March is National Nutrition Month®!
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website, National Nutrition Month® is “an education and information campaign… designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.”
There is such an overwhelming volume of literature focused on food and nutrition – much of it conflicting – that it’s no surprise that lots of people find it challenging to make informed food choices for better long-term health.
Take, for example, breakfast. Everyone has an opinion about breakfast – some people believe in protein, some believe in breakfast cereal, some believe their bodies just don’t need breakfast. Whatever you think you know about breakfast, here are a few basics:
- Eating breakfast will change your day
Studies have shown that eating breakfast improves children’s behavior and school performance, while also helping to prevent obesity and related health problems. Children’s bodies and brains suffer all day long when deprived of breakfast. The same is true for adults, particularly active adults.
- But I don’t have time!
Yes you do.If your morning is too busy then there are plenty of ways to plan ahead so that breakfast doesn’t become an afterthought. There are many breakfast foods that can be made on Sunday for the week. (pre-measure ingredients for smoothies; prepare oatmeal and store in individual portions; make a veggie frittata and store individual portions for a grab-and-go meal. A box of cereal in the cupboard and a full fruit bowl set the stage for a quick and easy breakfast that supplies plenty of nutrients to start the day. If you know that your breakfasts always need to be grab-and-go, then shop that way (individual juice or milk containers, portion cereal into sandwich bags, etc.)
- But I don’t have time!
- Remember the protein to prevent mid-morning hunger
It can be easy to forget the protein, especially in a grab-and-go meal. But the protein is what’s going to keep you focused during that late morning meeting, and what’s going to keep you from defaulting to an unhealthy snack later. The leaner the source of protein the better. For example, an egg, a slice of lean deli meat, low fat cheese, peanut butter, low fat yogurt, Canadian bacon, etc.
- Whole grains are still your friend
Whole grains get a bad rap, especially with all of the focus on paleo or very low carb diets for weight loss. However, they do provide a long-lasting source of energy and appetite control because they digest more slowly than other foods. Examples: oatmeal, whole grain breads, muffin, waffles, pancakes.
- Fresh Fruit and Veggies
I get it – veggies can be tough to stomach first thing in the morning. That’s especially true if you’re used to eating mostly simple carbs at breakfast. A tiny bit of creative thinking can really change your nutrition though, because getting just a vegetable and a fruit into your breakfast gives you a head start on the day. They don’t have to be the star of the show – just add a handful of chopped veggies (onions, peppers, etc) to your eggs or a few slices of banana to your oatmeal and you’re on your way.
- Baby Steps
If you never eat breakfast, start by trying to just eat something first thing in the morning. It doesn’t have to be the model breakfast, but just moving in the direction of healthier. Try a banana with your coffee if you currently just have coffee. If you’re used to buying a bacon, egg, and cheese every morning, try adding a slice of tomato to it.
Nutrition is cumulative, like running or fundraising. Every little bit that you do now is putting hay in the barn for later.