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Healthy holidays start with good breakfasts

By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- People use many strategies to prevent weight gain, but starting the day with a good breakfast is an important part of keeping off the holiday pounds.

Carol Ball, a Family Nutrition Program registered dietitian with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said breakfast is one of the most important parts of the day.

“Some people think they should skip breakfast to cut back on their calorie intake for the day so they can lose weight, but they’re not making the right choice,” Ball said. “Research has shown that breakfast-eaters have healthier weights and less risk of being overweight than people who skip breakfast.”

Breakfasts are important for at least two reasons. As its name suggests, this meal breaks the body’s overnight fast, boosting the body’s metabolism so it can burn more calories. Breakfast is also an important time to consume some of the nutrients the body needs, and skipping breakfast may prevent the body from getting important fiber and nutrients.

Free time is limited during the holidays, and one way to save some time is to eat breakfast on the run or pick it up at a restaurant drive-through. Ball said these may not be the best options.

“You don’t have to stop and cook an elaborate meal to have a good breakfast,” Ball said. “There are a lot of good, portable breakfasts you can fix for yourself. Consider a banana with some peanut butter, a pack of peanuts and an apple, cheese and crackers or a boiled egg and some toast.”

Cereal is another good, quick breakfast, but Ball encouraged shoppers to read the label information before buying a cereal.

“Some cereal manufacturers are trying to make cereals healthier by decreasing sugar and increasing fiber,” Ball said. “To be sure you’re making a healthy choice, read the cereal’s ingredient listing to look for a whole grain, such as whole oats or whole wheat, as the first ingredient.”

Although there is no sugar recommendation for every person, a moderate sugar intake can be part of a healthy diet. Ball said those whose favorite cereal has a high sugar content should compare it to other cereals and try to find one they like that is made with less sugar.

“Also, look at the portion size because your portion size and the one on the box may be two different things,” Ball said.

Dawn Vosbein, a registered dietitian and Extension nutrition and food safety area agent in Pearl River County, said the average weight gain at the holidays is about 5 pounds.

“It’s not inevitable that a person will gain weight over the holidays,” Vosbein said. “An active social life can make it difficult, but you do have to limit your food intake at parties.”

She agreed that eating a healthy breakfast is very important during the holidays, as skipping any meal can lead a person to snack when they get hungry. Not only are many snacks high in fat, sugar and calories, but it can be hard to monitor portions, making it easy to overeat.

Vosbein offered a few other tips to combat weight gain while enjoying the holidays.

“Stay with your normal exercise routine and take a walk after a big meal,” Vosbein said.  “When eating from a buffet, only pick up and put on your plate unusual things that you do not get to eat every day.”


Released: Nov. 5, 2009
Contact: Carol Ball, (662) 325-1763