtful.

  • Make a list: Take a few quiet minutes to make a careful list, based on your family’s schedule for the week and what you already have available in your kitchen.
  • Check specials: Take advantage of store sales and lower prices on seasonal produce items to save big. Check newspaper ads, in-store circulars, or online specials.
  • Snack smart: Seriously! When you’re hungry, you’ll make more impulse buys that are expensive and higher in calories. Eat some string cheese or fruit before shopping.


  • Concentrate on the perimeter of the store: In most grocery stores, the most healthful, freshest foods are along the outside walls - in the meat/fish/poultry, dairy, produce, and sometimes bakery departments. Do most of your shopping here.
  • Stroll the canned, frozen, and cereal aisles: There are plenty of nutrient-rich choices on the aisles too, especially on those with cereals, rice, legumes (dried and canned beans/peas), canned fruits in juice, and frozen vegetables and berries.
  • Skip the candy, cookie, snack, and soft drink sections: It’s no secret that the packages and displays in these aisles are designed to tempt you into buying things that you don’t really need. Keep them out-of-sight and out of your shopping cart.


Fill your shopping cart with the colors of good health, like green broccoli, purple grapes, yellow peppers, orange cantaloupe, black beans, brown rice, pink salmon, lean red meat, and low-fat white milk. Your family will eat better and feel better.