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Vegetables for breakfast


Kathy Kolasa


Kathy Kolasa

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Q I am trying to get more vegetables into my meals but still am struggling to make my goal. Got any suggestions? W.L., Winterville

A Congratulations on your efforts to improve your vegetable intake. As it happens, Kara Massotti, a new Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with ECU Family Medicine, just did a wonderful food demonstration for a weight management program. Here is what she shared with the class about vegetables for breakfast.

Have you ever made half your plate vegetables at breakfast time? When following a general, healthy diet or a well-balanced diet for weight management, it is a good rule of thumb to follow the basic plate method at every meal time, that is: make half your plate full of non-starchy vegetables, one quarter of your plate grains or starches and one quarter of your plate a protein.

Non-starchy vegetables — such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, collards, kale, mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, squash or tomatoes — are vegetables that are very low in carbohydrates. Grains or starches include items such as breads, crackers, cereals, rice, pastas, grits and starchy vegetables such as beans, corn, peas, and all kinds of potatoes. Proteins include items such as meats, fish, cheese, eggs and tofu.

We don’t typically think to eat vegetables at breakfast time because we think of them as lunch or dinner foods. But who says you can’t have vegetables any time of the day? I say you can and should! One way is to make a vegetable egg scramble. Scramble your eggs and mix in any variety of cooked, non-starchy vegetables. If you prefer your eggs over-easy or hard boiled, sauté vegetables in a non-stick cooking spray and serve them on the side. Incorporating non-starchy vegetables into your breakfast and striving to make half of your breakfast colorful with different vegetables will provide you many nutrients you wouldn’t be getting otherwise.

Eating a breakfast such as a doughnut has a very low nutritional value that won’t benefit our bodies’ nutritional needs. Doughnuts may range anywhere from 200 to 450 calories each, due to the substantial amount of sugar and fat. Eating them every day might make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Remember most people following a 2,000 calorie a day diet will want to limit breakfast to about 500 calories.

Some of you may be thinking what about a green smoothie for breakfast? Smoothies can be nutritious for our bodies, but they also can be very high in calories. It all depends on which ingredients. If adding milk or yogurt, choose a non-fat type to keep the calories low. Making green smoothies with non-starchy vegetables such as spinach or kale will not contribute many calories while some fruits such as bananas, mangoes and avocados are high in calories even though they provide our bodies with great nutrients we need daily. Also avoid using canned or frozen fruits that are preserved in syrup because that is sugar. Make sure you look at the calories of smoothies you buy from a fast food restaurant. They might be made from fruits or juices that have lots of sugar and may use full-fat milk and yogurt.

Vegetables are very nutrient dense, providing you with a variety of vitamins and minerals. For example, spinach is a good source of vitamins A, B, C and K, folate, calcium and magnesium. Adding tomatoes to your diet can provide you with a good source of vitamins A, C, E and K, calcium, magnesium and potassium. By adding vegetables to your breakfast, you can increase the volume of your breakfast without greatly increasing the calorie content. This will allow you to feel more full and satisfied while consuming fewer calories than in breakfasts of doughnuts, cereals, breads and bagels.

Vegetables also contain fiber. One of our colleagues likes to say you need two types of fiber — “plumpers” and “plungers.” The “plumpers” (really called soluble fibers) are the ones that help you feel full, and if eaten regularly keeps your blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels low. The “plungers” (or insoluble fibers) help with the movement of food through the digestive system and increase stool bulk allowing it to help normalize bowel movements.

Virtually every nutrition expert agrees that a diet rich in vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney stones and some cancers. Proper nutrition also decreases bone loss and for women in the child-bearing years and is helpful in preventing birth defects in their unborn children.

For more information about nutrition counseling and/​or weight management services at ECU Family Medicine, call 744-4611.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact at kolasaka@ecu.edu.


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