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Prairie Fare: Nourish Your Body and Brain With Breakfast

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Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Does your stomach ever talk to you? Maybe it politely gurgles the message, “Please send a little food this way.” If you ignore the hint, the rumble may grow louder. Your stomach soon may grumble, “Feed me now!”

Perhaps you skipped breakfast and your stomach starts scolding you midmorning. Your stomach is not too shy to growl loudly right in the middle of an important meeting.

When our stomachs are running on empty, we may feel tired and unable to focus on our tasks. Our brain doesn’t function well, either. Refueling your body and brain with nourishing food has many benefits for people of all ages.

The school year is just beginning and families are re-establishing a morning schedule. Parents should remember the role of breakfast in school performance. If there’s not enough time to eat at home, many schools have a breakfast program.

Eating “something” is better than eating nothing. However, researchers have found that certain foods keep us energized longer.

Perhaps your mom or dad insisted that you eat your oatmeal when you were a child. As we learn with age, parents usually are right. A fairly recent study backs up the idea of enjoying more oatmeal.

Researchers studied the role of breakfast composition on the ability of children to learn and pay attention, according to a 2005 study published in Physiology and Behavior.

For three weeks, 30 children ages 9 to 11 had no breakfast, or had ready-to-eat (low-fiber) cereal or oatmeal. The children completed a variety of tests that assessed their ability to listen, think and remember.

In general, the children who had oatmeal had improved memory and better listening skills. Oatmeal is higher in protein and fiber content than many ready-to-eat cereals, providing a more sustained release of energy throughout the morning.

Fuel your body and brain with nourishing food every morning. Add variety to your diet by choosing foods from three or four different food groups, such as a grain, meat, fruit and milk.

Have some protein. Research shows that people who eat a protein-containing breakfast perform better on tests involving thinking and concentration. For example, having a glass of milk, container of yogurt, piece of cheese, peanut butter on your toast or a hard-cooked egg all will add protein.

Choose cereal wisely. When shopping, look high on the shelves instead of at eye level or lower, where the kids cereals often are placed. Read the Nutrition Facts labels carefully. Compare fiber, sugar content, vitamins and minerals.

Choose whole-grain cereals and whole-grain breads more often. To select whole-grain foods, check the first couple of items on the ingredient list. For example, look for oatmeal, whole wheat or whole grain. Look for a health claim on the package.

Try these sample breakfast menus:

  • Oatmeal with raisins and low-fat milk
  • Whole-grain cereal with sliced bananas and milk
  • Peanut butter on whole-wheat toast, apple slices and low-fat milk
  • Minipizzas made with English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese, Canadian bacon or other toppings and orange juice
  • Scrambled eggs, whole-wheat toast, orange slices and low-fat milk
  • Leftover pizza, sliced cantaloupe and low-fat milk
  • Scrambled eggs with salsa wrapped in tortillas, sliced peaches and low-fat milk

Here’s a recipe featuring appetite-taming oatmeal and antioxidant-rich blueberries. According to some studies, berries may play a role in improving memory, too.

Oatmeal Blueberry Blast

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole dish. In a bowl, combine these dry ingredients:

3 cups old-fashioned (not instant) oatmeal (uncooked)

1/4. c. brown sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

In a separate bowl, mix these ingredients:

2 c. milk (low-fat or nonfat)

1/4 c. canola or sunflower oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/3 c. applesauce

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined. Pour into casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes, uncovered.

After baking, remove from oven and fold in:

2 c. fresh, canned (drained) or frozen blueberries (or other berries). Bake (uncovered) for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Top with low-fat or nonfat vanilla or fruit-flavored yogurt.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 300 calories, 10 grams (g) of fat, 43 g of carbohydrate, 5 g of fiber and 190 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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