The Wider Angle | Did you eat your breakfast today?

This week’s article for The Wider Angle comes from my friend Allyson.  With years of education and experience, she has a wealth of knowledge about good nutrition.  She is the one that always orders her dressing on the side, and usually the healthier choice from any restaurant menu.  That’s not to say she doesn’t enjoy a great glass of wine, gourmet appetizers, and a delectable dessert as well, but everything in moderation.  I admire her healthy ways and her consistent exercise routine, and I’ve come to realize in my own “healthy” journey — balance is everything.  Allyson has given me advice about my own nutrition (because I asked, and she really loves to share), and her advice was so helpful to me.  Eat the REAL food, not artificial “diet” food.  Don’t deprive yourself, but learn about the proper portions and make smarter choices.  And, of course, eat breakfast!  I have always known this last bit of advice is important, but have been challenged to do so with my busy child-centered mornings.  It truly makes a difference – and I lost a few pounds just from EATING breakfast every day (a healthy one of course)!

Before you read the article, I wanted to give Allyson a proper introduction.  Many of you know her from when she worked with me (CCJames Photography) – she is a woman of many talents!  Meet Allyson (and that’s her adorable hubby!)

Crystal: Tell us a little about yourself (where you grew up, went to school, family, etc.)
Allyson: I was born in Washington, DC, but spent the majority of my childhood in the Northeast.  We moved around a bit when I was younger, eventually settling in New Fairfield, CT for duration of my school age years.  I attended the University of Connecticut where I studied Nutrition, and eventually moved to Boston to pursue an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Soon after, my relationship with my now-husband, Eric, brought me further south to Northern Virginia/Washington DC, where I got my first job (at the very same hospital where I was born!), attended grad school, and eventually got married.  A job change for Eric brought us to Atlanta with our newborn daughter Sophie, who is now 6. We also have an energetic little boy, Jack, who just turned 4.

Crystal: Why did you decide to go into the field of nutrition?
Allyson: Growing up, my Mom was always into cooking healthy and would try out the latest fads – not necessarily diets, but new trends in so-called “healthy” eating.  I remember when she went through the tofu phase, and we’d have tofu english muffin pizzas for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, she was (and still is) an excellent cook, and her own interest in food and health ultimately inspired me to pursue nutrition as a career.  I appreciate the fact that all along, she struck a good balance between offering healthy meals but also valuing the importance of enjoying food that tastes good.

Crystal: What is your favorite food, movie, book?

Allyson: I’m not the type of person that has just one favorite of anything.  If you asked my kids, they’d probably say my favorite food is salad, since they see me eat it a lot.  Truthfully, ice cream and french fries are at the top of my list.  Everything in moderation, right?  Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally and Pretty Woman definitely top my list of favorite movies, but I also love a good thriller or suspense movie.  Books are tough.  I really enjoy reading a wide variety of genres.   I just finished reading first book in The Hunger Games series for a book club that I attend, which was surprisingly hard to put down. So much so that I’m chomping at the bit to get to the next one. I have a special place in my heart for Good Night Moon, of course, since it reminds me of cuddling up with my kids before bedtime when they were a little younger.

Crystal: What is something most people don’t know about you?
Allyson: We lived in Vermont for several years growing up, and I was fortunate enough to ski almost every weekend during ski season.  My brother and I raced competitively for a few years.  I look on back on that time with such gratitude, since it’s not the type of experience I can offer my own kids right now living in the south.

Here’s one of my favorite pics of Allyson’s family.  Beautiful people, and amazing friends.

Back to Basics with Breakfast

As a dietitian, I repeatedly preach about the importance of starting each day with a healthy breakfast. I’m sure you’ve all heard it before. Research has proven that breakfast eaters have an easier time controlling their weight and concentrating at work or school. Breakfast is the first opportunity in each of our days to refuel and jump start our metabolism, providing us with energy to function, all the while allowing our bodies to burn fuel more efficiently all day long. By starting the day with a proper meal, we are also settings ourselves up to have more control over our eating throughout the day. And remember, the type of “fuel” you choose, does make a difference. A Dunkin’ Donut and a cup of coffee just won’t cut it!

As a Mom with two young children, I now realize that eating breakfast is often a whole lot easier said than done. Mornings at my house are extremely hurried (sleep trumps pretty much everything). You’d think that a dietitian would surely not have this challenge. Don’t get me wrong – my kids are certainly eating a healthy breakfast each and every morning. But, as it often is with us Moms, I have lately ended up giving myself the short end of the stick and find myself rushing around, grabbing whatever happens to be lying around, and never taking the time to allow myself to sit down and fill up my gas tank properly. Granted, I’m usually grabbing healthy things, but it’s not that same as having an actual meal.

Like so many other aspects of healthy eating, whether your goal is to lose weight, fuel your body for a marathon, or put a healthy meal on the table for your family, it all comes down to one word. PLANNING! Knowing what to eat is certainly part of this, but having the right food on hand and planning ahead is the only way to true success.

I thought it’d be helpful (for you AND me) to make a list of some healthy, not too time consuming breakfasts, that will jump start your day without a whole lot of effort.  All of these choices combine lean protein with whole grain carbohydrates, which together provide a satisfying, healthy meal that stays with you longer. Fiber provides bulk and also takes longer to digest than low-fiber alternatives, while protein works to slow down digestion of carbs even more, staving off hunger until your next meal or snack.

  • High-fiber cereal (like Kashi Go lean or Total) with fat-free or lowfat milk and fresh fruit. Look for the words “whole grain” or “whole wheat” as the first ingredient on cereal boxes
  • Peanut butter and sliced banana on a whole wheat waffle or English muffin
  • Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs (or egg whites) with a “mini” whole wheat bagel
  • Low-fat yogurt and a whole grain granola bar (such as Nature Valley) and fresh fruit
  • A banana and a small handful of peanuts or almonds
  • Grande non-fat or 1% latte and a whole grain granola bar
  • Part-skim mozzarella cheese stick and an apple

So if you find yourself in a breakfast rut like I have lately, make a list, head to the store and start eating a healthy breakfast!

To get more advice from Allyson, you can call or email her directly.

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by Crystal

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Sandy Wheeler - That’s my “FAV” – love her and miss her!

Brenda Plaugher - Thanks for the reminder. I tell myself everyday and everyday it’s been a struggle! I’ll refer back when I need the push.

Crystal – I love the articles!

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