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Start Every Day With a Full Tank

Nutrition: Fewer people are eating breakfast, a survey shows. So the American Dietetic Assn. developed some tasty suggestions to get kids and parents back on track.

July 18, 1996|COLLEEN PIERRE | THE BALTIMORE SUN

Breakfast is getting more nutritious, but fewer people are taking advantage of it, according to a breakfast trends analysis published recently in the Journal of the

Here's the good news. Consumption of low-fat milk, whole grain bread, high-fiber cereal, fruit and juice is up in the '90s compared with the '60s. Consumption of whole milk, bacon, eggs, white bread, low-fiber cereal, butter and margarine is down for the same period.

Now here's the bad news. Those with more than a high school education were more likely to eat breakfast in the '60s, and they still are in the '90s. So the big jump in college education from 17% in the '60s to 45% in the '90s should have produced more breakfast eaters. Not so. Breakfast eating has declined from 86% to 75% of U.S. adults.

Folks slightly more likely to eat breakfast include those with higher incomes and higher education and those living in the South, as well as those who are older. In fact, at each decade, likelihood of eating breakfast increases. People who are obese, those living in urban and suburban areas, those in the Northeast and African Americans are a little less likely to eat breakfast.

Improved breakfast quality could bode well for the future health of those who take the trouble to eat it. Foods on the increase are those most likely to reduce risks for heart disease and cancer. But more and more people are missing out on all those fruits, juices and whole grains.

And the researchers suggest that adults who don't eat breakfast may reflect habits developed in childhood.

If so, does this mean that no-breakfast adults are passing that habit along to their kids? For them, skipping breakfast can mean poor school performance, inability to concentrate and inappropriate behavior, as well as greater health risks in later life.

The American Dietetic Assn.'s recent child health and nutrition campaign suggests three ways to improve kids' health and well-being that will, coincidentally, improve your own:

Be sure kids eat breakfast daily.

Help kids get physically active.

Be a role model; eat breakfast and exercise yourself, so kids can see that it's fun and a grown-up thing to do.

If you're not a breakfast eater, the association's suggestions for kids are great for adults too. You might want to post this list on your refrigerator as a reminder.

Every day, offer a variety of healthful foods from which you and your child can choose, including:

* Ready-to-eat cereals. They are quick, easy and a low-fat source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Select five or six good ones to keep around, and let kids mix and match their favorites.

* Milk, yogurt or other dairy products.

* One or more grain products. Include whole-grain bread, bagels, rice cakes, tortillas, low-fat muffins and breads made with fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Serve with jam, jelly, peanut or apple butter or low-fat cream cheese.

* Daily specials. Based on the time available, have toaster waffles, pancakes or French toast, hot cereal, a breakfast burrito or eggs. Limit eggs to three or four a week.

* "Unbreakfast" foods--rice, tapioca or noodle pudding, peanut butter and jelly on a tortilla, cereal cookies, English muffin pizza, grilled cheese sandwich, baked potato, soup, fruit salad or leftover chicken. It's not what you eat but when you eat it that makes it breakfast.

Few of us would expect a car with an empty gas tank to get us through the morning's travels. The same goes for your body. Make sure you and your kids are fueled up for a high performance good-health day.

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