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Breakfast Fact vs. Fiction: Do You Know the Difference?

What are your best breakfast options? Skolnik sifts through loads of info to get you the right answers. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Skolnik)

Written by Carrie Stevens, editorial intern

Did you eat breakfast this morning? Of course you did. So here’s a better question: what exactly did you eat?  Thanks to low-carb crazes and high-cholesterol concerns, it can be difficult to make a morning meal decision that leaves you not only feeling full, but energized and ready for the day. To debunk some of the most popular myths, we turned to nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, owner of Nutrition Conditioning, Inc. Can you separate fact from fiction?

Why are there so many misconceptions about healthy breakfast options? I think we’re just bombarded with information. Nutrition is such a popular topic, and everyone is interested in it.  But we get information from all different kinds of places; it’s hard to sift through it and figure out what’s credible and solid and what isn’t.

What’s one of the biggest myths you continually set straight? “I’m going to save my calories for later. I don’t like to eat breakfast because I can control myself in the morning, and then I can save those calories and eat them at dinner.” That really sabotages anyone who’s trying to lose weight. We know breakfast skippers have higher BMIs (body mass index) than breakfast eaters. When you skip breakfast, you’re way more likely to overeat later. Of course you get hungry later, but you can eat and be satisfied as opposed to eat dinner and raid the refrigerator for the rest of the evening. It’s hard for people to put together that what they eat in the morning affects their appetite at night, but that connection exists.

With that being said, what are some of the healthiest breakfast options? The very most basic guideline is to include a whole grain, a protein, and a whole fruit or 100 percent fruit juice. An example of that would be a breakfast sandwich: go ahead and get an English muffin with egg and eight ounces of 100 percent Florida Orange Juice, which will give you vitamin C, potassium, folate, phytonutrients - all of those wonderfully occurring nutrients in oranges.  Or you can make yourself a yogurt parfait. I happen to like Greek yogurt because it’s high in protein. Add some fruit, granola and some healthy nuts on top.

What are the best on-the-go choices? If you’re commuting, a whole-wheat pita with some peanut butter and sliced banana is really easy to take and go. You can eat it in the subway, on a train, in a taxi, on a bus - however you commute. Or, if you’re one of those who can’t get it together until work, then keep instant oatmeal at your desk and pair that with some yogurt and juice for a more balanced meal.

Since we’re talking about breakfast foods, we have to ask: what’s your take on eggs? Eggs are good for you! Eggs at 70 calories per egg is a great protein source. It’s a slow-digesting protein, which is one of the reasons why you feel satisfied for longer. And there are great nutrients in that yolk: there’s choline, which is really healthy for brain health, and lutein, which is very important for your eyes.

A lot of people are concerned that eating carbs at breakfast can lead to weight gain. Is that the case? It’s all about portion. When you wake up, your blood sugar is low because over the course of the night your metabolism was still working: your heart was pumping, and your lungs, liver, kidneys and brain were working. You had to feed that some way, and you used your blood sugar and some liver glycogen, which is a stored carbohydrate in your liver. When you wake up in the morning, the idea is to have some carbs to bring your blood sugar back up and restock your liver.  And that’s one of the reasons why when you have breakfast you can concentrate better and generally have a better mood and outlook. The amount of carbohydrates is based on how active you are:  the more active you are, the more carbohydrates you can have. If you’re not active, you don’t need very much, but it’s OK to have some.

Another somewhat controversial breakfast item is orange juice.  Why do you recommend having a glass at breakfast? Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. There are a lot of calcium-fortified orange juices, which is a wonderful way to get in your calcium, especially if you’re not taking in dairy. The reality is the majority of Americans do not meet the US Dietary Guidelines for taking in fruit; eight ounces of orange juice is a really good way to help meet those goals. And you don’t have to just have orange juice in the morning; you can have it anytime. And you can get vitamin C in different ways - you might have it through broccoli or tomatoes, or you can use orange juice in your cooking and incorporate it in other ways.

More from FITNESS: Eat Carbs For Breakfast No More Excuses: Breakfast Recipes for Every Morning Easy, Healthy Breakfasts Under 300 Calories