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Vitamins and Minerals: An Essential Part of Every Child's Diet Understanding Balance and Moderation

Adopting healthier eating habits does not have to be difficult, and it can put you quickly on your way to improved health. With a little bit of effort, you can make changes in your eating patterns that can make a substantial difference in your health. The key is being willing to change habits and adopt new ones.

Get a Head Start with Breakfast
Breakfast is one of the most important meals, yet it is probably the most skipped meal of the day. The word "breakfast" describes exactly what it does: breaks a fast. After a good night's rest, your body has gone eight to twelve hours without food or energy. It needs to replenish its blood sugar stores. Blood sugar, or glucose, which comes from the breakdown of food in the body, is your body's main source of energy. Eating food provides your body with a fresh supply of blood glucose or energy. The brain in particular needs a fresh supply of glucose each day, because that is its main source of energy. (The brain does not store glucose.) Eating breakfast is associated with being more productive and efficient in the morning hours. Breakfast eaters tend to experience better concentration, problem-solving ability, strength, and endurance. Your muscles also rely on a fresh supply of blood glucose for physical activity throughout the day.

Fact: According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), breakfast should provide 18 percent of Americans' daily intake of calories and 12 to 28 percent of their daily intake of vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast tend to be heavier than those who make time to eat a nutritious breakfast.

Don't have time for breakfast? Get up a few minutes earlier. You don't need a lot of time to prepare a nutritious breakfast. Just a small amount of healthful food can help refuel your body properly and will be worth the few minutes of lost sleep. Keep quick breakfast foods on hand, or get your breakfast foods ready the night before to save time in the morning. Avoid fast foods. While it's tempting to stop at the drive-through, these meals aren't going to do much for you in terms of health and nutrition.

Do you think that eating breakfast might make you gain weight? Eating a good healthy breakfast can help regulate your appetite throughout the day. Breakfast can help you eat in moderation at lunch and dinner. Also, research indicates that a high-fiber, low-fat breakfast may make a major contribution to a total reduced fat intake for the day.

If you have a hard time facing food first thing in the morning, start with eating a light breakfast, such as a piece of toast or fruit. Pack a breakfast or snack to take with you so you can eat once you do get hungry.

Eating a nutritious breakfast gets you off to a healthy start each morning. You will feel and perform your best. If you are not a breakfast eater, start slowly and introduce at least one food every morning, such as a glass of juice or a low-fat yogurt. Then work your way up to a little bit more of a substantial breakfast. Here are some quick breakfast meals to help you get started:

  • Cold cereal with fruit and skim milk
  • Yogurt with fruit or low-fat granola cereal
  • Peanut butter on a whole-wheat bagel and orange juice
  • Bran muffin and a banana
  • Instant oatmeal with raisins or berries
  • Breakfast smoothie (blend fruit and skim milk)
  • Hard-boiled egg and grapefruit juice
  • Cottage cheese and peaches
Essential: It does matter what foods you eat at breakfast. Eating high-sugar foods, such as doughnuts or sugary cereals, will cause a quick rise in your blood sugar, resulting in a temporary energy surge. After about an hour, your blood sugar will decline and bring on symptoms of hunger. When you eat a well-balanced breakfast, your body gets a sustained release of energy and delays symptoms of hunger for several hours by maintaining your blood sugar levels.

Don't Skip Meals
You need to fuel your body throughout the day with nutritious foods for optimal energy and performance. Skipping meals can have numerous negative effects on your healthy lifestyle. Skipping meals can make you so hungry that you overeat at your next eating opportunity. Not only will you probably overeat at the next meal, but chances are you won't eat as healthily either. Skipping meals can affect your productivity, concentration, and energy level throughout the day. Finally, skipping meals increases the chance that you will not consume all of your needed servings from the Food Guide Pyramid. So make time and even schedule eating opportunities throughout the day.

Not having time does not mean you have to give up on eating a healthy diet. Your time is precious, so try some of these tips to help you save time yet not miss meals:

  • When you do have time to cook, make double and triple batches and store them in the freezer. For example, if you are making spaghetti, make an extra batch of sauce and freeze it.
  • If you have days off during the week or are free on weekends, do some of your prep work for the week and freeze it. Cook and cut up chicken for a casserole and store it in individual meal containers for quick thawing during the week.
  • Stock your kitchen with quick-fix foods such as frozen vegetables, lean burgers, salsa (great mixed with rice or to top chicken breasts), salad ingredients, pasta, and rice.
  • Use quick cooking methods such as grilling, microwaving, or stir-frying.
  • Use a slow cooker. Put your meal in before you leave for work, and come home to a hot cooked meal.
  • Prepare meals that pack a variety of food groups into one dish, such as casseroles or one-pan dishes.
  • Buy prepared foods to help you save time, such as precut stir-fry vegetables, low-fat grated cheese, skinless chicken strips, washed spinach, and frozen chopped onions.


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Copyright © 2002 by Kimberly A. Tessmer. Excerpted from The Everything Nutrition Book: Boost Energy, Prevent Illness, and Live Longer with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

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