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The question

Is it better to eat an unhealthy breakfast than no breakfast at all?

The answer

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Great question! And I suppose the answer depends on what you mean by an unhealthy breakfast. What comes to my mind are high fat, sugary pastries, fried eggs and bacon, and greasy, salty breakfast sandwiches that deliver, on average, 500 calories along with plenty of saturated fat and 1000 milligrams of sodium (two-thirds of a day's worth!).



These types of breakfasts provide too much refined sugar, too much cholesterol-raising saturated fat, and a very hefty dose of sodium. I certainly don't recommend you make a habit of eating these foods for breakfast.



It's true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps to jump start your metabolism, provides your brain a source of glucose after a night of fasting, and can deliver important nutrients that are often missing from other meals. Eating breakfast is also a good strategy to help manage weight. Studies consistently show that adults and kids who eat breakfast tend to have healthier weights and are less likely to become overweight than those who skip the morning meal. People who regularly eat breakfast are more inclined to follow a structured eating plan during the day and less likely to impulsively snack in the morning.



If you don't have time to sit down to breakfast in the morning - even to a quick bowl of whole grain cereal - consider bringing healthy breakfast foods with you to work such as fruit, yogurt, whole grain granola bars, breakfast-sized whole grain pitas, a small portion of nuts, even hard-boiled eggs. Having these foods with you will prevent you from buying breakfast at the coffee shop or drive-thru.



Consider spreading your breakfast out over the course of the morning. Eat a snack every two hours to keep your blood sugar level stable and prevent getting overly hungry in the morning.



If you do have to buy your breakfast, there are healthier options available. Tim Horton's has yogurt and berries and many coffee shops now sell oatmeal with your choice of fruit or nuts as a topping. Be mindful of breakfast wraps. Even the healthier sounding ones that don't have bacon or sausage can contain half a day's worth of sodium.



Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at dietitian@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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