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Listen, I’ve been there. PT at 0630. Don’t get back to your room until 0800. Formation at 0900 and you feel there’s no time for breakfast. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a chance to stop by the convenience store for a donut and something to drink on the way to work. By lunch time, you’re starving—ordering half the menu at a fast food place and polishing off an extra large pizza by yourself after work.

Remember when your parents told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? Well, they weren’t kidding. Studies show that people who eat breakfast regularly are almost half as likely to be obese than their non-breakfast-eating counterparts, and less likely to develop chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes or heart disease. In a study published in the April 1999 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers looked at what 1,108 French volunteers consumed for their morning meal. They found that people who ate a hearty breakfast containing more than one-quarter of their daily calories consumed less fat and more energy-producing carbohydrates throughout the day than those who skipped breakfast. Breakfast eaters also had a higher intake of essential vitamins and minerals and generally had lower serum cholesterol levels, which are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. So how is it that you can be healthier by eating more? It turns out that people who eat more frequently throughout the day don’t feel as hungry and are therefore less likely to make bad decisions later on.

So what I’m saying is, in order to weigh less, you should actually eat more! Breakfast is your body’s way to “break” the “fast” from dinner to lunch, and skipping it can make your body think it’s starving, which will result in your metabolism slowing down and your body storing more fat. Eating breakfast also has a ton of other benefits, including improved energy, better mood, better physical performance, and increased attention span.

But what if I just don’t have time to sit down to breakfast in the morning? Well, here’s a list of things you can do to make sure you get in that first meal:

Prepare the night before:

Plan what you’re going to have for breakfast the next day. It doesn’t have to be fancy - a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread only takes a few minutes to prepare and you can stash it in the refrigerator for the morning.

Get a quick fix:

Instant oatmeal only takes a minute in the microwave and is full of fiber and B-vitamins, which your body needs for energy. Have a blender? Throw in some frozen fruit with some ice and vanilla protein powder for a muscle-building, antioxidant-rich breakfast.

Grab ‘n go:

Only have time to stop by the convenience store on the way to work? Pass up on the high-fat pastries and grab a granola bar, banana, and a bottle of low-fat milk.

Chow hall choices:

If you get a chance to stop by the dining facility, grab a “to-go” box and order up some scrambled egg whites and pick up a few pieces of whole wheat bread with some shredded cheese. Now you’ve got yourself a nutritious egg sandwich for breakfast.

Some people just don’t feel hungry at breakfast time, and that’s okay. By following these tips, you can at least ensure that you have something healthy waiting for you when you do decide to eat. And remember, quality counts too. Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat milk and cheese are essential to any healthy diet. Make sure to stock your pantry and refrigerator with whole wheat bread, nuts and seeds, granola, yogurt, and eggs or egg substitutes. Forego the pre-baked toaster pastries and energy drinks; go with the healthy options - your body and your chain of command will thank you.

So don’t forget to eat breakfast and use these healthy tips. Your country depends on you. For more information, contact your friendly Outpatient Nutrition Services office at 301-295-4065 for an appointment with a registered dietitian.