I love breakfast foods, and I’ll sometimes prepare them for dinner. But like many on-the-go professionals, I rise early and have a hard time cooking at 6 a.m. Short of a blast of coffee, I may forego breakfast until mid-morning and, I must confess, occasionally skip this meal altogether—a bad nutritional move.
I’m not alone. Many Americans fail to eat what Mom repeatedly—and correctly—called the most important meal of the day. Some of us play the “I don’t have time; I’m rushing out the door” card, while others believe skipping breakfast will help them lose weight. Both approaches are rife with dietary pitfalls.
“It might seem logical that skipping breakfast would mean fewer calories and easier weight control, but it doesn’t seem to be true most of the time,” says registered dietitian Karen Collins, a consultant for the American Institute for Cancer Research. “Studies show that frequently skipping breakfast is linked with higher body mass index [BMI], a measure of overweight.” The reason? Breakfast-skippers will become hungry as the morning hours pass, setting themselves up to snack impulsively and overeat later in the day. That said, we’re not proposing a high-fat, high-calorie, meat-centered platter of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns and toast. Regardless of whether these foods are organic, their collective calorie count is off the charts. As Collins notes, it’s important to “start the day with whole-grain bread or cereal, some fruit or vegetable, and a modest amount of protein,” which will “energize you, satisfy hunger through the morning, and provide antioxidant vitamins and phytochemicals that add up to help protect you against cancer and heart disease.”
Building a Better Breakfast
The AICR offers the following breakfast tips, which reflect the principles of organic living:
- Stock your pantry with healthful ingredients like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, wheat germ, nuts and canned or dried fruit.
- Visit your local natural and organic food store, and buy some flaxseed—an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. Mix it into low-fat cereal, yogurt, cottage cheese and smoothies. These foods can help you resist the temptation to grab a doughnut or pastry.
- Other healthful breakfast meals include a parfait layered with nonfat or low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit with cereal, nuts or raisins; low-fat yogurt mixed with fresh fruit in a blender for a vitamin-rich smoothie; whole-wheat toast with a dab of peanut butter and banana slices; instant oatmeal or whole-grain cold cereal topped with raisins or fresh fruit and low-fat regular or soy milk; and fish, such as leftover salmon, with a whole-grain bagel and reduced or nonfat cream cheese.
- Bake bran or fruit-and nut-muffins over the weekend, and store them in the freezer.
The Fast-Food Trap
Even the most dedicated organic foodie will fall off the wagon once in a while. If you’re headed to work, you may consider grabbing a fast-food biscuit sandwich, usually accompanied by greasy hash browns and some really bad coffee. But as the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, and Jayne G. Hurley, RD, note in Restaurant Confidential, “It’s not surprising that competing chains have risen to the challenge of creating their own not-just-for-breakfast versions. These days it’s all too easy to find gargantuan high-fat, high-salt, high-cholesterol breakfasts available anytime, anywhere.”
A McDonald’s Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit with hash browns weighs in at 580 calories, 33 g fat, 245 mg cholesterol and 1,630 mg sodium. A Burger King Bacon, Egg and Cheese Croissan’wich with a small order of Cheesy Tots? 550 calories, 32 g fat, 825 mg cholesterol and 1,250 mg sodium. A Denny’s Lumberjack Slam (three buttermilk pancakes, slice of grilled honey ham, two bacon strips, two sausage links and two eggs, plus hash browns or grits and choice of bread)? A whopping 1,140 calories, with 53 g fat, 560 mg cholesterol and 4,140 mg sodium. Scary numbers—and definitely not organic.
If an on-the-go breakfast seems like your only option, you do have some healthful alternatives. Call your favorite organic restaurant before leaving the house, and order a low-fat, low-cholesterol takeout meal. If you want to dine at home or bring breakfast to the office, try a frozen organic entrée like an Amy’s Kitchen Breakfast Burrito (organic potatoes, tofu, black beans, vegetables and salsa wrapped in an organic flour tortilla): 250 calories, 7 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol and 540 mg sodium. Your local supermarket and natural/organic food store should carry Quaker’s new Organic Instant Oatmeal, available in regular or maple brown sugar flavors. One serving of the regular flavor has only 100 calories, 2 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol and 0 mg sodium. Add some fruit or raisins, and you’re good to go!