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Nutrition and You!

Why We All Need to Rise and Dine

This is the first part of a three-part, Back-To-School series, focusing on the benefits and strategies for eating a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner for busy folks and families. This week focuses on why we all need to rise and dine.

For Phyllis McCourty, making sure her identical twins had a healthy breakfast each morning before school was a top priority. ďBreakfast is the most important meal of the day so I made sure that my boys started each day off with healthy foods they liked: cereal, milk, and fruit,Ē claimed Mama McCourty.

Good call.

Years and cases of cereal, fruit, and milk later, Mama McCourty produced not one, but two, current National Football League (NFL) players: Jason McCourty, who plays for the Tennessee Titans and Devin McCourty, who plays for the New England Patriots. Mama McCourty has given a new meaning to the phrase ďthe breakfast of champions.Ē

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While eating a healthy breakfast may not necessarily guarantee that you or your child will land a career in the NFL, it clearly has health benefits. From your brain to your waist, eating a healthy breakfast can help you and everyone in your family in numerous ways.

Research continues to emerge that skipping breakfast can negatively affect alertness, attention, memory, and problem solving for children and young adults in the morning hours.

Children have a higher rate of metabolizing glucose, the fuel that feeds the body, in their brains as compared to adults. This higher rate of using glucose, coupled with their longer nighttime slumber, puts children at a higher risk for depleting their storage of glucose, called glycogen, in their body overnight.

Thus, eating breakfast, or ďbreaking the fastĒ so-to-speak, is physiologically important to provide children with the energy-charged glucose to kick start and fuel their brains. Translation: If your child wants to ace school, acing breakfast may help.

Research also suggests that children who do not eat breakfast are at a higher risk of being overweight. For adults, the evidence is mixed whether or not eating breakfast will help you stay trim. However, what we do know is that eating a healthy breakfast is not associated with being overweight and even may help you better manage your weight. According to the National Weight Control Registry, a common trait among individuals who have successfully maintained their weight loss is that they eat breakfast daily.

Lastly, the quality of the breakfast eaten is also important. A review of over 20 studies suggests that habitually eating a high quality (providing at least 3 different food groups), nutritious breakfast may have a positive effect on a childís academic performance in school. Here is a picture perfect way to visual what this would look like:

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If having breakfast at home is a scheduling nightmare for your child, the National School Breakfast Program is a hidden gem. The program operates similarly to the National School Lunch Program and provides a healthy breakfast at school containing at least three food groups and can be free or purchased at a reduced rated based on the familyís needs.

Because of the healthy habits their mother has instilled in them, both Jason and Devin McCourty have committed some of their off-field time to the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which is the nationís top in-school wellness program. The program created by the National Dairy Council and NFL encourages students to eat healthy and be active and is designed to let students take the lead with the program at school. Fuel Up to Play 60 is offering funds to schools to expand their school breakfast program.

Another good call.

Be well, Joan

On Twitter: @JoanSalgeBlake

Photo courtesy of NFLrush.com

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