As a business strategy, breakfast is becoming the most important meal of the day for more restaurants.
Fast-food eateries and corner coffee shops are in hot pursuit of early birds with an appetite for spending money on breakfast away from home.
According to the NPD Group, about 14 percent of Americans eat breakfast away from home. But restaurants want even more folks to order breakfast out, and they have their eyes on the 31 million people who skip breakfast. The biggest “skippers” are males ages 18 to 34 — nearly one-third of these guys ignore the morning meal. Women older than 55 are the least likely to skip breakfast.
Breakfast serves a vital function. Eating in the a.m. fuels your brain and your muscles, making it less likely you’ll succumb to midmorning munchies or a huge lunch.
Joanne Lichten, a dietitian, said the best breakfasts contain fiber and protein.
“I’d go for the oatmeal and some scrambled eggs and fresh fruit,” she said. “But you could opt for Greek yogurt, a sprinkling of nuts and fresh fruit.” Simply drinking a cup of fat-free milk or adding it to cereal or a coffee latte provides 8 grams of protein.
Some even say we should prioritize the morning meal by eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. But, Lichten said, “How many of us eat dinner like a pauper?” In her new book, “Dr. Jo’s Eat Out Healthy” (Nutrifit Publishing, $19.95), she reveals the fat trap with big breakfasts. “Even when breakfast out is just once a week,” she writes, “the traditional large bacon, eggs and biscuit meal can put on excessive pounds.”
A three-egg ham-and-cheese omelet can rack up 500 calories. Hash browns add 250 calories. Two sausage links are an additional 100 calories. A big biscuit with butter and jelly can add up to 450 calories. And when you put cream in your coffee, say “good morning” to 1,300 calories.
Sharon Palmer, a dietitian and author of “The Plant-Powered Diet” (The Experiment, $15.95), said breakfast at a restaurant “can be the most decadent meal of the day.” It can account for at least half a day’s calories and exceed the required sodium for a day. But Palmer is happy with healthful trends, such as the addition of “light” or “fit” menu offerings in the 500-calorie range.
“The best news,” she said, “is that these lighter meals are hot-sellers — showing that people are tired of eating these traditional American gut-busting breakfasts.”
Seemingly uberhealthy granola cereals, fruit smoothies and whole-wheat pancakes or bagels can throw a weighty wrench into your day’s diet plans, too, if you don’t pay attention to portion sizes. Jackie Newgent, chef, dietitian and author of the upcoming “1,000 Low Calorie Recipes,” advises two actions — choose your breakfast location and beverage wisely.
“For a healthy weight, breakfast — like all meals — is best eaten while sitting down at a dining table and not while in a car, at a desk or on your iPad,” she said. “Plus, some popular morning drinks, including select blended coffee or juice beverages, can provide a meal’s worth of calories.”
Newgent advises opting for a beverage that is calorie-free, such as unsweetened green or black tea.
“And if there’s no fruit in the breakfast,” she said, “then it’s OK to sip a glass of 100 percent juice in a 6-ounce juice glass — not 16 ounces.”