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VOL. 37 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 26, 2013

A healthier breakfast option

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Breakfast is the healthiest and best meal of the day, but if you stopped and asked the people around you if they eat breakfast, I’ll bet half of them don’t.

Hubby and I hardly ever ate breakfast when we were younger. Now, due to health reasons, we are now pretty consistent with eating a healthy breakfast every morning.

I usually prepare boiled eggs and half of a toasted English muffin with some honey on it, along with a few orange segments or a banana - something I dubbed “Sunshine on a Plate”.

At least that’s what I’d name it were I writing a menu. It isn’t a lot, but it is healthy, and it gets our metabolism jump-started.

Many people who exercise heavily in the morning claim they can’t eat before they go to exercise. I understand that and used to be the same way.

I used to run a few miles every morning, and I would do it before anyone else in the house had awakened. If the kids happened to get up before I left, then my run was scrapped until later in the evening.

Starting a workout routine when you first wake up of a morning, without having put any “energy” in your system, can set you up for a less-than-perfect workout. Our bodies need a nutritional boost before we put it to the test.

Some people (i.e. mothers, who have to get ready for work, prepare lunches, feed kids, get them to the bus or drive them to day care or school) find themselves so ravenous after such an active morning that they frequent fast food joints on their way to work.

I love McDonald’s Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit, and I’m guilty of that very thing.

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

1 1/2 cups of Egg Beaters Egg Substitute

1 cup of skim milk

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of fresh Rosemary

1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper

5 cups of spinach, wilted*

5 slices of whole-grain bread

5 ounces of ham steak, trimmed of fat

1/2 cups of sweet red peppers, roasted

3/4 cups of Gruyere cheese, shredded

Preheat your oven to 375° degrees. Coat a 7x11-inch glass baking dish or a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk the egg substitute and the milk. Add the mustard, rosemary and pepper, and then whisk to combine. Add the spinach, bread, ham and roasted peppers. Stir together well. Transfer to the baking dish and push down to compact. Cover with foil. Bake until the custard has set, about 40-45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese, and continue baking until it’s puffed and golden on top, about 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

*To wilt the spinach, rinse thoroughly with cool water. Place it in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap; punch several holes in the wrap. Microwave on high for two to three minutes. Squeeze out the excess moisture before adding to recipe.

WARNING: If you don’t want to know the non-nutritional value of a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, then don’t read this paragraph! One of those yummy, drenched-in-butter biscuits has 420 calories, 23 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 235 milligrams of cholesterol, and 1,160 milligrams of sodium.

At Sonic, a sausage, egg and cheese burrito has 470 calories, 30 grams of fat, 325 milligrams of cholesterol (or 108 percent of the RDA), and 1,040 milligrams of sodium. Ouch!

In other words, it’s quick, easy and tastes great, but it’s not so great for your blood pressure, heart or weight. In my opinion, the health risks far outweigh the “convenience.”

According to the American Heart Association, we should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, so that means that you have eaten nearly half of your daily sodium allowance in one little biscuit, or one breakfast burrito.

There’s not even room to discuss the fat and cholesterol content of each, but one thing I can say – it ain’t pretty. However, both of the above establishments are striving to offer healthier menus.

Don’t get me wrong – I eat McDonalds’ bacon egg and cheese biscuits. I love them. I visit McDonalds maybe every other month. However, I’m older, and less active, as far as exercises goes, so I have to be more cautious with how I eat.

One thing I have found that is not hard to squeeze in the morning is a bowl of cereal with a handful of berries - even when you’re busy. If nothing else, throw some cereal and fruit in a bag and carry it with you.

Fill up that thermal, lidded coffee cup with milk and nibble on your breakfast when you get to your desk.

There are several ways you can fill the breakfast void if you just get creative and think ahead. Do it for your heart. For your future!

For all of those weekend mornings when you want to do something special for your family, here’s a great heart-healthy breakfast casserole that won’t blow anyone’s diet.

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