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Wake up and smell the coffee, it’s breakfast time

Your alarm has just gone off and it's time to decide -hit the snooze button for a few more minutes of shuteye, or throw back the covers? Hitting the snooze means you'll have to skip breakfast, but wha...

Your alarm has just gone off and it’s time to decide -hit the snooze button for a few more minutes of shuteye, or throw back the covers? Hitting the snooze means you’ll have to skip breakfast, but what difference does that make? A big difference.

Simply speaking, ‘breakfast’ breaks your fast. Over the night while you haven’t been eating, your body has been slowing down your metabolism. So in the morning, your body begins your day set to burn fewer calories and conserve energy.

By eating breakfast, you jump start your metabolism and put your engine into gear, ready to burn the calories you eat instead of storing them.

Your mother was right when she told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gives you energy and offers health benefits, including: weight control, lower cholesterol, better concentration, higher physical endurance, increased strength, as well as better mental focus, memory, mood, problem-solving skills and eye-hand co-ordination.

However when I’m talking about breakfast, I’m talking about having a real breakfast, not eating a bowl of sugar cereal or grabbing a donut on your way through the drive-thru. Including the following foods as part of your healthy breakfast should satisfy your taste buds while keeping your stomach feeling full until lunch: lean protein, whole grains, fiber and fruit.

Lean protein, including eggs, Canadian back bacon (not fried, high-fat sliced bacon), and low-fat ham are all good choices. I realize that many people shy away from eggs because of cholesterol. However, according to the American Heart Association, healthy people can eat one egg a day without ill effects. Recent studies have shown that eggs eaten within a low fat diet do not significantly increase blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

Yet, if you’ve been advised to avoid eggs, you could use an egg-substitute or egg whites only instead of a whole egg.

When considering whole grains, certainly oatmeal comes to mind. Oatmeal is something you grow up with, but never get too old for. Now you can prepare it in a microwave in only one minute. You can also buy single-serving pouches that are excellent to pack for the road. (Be sure to read the label to see if sugar has been added. Choose a non-sweetened variety and add your own natural sweetener, like honey or maple syrup).

Even though we’ve talked about this before, just as a reminder -oatmeal is especially known to lower bad cholesterol.

Along with oatmeal, various whole grains can be found in dry and cooked cereals. Just read the packaging labels to ensure you are getting the entire grain with no sugar added for the best health benefit.

Some cereals with minimal sugar are: regular Cheerios (not honey nut or other sweetened kinds); corn flakes (not frosted flakes); shredded wheat minis (not frosted); and Kashi (unsweetened). Add sugar to your own taste, which will usually be just a fraction of what the cereal manufacturer adds. Their sugar servings are sometimes equivalent to eight or nine teaspoons for each one-cup serving. Or, why not splurge on a whole grain pancake or French toast? Whole grains contain a wide variety of vitamins, folic acid, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.

Another good source of breakfast fiber (and vitamins, minerals and enzymes) is fruit. Remember -a whole fruit is better for you than just the fruit juice. Most juice bought at the grocery store is pasteurized (heated to a high temperature to kill any bacteria and increase the shelf life), but, many enzymes are destroyed. As well, many have added preservatives and sweeteners. Better to choose an orange, grapefruit, apple or banana; or, less traditionally: strawberries, cherries, kiwi, melon, or grapes, or any other that you like.

If you have time to make a smoothie, they are a popular way to ‘drink in’ some fruit in the morning. To make one, you just need fruit and a blender. So, the combinations are endless. This concoction is particularly refreshing: six fresh strawberries, a third of a cantaloupe, half a cup of fresh pineapple; one kiwi (peeled) and one cup of orange juice. Just blend until smooth. You may want to add ice for a cooler drink. (As well, adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseed will make your smoothie thicker and healthier).

Add low-or non-fat dairy products to your smoothie for additional protein. Low-fat yogurt, milk, or cottage cheese all work well. Try them out to see which one you like best. Pouring low-fat milk over your cereal is another way to add dairy protein to your breakfast.

Some mornings, you’ll have time to make a smoothie. Some mornings you’ll just have time to grab something quickly and race through the door. If you stock up with eggs, whole grains and fresh fruit for your breakfast buffet, you’ll be ready whether it’s ‘for here’ or ‘to go.’

-Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant, and she can be reached at

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