TO those girding up for the demands of autumn, Jane Kinderlehrer admonishes: ``Anybody who thinks they don't have time for breakfast, think again! You save time when you take time to eat breakfast.'' As the author of ``Smart Breakfasts,'' and ``Smart Muffins,'' Mrs. Kinderlehrer is a longtime cheerleader for the morning meal, saying: ``Life is rosier,'' when you eat breakfast, ``you're much more effective.''
Aside from being a cookbook author, a former food editor, and self-proclaimed ``smart food'' expert, this lively 77-year-old talks from years of familial field experience - as a mother of four and a grandmother of ten.
``Breakfast is such an important meal,'' she says in an interview, mentioning studies showing that people perform better when they eat breakfast - especially children in school.
Although many may acknowledge that eating in the a.m. is important, too many people still skip breakfast, she tells a reporter (who's guilty this particular day). Although recent statistics are lacking, a 1986 survey found that about 1 out of every 4 adults in the United States never eat breakfast. Another 19 percent claimed to eat breakfast ``sometimes.'' The largest segment of breakfast skippers is young adults, while the number of skippers decreases with age, the smallest segment of skippers being 75 or older.
Why do people skip? Everyone has a different reason, Kinderlehrer says. But for every excuse you utter, she'll fire back an alternative faster than you can say ``sunny side up.''
Don't have time to eat breakfast? ``Drink your breakfast.''
Too rushed? ``Take a portable breakfast and eat it at the traffic light or bus terminal.''
Don't like breakfast foods? ``Eat your lunch for breakfast.'' (One of her grandchildren loves to microwave leftover lasagne for breakfast.)
Not hungry? ``You probably ate your breakfast the night before.''
The most outrageous excuse that Kinderlehrer says she hears is: ``If I don't eat breakfast, I can eat more in the day that will taste better.'' This is sometimes translated as: ``I'm on a diet.''
Nonsense, says Kinderlehrer. ``Research has shown that breakfast jumpstarts the metabolism; it gets you going.''
Marion Cunningham, author of ``The Breakfast Book,'' says that learning to eat breakfast is ``like learning anything. It's a habit. The longest fast is when we go to sleep,'' she continues, and when you wake up, ``it seems reasonable you would need something to start in with. There's something healthy about balance.''
A fan of oatmeal, warm buttered toast with jam, and waffles, Ms. Cunningham says she hopes people will come back to finding some personal satisfaction in cooking and serving food, at sitting down at a table to eat and ``not eternally feeling like they're under the gun.''
But as people know too well, ``no time'' is the No. 1 reason they don't eat breakfast. ``Most of us pick up breakfast the fast-food way,'' says Kinderlehrer. Take-out breakfast service at restaurants jumped nearly 60 percent between 1982 and '88, for instance. And according to the Lempert Report, which tracks food trends, the sale of frozen breakfast entrees rose more than 100 percent between 1982 and '87. (A microwave oven ``is such a help,'' says Kinderlehrer.)
But fast-food breakfasts aren't known to win awards for nutrition, Kinderlehrer adds. A ``smart breakfast'' is not donuts and coffee or a bowl of sugar-coated cereal, she adds. Nor does it include soda pop - which is on the rise as a breakfast drink, according to the Lempert Report.
Breakfast doesn't have to be big and overwhelming, says Kinderlehrer. But it should be ``substantial'' and include protein, carbohydrates, and a little fat. What about the ``complete breakfast'' popularized on the back of so many cereal boxes? Fine, says Kinderlehrer, though she would amend it to include whole-grain toast; whole-grain cereal without added sugar; milk; juice - unsweetened, with pulp; or better yet, fresh fruit.
And eggs? ``Absolutely,'' she says. ``They are the the most perfect food.''
With parents' help, children can establish a good breakfast-eating routine, says Kinderlehrer. ``Do a lot of preparation the night before,'' she advises, and take a creative approach. Also, ``a set table invites the kids to sit down,'' she says.
When her own children were old enough, Kinderlehrer taught them how to make eggs and prepare some other simple breakfast items. Then she set up a chalkboard in the kitchen. ``I would always put a menu on the board - whatever I put on, they ate,'' she says. ``When they would oversleep, I would give them a survival snack: sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, maybe granola.''
FOR teenagers (notorious breakfast skippers), she would make breakfasts they could drink, such as a Peachy Berry Banana Shake (see recipe).
Good breakfasts and other meals start with a well-stocked kitchen, which is why Kinderlehrer suggests the following: ``Go through your cabinets with a magnifying glass,'' she says. ``Get rid of all empty-calorie junk in the house - things overloaded with sugar and chemicals.
``Get rid of anything with a whole list of additives - most of which you couldn't pronounce and give products a shelf life longer than a mop handle,'' she continues.
When your kitchen is stocked full of good things, whatever you or your children eat - ``it's gonna be good,'' she says with a wink.