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Reap the benefits of a healthy breakfast
Experts advise a combination of fruit, dairy, grain and fat
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Scrambled eggs paired with vegetables such as tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms becomes a good choice for a nutritious breakfast. Dietitian Debbie Walls suggests pairing the foods with a slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter and a glass of milk for a healthy breakfast.

Breakfast is widely regarded as the most important meal of the day.

Diet plans urge people to eat breakfast to lose weight. And many guides to success note people who rise early and eat that first meal of the day are more productive.

The reasons why breakfast is crucial are numerous, but doctors and dietitians debunked some of those reasons with one addendum. Eating breakfast is not as important as eating a healthy breakfast.

“It needs to be a balanced breakfast,” said Debbie Walls, a dietitian with the Northeast Georgia Health System. “If you have eggs and biscuits and gravy and sausage, then that’s not really doing you any good.”

Walls emphasized a good breakfast includes an item from each of a few different groups. She noted health-conscious eaters or dieters should have a grain product, a dairy product, fruits or vegetables, some protein and a small bit of fat. The combination of the different groups helps breakfast eaters stay fuller longer and eat smaller meals through the rest of the day.

“We encourage people to have oatmeal, a yogurt, some fruit, and maybe some whole-grain toast with a little bit of peanut butter and some milk,” Walls said.

She also said someone may have an egg, a grain cereal with milk or yogurt and some fruit, or any combination of those groups.

However, some people have misconceptions about what fits each of the needed categories, she said.

“A juice doesn’t satisfy the fruit component because it’s not always natural and doesn’t have the same nutrients,” Walls said. “And a lot of people think cream cheese counts as their dairy when it’s really their fat component.”

The dietitian explained another misconception is that eating healthy is time-consuming. She said one of the top reasons people tell her they don’t eat breakfast is because they are too busy.

“Breakfast is actually one of the quickest meals to prepare,” Walls said. “If you’re in a rush, it’s easy to throw together some yogurt with some granola or cereal and fruit and have it with a piece of toast with peanut butter and some milk.”

She also suggested preparing breakfast the night before, such as cutting fruit for grab-and-go bowls or simply deciding what to eat ahead of time and buying the items from the store.

“If you have it on hand, it’s a lot easier to eat those healthy foods,” Walls said.

The dietitian mentioned another primary reason people give for not eating breakfast is not being hungry. She agreed people should eat when they’re hungry, but if they are eating in the right intervals, breakfast will be a natural time of hunger.

“A lot of people say they aren’t hungry, and then they mention that they are snacking late at night after they’ve already had dinner,” Walls said. “It’s a good rule of thumb to stop eating around 8 p.m., so your body will be hungry in the morning.”

She said there is no set time for people to eat breakfast, but eating within a few hours of awaking can boost the body’s metabolism.

“It doesn’t matter when you wake up, because some people work different hours,” Walls said. “But the important thing is not waiting too long between meals.”

Loretta’s Country Kitchen in Oakwood serves breakfast from 6 to 10:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The hot spot’s breakfast is served cafeteria-style, allowing customers to easily choose items from each of the different recommended breakfast categories, including a variety of proteins.

“We have different kinds of sausages and bacon,” manager Daniel Burts said. “We have cheese grits, regular grits, regular eggs and cheese eggs.”

The restaurant offers wheat and white toast, pancakes and biscuits. However, it also has some simple and healthy choices.

“We have oatmeal and fruit bowls with things like strawberries and cantaloupe,” Burts said. “We can cook eggs to order. And we have milk, coffee, tea, orange juice, apple juice and grapefruit juice to drink.”

Walls noted no matter where people are eating breakfast, it is important not to fall victim to the variety of sugars and fats available as early morning meals. Those choices can make people feel sluggish and aren’t as lasting.

“Choosing (healthy) components for a breakfast or even having some for breakfast and some for a mid-morning snack helps you feel full and gives you the nutrition you need early in the day,” Walls said.

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