How to Have a Good Breakfast

The following is the first in a series of guest blogs, written by Katherine O. Musgrave, Professor Emerita of Foods and Nutrition here at the University of Maine. We are thrilled that she has agreed to write these, as nutrition is such an important component of college success. So, without further ado….

Do you feel overwhelmed by all the information about what one should eat to stay well and prevent disease? I have been a Registered Dietitian for 72 years and all I know for sure is that we should eat a variety of foods in moderation, being certain to get adequate nutrients and to have balanced meals. That requires knowing the principles of nutrition, plus how the body uses food. So let’s start with the first principle: “the need for three complete meals per 24 hours.” For many people that means breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each of these meals should consist of three components - a complete protein, a complex carbohydrate, and a fruit and/or a vegetable. The second principle is: meals and snacks should contribute to adequacy, which means having the foods that provide the recommended amount of essential nutrients identified by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. In addition to those nutrients, we are learning of plant substances such as lycopene and flavonoids that contribute to adequacy. In these blogs, I’d like to share some information to assist in following those principles.

To get in the first principle of having three meals per day, breakfast has been designated as the best meal of the day, yet it’s the most likely to be skipped. If you like to sleep until class time, smoothies can be made that include one banana, one-half of a six-ounce container of frozen orange juice concentrate, and a cup of plain or flavored yogurt - all in the blender. Though you may not know it, being half asleep, the carbohydrate in the banana plus the protein in the yogurt and the fruit in orange juice fills the bill of a complete breakfast. If running late, you can drink the smoothie in a paper cup as you race to an eight o’clock class. There are many other fruit or vegetable combinations for smoothies, as well as other foods that can be added, such as cereal and milk. Explore different combinations and find what works for you. Other quick breakfast options include string cheese with an apple and a few whole grain crackers, or a peanut butter sandwich (using whole grain bread) and an orange or pear. Just like the smoothies, there are lots of potential options and combinations. And you can make this happen in the dorm room or at home - it just requires that big word PLAN.

Now there are days when one doesn’t have an early class and can take advantage of the commons or the kitchen. Burritos can be made by scrambling two eggs, adding a sausage link, sliced cheese, and tomato. Combine all of this on a soft corn tortilla and then heat it up for one minute in the microwave. It is both delicious and contains the three components. Although it’s better to eat it at the table with a beverage, it can be eaten on the run; but please chew each bite until it’s liquid before swallowing. Hot cocoa is recommended for its flavonoid content (a phytochemical that is also in dark chocolate), and when made with milk, the hot chocolate additionally gives you calcium, protein and zinc.

If you enjoy cooking on the weekend, making a batch of blueberry muffins offers the possibility of treating friends to muffins and coffee, or you can freeze the extras to pull out and microwave each morning next week. Combining that muffin (complex carb) with cottage cheese (protein) on top of a slice of pineapple (fruit) again meets the standard. What about making a quick serving of French toast (the eggs for the protein on the carbohydrate bread) to be eaten with fruit, such as applesauce or berries? Be sure to use unsaturated oil on the griddle for cooking the toast, such as olive or canola.

So, the next time you start pondering what to eat for breakfast, whether following one of my recommendations or coming up with one of your own creation, remember to make sure that it has the three main components: a complete protein, a complex carbohydrate, and a fruit and/or a vegetable. If you do that, you can’t go wrong. Now looking to the future, we’re going to examine the other two meals (based on that first principle of nutrition), as well as snacks, trying to sort out truths from fiction. See you soon!