It's easy to make a good start to the day Breakfast: More Americans are skipping the first meal, but they're also skipping some important benefits, nutritionists say.


The American breakfast is getting more healthful, but fewer Americans are bothering to eat it.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows that the classic American breakfast of bacon, eggs, whole milk, white toast and butter is becoming rare. Taking its place is a breakfast of whole-grain breads and high-fiber, ready-to-eat cereals.

But the same study showed that 25 percent of adults don't eat breakfast at all, compared with 14 percent in 1961.

"That [old-fashioned] breakfast requires preparation," said Doris Derelian, a nutritionist and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "The 1990s family has so much activity that has to be crammed into a day that something has to be given up. So, breakfast-eating is sacrificed."

The decline in breakfast-eating comes in the face of mounting evidence showing the benefits of a morning meal. Studies reveal that school attendance and classroom performance improve when children eat breakfast. And nutritionists say that adults perform better, eat more healthful meals later in the day and stay on their diets when they eat breakfast.

"If you don't eat, you're going to feel tired, slow and sluggish," said Derelian, "and you're going to feel incredibly hungry. In adults, you're going to get headaches, irritability and maybe some trembling. In kids, it absolutely interferes with their learning."

One study conducted by Ernesto Pollitt of the University of California, Davis, took 9- to 11-year-old children and gave half of them a 535-calorie breakfast of waffles, syrup, margarine, orange juice and milk at 7 a.m. The other half got a noncaloric, noncaffeinated drink. At 11: 30 a.m., the children were given a series of tests. After a week, the group that was given breakfast was given the drink, and vice versa.

Pollitt found that children who got breakfast committed fewer errors. He conducted a similar test, giving children a breakfast of milk, cereal with sugar, egg, juice and toast, and found that the ones who ate the breakfast had fewer arithmetic errors in tests.

"Give it to them," Pollitt said in a phone interview when asked about breakfast. Although his studies show improvements only in specific tasks performed by specific groups of children, he said, the body of evidence is clear. "If the child has breakfast, you will be sure that the probabilities of operating at a higher level will be greater, no doubt about it."

However, it's younger people who are increasingly turning their backs on breakfast. Today, 12 percent of schoolchildren do not eat any meal until lunch, according to the American Dietetic Association.

The effect of breakfast on adult performance has been more difficult to measure, said Derelian, who is a past president of the American Dietetic Association. Adults don't take standardized tests or perform comparable tasks.

"As an adult, the evidence is not clear," said Derelian. She admits that some adults can "habituate themselves to not having breakfast," but she still advocates a morning meal, especially for women, who routinely give up breakfast in the name of weight loss.

"American women believe that skipping breakfast is a weight-control behavior," she said. "Obviously, if the adult woman in the household does that, the children, particularly the young girls, are going to do the same thing."

Pamela Haines, co-author of the Chapel Hill study on adult breakfast patterns, is a specialist on diets of women from young to old. "Skipping breakfast is very clearly a weight-control mechanism among young women," she said. "For them, anything to do with gaining weight is abhorrent."

The growing trend toward younger women's dieting may be the reason so many are skipping breakfast, she said.

"Bad idea," said Sheah Rarback, a nutritionist and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Just because you want to lose weight doesn't mean you want to lose nutrition."

High-fiber cereal with skim milk is a good way to get nutrients and is low in calories, Rarback said.

"Eating breakfast does not sabotage a weight-loss plan," she added. "In fact, it's just the opposite. When you're hungry, you make poor food choices. By having breakfast, you're not going to give in to that 10 a.m. temptation of eating whatever is around."

The next two recipes are from "Betty Crocker's New Eat and Lose Weight" (Macmillan, $21.95).

Lemon-poppy seed scones

Makes 8 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1/3 cup stick margarine

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cup milk

sugar for dusting, if desired

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, 1/4 cup sugar and the poppy seeds in a large bowl. Cut in margarine, using pastry blender or crisscrossing two knives, until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Mix lemon juice and milk; stir into flour mixture until dough leaves side of bowl and forms a ball.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; gently roll in flour to coat. Knead lightly 10 times. Roll or pat into 9-inch circle. Sprinkle with sugar. Cut into 8 wedges. Place on cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm.

Per serving: 210 calories, 8 g fat, no cholesterol, 4 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates and 360 mg sodium.

Wake-up shake

Makes 2 (1-cup) servings

1 cup vanilla fat-free yogurt

1/2 cup frozen berries (such as raspberries or blueberries)

1/4 cup orange juice

1 medium banana, cut into chunks

Place all ingredients in blender. Cover and blend on high speed about 30 seconds, or until smooth. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 215 calories, 1 g fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 49 g carbohydrate and 55 mg sodium.

This recipe is from "Jane Fonda: Cooking for Healthy Living" (Turner Publishing, $29.95).

Apple raisin oatmeal

Makes 4 servings

2 1/2 cups apple cider or apple juice

1/4 cup raisins

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cider or juice to a boil. Stir in raisins, apple and cinnamon, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the oats, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed and the oats are creamy, about 6 minutes.

To serve, divide among 4 individual bowls. Top each with equal amounts of yogurt and nutmeg.

Per serving: 225 calories, 3 g fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 55 g carbohydrates and 29 mg sodium.

This recipe is from "Great Tastes: Healthy Cooking From Canyon Ranch" (Canyon Ranch, $25).

Alpine muesli

Makes 8 (1-cup) servings

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1 cup skim milk

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

1 cup orange juice

1/3 cup ground hazelnuts

1/4 cup fructose (or honey)

1 pound apples (about 1 1/2 medium-size apples)

1 pound finely chopped mixed fresh fruit (about 1 peach, 3 apricots, and 1/4 honeydew)

In large bowl, combine oats, skim milk and yogurt. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften oats.

Add orange juice, ground nuts and fructose or honey to oat mixture. Stir thoroughly.

Grate apple and stir into mixture immediately to prevent the apple from browning. Stir in chopped fruit. Serve chilled.

Per serving: 200 calories, 4 g fat, trace of cholesterol, 5 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates and 29 mg sodium.

The next recipe was developed by Canyon Ranch.

Pear crumble

Makes 8 servings

4 cups thinly sliced pears, about 3 average sized

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup thawed, unsweetened apple juice concentrate

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup dry oats

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange peel, orange part only

1 teaspoon thawed orange juice concentrate

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

dash nutmeg

4 tablespoons melted margarine

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Spray an 8-by-8-inch pan that is 2 inches deep lightly with nonstick vegetable coating and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine pears, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and apple juice concentrate and toss until pears are well-coated. Pour into prepared pan and set aside.

In another bowl, combine remaining flour, oats, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, orange peel, juice and spices. Gradually stir in melted margarine and mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over fruit.

Bake 30 minutes or until topping is lightly browned.

Per serving: 200 calories, 6 g fat, no cholesterol, 3 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates and 182 mg sodium.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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