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Published October 25, 2010, 12:00 AM

Grab-and-go breakfast: Easy ways to start the day with quick, healthy meals

Turns out all that talk about the importance of breakfast wasn’t just “Big Cereal” propaganda.

Turns out all that talk about the importance of breakfast wasn’t just “Big Cereal” propaganda.

Consumer Reports’ “On Health” publication says it “really is the most important meal of the day.” It cites one study that found eating breakfast to be among the behaviors linked to longevity of life. And, paradoxically enough, it may even help you lose weight.

But between ironing your clothes, rousting the kids out of bed, making coffee, showering, etc., that early morning dose of nutrients can be hard to come by.

Fear not, weary warrior of the morning. Here are a few ways you can get some good-for-you grub down the old gullet before work – or at least get it in a form that you can take with you out the door.

Keep it smooth

A blend of bananas, berries and/or other fruit along with low-fat yogurt gets your day started with a mug full of nutrients, protein and more. And you can add some baby spinach for extra vitamins that hide amid all that fruit.

Plus, since smoothies are pourable, you can take them with you and gulp down en route – just be careful not to get any on your tie.

An exotic twist offered by “On Health” mixes crushed ice, avocado, water, whey powder, papaya and a touch of skim milk. This concoction boasts loads of antioxidants, fiber and protein.

Keep it cool

“On Health” says a great breakfast can be as simple as a bowl of cold cereal, “especially if mixed with low-fat yogurt.” They recommend looking for cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber and no more than 4 grams of sugar. Go for a whole-grain cereal, and there’s no harm in throwing on some fresh fruit.

Beans for breakfast

Linda Bartholomay, a licensed registered dietitian at Sanford Health in Fargo, says that in Texas, beans are a typical breakfast food. So why can’t we do the same here in the Northern Plains?

She suggests a whole-wheat tortilla, refried beans and cheese. It’s a quick roll-and-go option with fiber, protein and whole grain.

Bar-none

The morning meal doesn’t get much easier than breakfast bars, and they’re a whole lot better than nothing. Plus, they’re easy to eat; just rip open the wrapper and start chewing.

But not all bars are created equal. Nutritionally speaking, many of the pre-made bars at the store are a lot like candy, Bartholomay says.

So read the label and go for a bar made primarily with whole grains and that’s on the higher side of the protein scale. Bartholomay says to look for at least 3 grams of fiber.

And if you’ve got the inclination, you can make your own bars. Of course, it takes some time to do it, but when it’s done, you’ve got multiple breakfast servings just waiting to be grabbed and gulped on the run.

Here’s a healthful homemade breakfast bar recipe from the Mayo Clinic:

Mayo Clinic Breakfast Bar

2½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats

½ cup soy flour

½ cup fat-free dry milk

½ cup toasted wheat germ

½ cup sliced (flaked) almonds or chopped pecans, toasted

½ cup dried apples, chopped

½ cup raisins

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup dark honey

½ cup natural unsalted peanut butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with olive oil cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, dry milk, wheat germ, almonds, apples, raisins and salt. Stir well to blend and set aside.

In a small saucepan, stir together the honey, peanut butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until well blended. Don’t let the mixture boil. Stir in the vanilla. Add the warm honey mixture to the dry ingredients and stir quickly until well combined. The mixture should be sticky but not wet.

Pat the mixture evenly into the baking pan. Press firmly to remove any air pockets. Bake just until the edges begin to brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then cut into 24 bars. When just cool enough to handle, remove the bars from the pan and place them on the rack to cool completely. Store the bars in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

Overnight oatmeal

That old standby, the crock pot, can do much more than slow cook a pot roast or beef stew. They can also make your breakfast while you sleep.

There are plenty of recipes for hot cereal dishes that cook overnight. That means you can just scoop, gobble and go in the morning without worrying about prep-time. Here’s an oatmeal recipe from the Food Network:

Slow-cooked oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dried figs

4 cups water

½ cup half-and-half

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and set to low heat. Cover and let cook for 8 to 9 hours.

Stir and remove to serving bowls. This method works best if started before you go to bed. This way your oatmeal will be finished by morning.

The bare bones

Maybe your mornings are so busy that even the above suggestions are too much trouble for you. Keeping it very simple, a banana and low-fat string cheese can be a good start to the day.

There are 3 grams of fiber in the banana and 6 grams of protein in Kraft low-fat string cheese. You may need a snack mid-morning a little later, but this portable breakfast will get you started.


Getting to the ‘core’

Before you can build a healthful breakfast, you have to know how. The venerable Mayo Clinic offers this fourfold “core of a healthy breakfast,” suggesting the breakfast builder try to incorporate two from each group. Examples are included.

  • Whole grains: whole-grain rolls and cereals and whole-grain, low-fat bran muffins.
  • Low-fat protein: hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, lean slices of meat and poultry.
  • Low-fat dairy: skim milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheeses.
  • Fruits and vegetables: fresh fruits/veggies or 100 percent juice beverages.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

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