All Mixed Up
Pizza for breakfast? Pancakes for dinner? Does it really matter what you eat when? Here's the lowdown on mixing up your meal plans.
Pancakes or eggs for dinner? Not so odd, you say. But what about spaghetti and salad for breakfast? Or last night's leftover lo mein with your morning coffee? Now that just sounds weird—to most people, anyway. It all depends on how you were raised and what foods you're used to eating at set mealtimes, says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic. "It's easy to become accustomed to eating certain foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks," Moore says. "It's comforting to stick with what we know, because then we don't have to give meal planning a lot of thought." Still, there's really no good reason why you can't mix up your meals and serve breakfast foods for dinner and vice versa. Mixing it up may ease boredom and even keep you from skipping meals altogether, says Moore. If you're not the type of person who enjoys breakfast foods, for example, then eating healthy lunch or dinner selections may be just what you need to jump-start your morning. The challenge—always—is to satisfy your nutritional needs no matter what you eat or when. Here's how to do it.
Tour the Pyramid.
If you're mixing things up at mealtime, make sure you're still getting the nutrients you need throughout the day. The online, interactive MyPyramid Food Guidance System (www.mypyramid.gov) can help. It uses key recommendations from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help you plan your daily diet. Visit www.mypyramid.gov and type in your age, gender, and activity level to get a good measure of how many calories you need each day, along with recommended servings for all food groups. You'll also find tips on how to add more healthy foods such as whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
Mornings can be hectic, but your meals don't have to be if you plan ahead. Some ideas: Assemble a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with your favorite fixings, spread hummus on a whole wheat bagel, or put it on a corn tortilla and roll it up with shredded carrots. Stock your freezer with leftover stews and soups. Prepare salads in advance, using ingredients that keep for several days such as melon, pineapple, kiwi, and grapes for a fruit salad. Broccoli, carrots, and lettuce are great for a veggie salad. Or marinate and chill a pasta salad that's chock-full of tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and bell peppers, and dish it up for breakfast.
Make it fun.
Serving breakfast foods for dinner may give you more time to be creative with ingredients. Make smiley faces on pancakes using bananas, blueberries, kiwi, and apple slices. Scramble some eggs and wrap them up in a burrito with crumbled veggie sausage, and top with salsa and low-fat sour cream. Or put a lazy Susan on the table and load it with different cereals and bowls of toppings such as sliced banana, granola, and nuts.