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story.lead_photo.caption Dr. Dianna Richardson of the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center in Jefferson City has served communities as a wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. Core to her practice has been the use of nutrition to enhance health and improve vitality.

Mornings are a busy time for children and adults alike. However, the importance of eating breakfast has become well documented. Not only does it break an overnight fast and provide crucial nutrients, it also improves attention, memory, heightens sense of wellbeing and helps with weight management.

Breakfast is particularly important for young children to ensure optimal growth and development. Keep in mind the brain uses more energy than any other organ in the body. For infants, this translates to half the daily energy intake and about 20 percent for children, teens and adults.

Brain scans during prolonged periods without food show activity occurring mainly in the mid-brain — the area associated with anxiety, agitation, irritability and mood swings. After eating, the frontal cortex lights up and amygdala activity quiets. For a child, this means starting classes ready to learn. For adults, it improves focus and memory making a great start to the work day.

I often hear, "I am just not much of a breakfast eater." No problem!

Eating within two hours after waking can still be considered breakfast. When you begin to add the hours, it is easy to see the importance of "breaking-the-fast." For example, dinner is at 6 p.m. Bedtime is 10 p.m. You then sleep seven to 10 hours. It is now 14-16 hours since your last meal. Keep in mind, just because you stopped, your body didn't. It is a time of breakdown and rebuilding and of growth and regeneration. If you add another couple of hours before breakfast, it becomes apparent the body needs fuel.

Whenever you eat breakfast, it should contain protein and a veggie or fruit (complex carbohydrate). Protein and healthy fats keep you feeling full longer. The complex carbohydrates provide much needed fuel. Additionally, they breakdown more slowly than sugary alternatives, sustaining energy longer.

It is important for children and adults alike to choose nutrient-dense foods. These are whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals needed to support our energy needs. No time for breakfast? Grab a protein smoothie with fruit. Another option is berries and Greek yogurt. Make-ahead egg muffins can be packed with protein and veggies. A handful of nuts or nut butter and an apple provides a jumpstart for small appetites. Overnight oatmeal also provides a healthy option. Never overlook substituting some protein powder for part of the flour in your favorite breakfast muffins to make a positive start to the day.

Something you grab to eat on the way out the door or at your desk is still better than skipping breakfast altogether. A good protein bar packed with vitamins and minerals from fruits or veggies is quick and easy. Never overlook the benefit of grabbing last night's leftovers, especially if they meet the protein and veggie or fruit need to power your day.

Dr. Dianna Richardson has been serving Jefferson City and the surrounding communities for more than 22 years. She has worked in the field of health and nutrition as a wellness practitioner for more than 30 years. Richardson holds a doctorate in naturopathy, along with degrees in nutrition and a master's degree in public health education. She may be found at the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center, LLC on Dix Road in Jefferson City.

CHICKEN OMELET

4 large eggs, beaten

Sea salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup shredded cooked chicken

2 tablespoons shredded cheese or cheese substitute

2 tablespoons chopped spinach

Whisk eggs until the yolks and whites are completely combined. Add salt and pepper.

Heat the teaspoon of oil in a non-stick or cast-iron skillet on high.

Pour the beaten eggs into the skillet and turn the heat down to low. Swirl the eggs to completely coat the bottom of the pan.

Gently pull the egg from the outside edge into the center, exposing parts of the pan so the egg can cook completely.

Warm the chicken slightly in the microwave or on the stovetop before adding it to the omelet

Add the shredded chicken, shredded cheese and chopped spinach to half of the omelet. Cook for 30 seconds.

Fold the other half of the omelet over the top of the filling. Cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, or until the cheese has melted.

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