By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA

Last week I had the pleasure of giving a combination nutrition lecture and cooking demonstration for some first year medical students.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute staff and second year medical student, Mauli Dalal, ably assisted me. Mauli is a leader of the student initiative, Food for Thought, at the St. Vincent’s Student Run Clinic. We covered some basics of nutrition including healthy fats, types of carbs and complete proteins.

We also gave the students tips on effective clinical nutritional counseling followed by preparing and sharing some tasty ways to create a healthy breakfast. One key message is that even if you are not hungry in the morning, eat breakfast to regulate your hormones and kick start your metabolism. Think of it as meal 1, followed by meal 2 and meal 3. You will have more energy for the first half of the day from this critically important meal 1.

How about vegetables for breakfast? The Healthy Plate diagram breakfast ought be represented on the breakfast table like at other meals and include recommended proportions of protein, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Veggies do not just have to be like tomato juice but can also be grilled or baked into a frittata, served with a whole grain like brown rice, couscous or farro. Even kale salad or other greens left from the night before can be a metabolism booster for meal 1 if you add an egg or some whole grain.

Fresh sliced tomatoes on Ezekiel bread with a smear of avocado or hummus make a delicious start to the day. Top this with cottage cheese or a piece of smoked salmon. Sliced avocado makes a great addition to any meal, especially breakfast. Yogurt with granola is a classic. Add extra berries and nuts for increased fiber, texture and nutrient value. Remember the health benefits of eggs as well. Even the cholesterol-conscious can eat eggs a few times a week according to recent guidelines. Serve over lightly sautéed spinach, Swiss chard, collards or other favorite greens.

Here’s a tasty veggie breakfast smoothie: a handful of kale, two handfuls of spinach, a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter, two to three dates, one teaspoon of flax, one teaspoon of chia seeds, 1/2 cup of vanilla soy or almond milk and a 1/2 cup of ice cubes. Blend and serve. You are well on your way to the recommended five to 11 servings of fruits and vegetables for the day.

To close, here are some simple questions to help you make healthy changes in your breakfast. They can also be applied to another area or habit in your life you wish to change.

• How do you feel your “breakfast” fits with your idea of a healthy one on a scale of 0-10?

• Why your number and not a zero?
• What would it take to make it a higher number?
• Do you want to change anything in your current breakfast?
• How confident are you that you can do that change on a scale of 0-10?
• What would make you more confident?
• How might you go about change in order to succeed?

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.