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Pacific Northwest | November 14, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineNovember 14, home Home delivery

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To get going and stay going,
nothing beats the morning meal

BREAKFAST IS HARD. It's often bland, usually inconvenient and always too early. Yet, Mom was right. It's the most important meal of the day, not just for the morning workout, but to keep your metabolism humming and your late-night appetite out of guzzling mode.

More than ever, we're skipping it. While the nutritional value of breakfast has increased since the 1960s, the number of breakfasts eaten has steadily slipped. Adolescents and adults younger than 30 are most likely to skip breakfast. I skipped it all the time. In fact, I used to skip lunch, too.

I recently came across an endearing book titled "Retro Breakfast" (Collector's Press, $16.95). It contains nostalgic art of breakfasts in the '50s, complete with Mom in apron, Dad with hat, and kids with cowlicks. And they were all sitting at the table at the same time! It also contains recipes for everything from waffles to Poppy's Home Cornbread.

But breakfast has changed right along with our lives. So I asked some pros what to do.

"Breakfast literally means 'break the fast,' and a lot of times you've been 12 hours without eating, maybe more," says Susan Adams, a Seattle registered dietician. "It's important, especially for kids. If they miss breakfast, they'll have a harder time concentrating and getting their nutrients throughout the day. They'll get so hungry that they'll eat almost anything later."

That goes for adults, too. A little planning goes a long way, she says. Think about low-fat yogurt, a breakfast bar, juice and a bagel. They are fast and portable. Eggbeaters, which can be whipped up via microwave in a couple minutes, are a good source of protein on the go. She urges people not to forget carbohydrates, and says a little fat is important, too. Balance and portions are the key.

"It all can fit in a healthy diet," she says, "even bacon and sausage."

Emily Edison, a registered dietician and personal trainer, says athletes should approach breakfast differently from people looking to lose weight.

Athletes should eat a snack or small meal one to two hours before a morning workout and minimize fat intake, depending on your personal tolerance. Eat foods low on fiber and fat to accelerate absorption into the bloodstream and muscle. A long workout should be followed by an immediate snack that is high in carbohydrates and a small amount of protein to enhance absorption. Then, eat a meal within two hours.

Try these for a change

• Eggs, whole-grain toast and 100 percent fruit juice.

• Cereal with low-fat or nonfat milk and fruit.

• Whole-grain muffin and a fruit smoothie made with frozen fruits, and milk or yogurt.

• Container of yogurt with a toasted bagel and juice.

• English muffin topped with a slice of lean ham, scrambled eggs and melted cheese.

• Slice of leftover pizza or macaroni and cheese, and a glass of fruit or vegetable juice.

For weight loss, Edison, the owner of Seattle's Momentum Nutrition and Fitness (, suggests eating a small amount of carbohydrate for energy — not more than 50 or 100 calories — before a morning workout. Follow the workout with a healthy, balanced breakfast.

Breakfast is important even when you're not looking to get buff or slim. It gets your body and brain moving. If you skip eating anything in the morning, your metabolic rate and other functions slow to preserve energy. You feel tired and distracted during the day, which is a particular problem for kids who get rushed off to school without proper nutrition.

The Mayo Clinic experts say you can even score a smart breakfast at fast-food joints. Choose whole-grain bagels, rolls or English muffins over doughnuts, scones, croissants or biscuits.

The National Weight Control Registry found that people who ate breakfast maintained a healthier, long-term, stable weight. They also had more energy and made clearer decisions. Studies indicate that people who eat a good breakfast actually consume more vitamins and minerals and less fat and cholesterol than people who don't eat breakfast. For lasting energy, some experts suggest combining protein and carbohydrates. Peanut butter on a bagel, leftover cheese pizza, an energy bar, cereal or an egg with whole-wheat toast are good choices.

And perhaps breakfast is on the verge of a comeback. A cereal and cafe bar called Cereality has set up shop in Tempe, Ariz. Employees called cereologists wear pajamas and serve hot and cold cereal and smoothies. Now, that's encouraging.

Richard Seven is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. He can be reached at


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