I know you’ve been told: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” more times than you care to hear it, and I hate to break it to ya, but it’s true. Think of your body as a car (a fancy sports car maybe?), it can’t run without fuel. Studies have shown that breakfast is both a physiological and psychological need and kids and adults who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight or obese, concentrate better and out perform those who do not eat breakfast at work/school. So even if you think you can’t stomach food that early in the morning, do it for your body and that extra edge over your peers or coworkers (hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition).
Whether you are an alarm-clock snoozing junkie, an early bird exerciser or an up-an-adam type of guy or gal, its best to get fuel in your body within 60 to 90 minutes of waking up in order to replenish your glucose and protein stores, jumpstart your metabolism and give you more strength and endurance after your 7 hour fast, and no that cup-of-joe is not a complete breakfast. If you’re trying to lose weight, your breakfast should be around 180-300 calories and should contain protein, carbohydrates and yes, some fat. (If you aren’t trying to lose weight, your caloric intake for breakfast should hit around 300 calories.) But why should it contain all protein, carbohydrate AND fat?
Protein in the morning will literally get you moving; it helps build and repair body tissue, gets those muscles working and produces enzymes and hormones needed for daily activities.
- Protein options: eggs/egg whites, low-fat dairy products such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, lean meats including turkey bacon, Canadian bacon and deli meats, lox/nova, beans and milk
Absolutely essential in the morning, your body and brain runs on carbohydrates so be sure to get your fill in order to be alert and productive.
- Carbohydrate options: whole grain breads, oatmeal, healthy cereals, fiber-rich grains, fruits and vegetables.
Fats are necessary for vitamin absorption, healthy skin and that fullness factor; otherwise you’ll be reaching for that midmorning snack an hour early.
- Fat options: nuts, but butters, oils, seeds (flax seeds), reduced fat cheeses and avocado.
The Good, the Bad, and the On-the-Go
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a great way to start your morning; this whole grain option is high in soluble fiber, which may help lower your cholesterol, boost your immune response and stabilize blood sugar to prevent that sugar spike followed by a midday crash.
o Look for: a minimum of 3g of fiber and a maximum of 6 g of sugar per serving. Always opt for steel cut or rolled oats/old fashion oats opposed to instant and avoid flavored/sugary options like maple brown sugar (>13 g of added sugar and < 1 g fiber).
o Brands: McCann’s Steel Cut Oats, Arrowhead Mills
- Cereals: Cereal can be a breakfast do, but it depends a lot on the ingredients.
o Look for: whole grains, 5 g of protein and 5 g of fiber per serving, a total carbohydrate to sugar ratio of no less than 4:1 (24 g carb:6 g sugar), 25% of RDA for folic acid, zinc, iron and other B vitamins.
o Brands: Fiber One, Kashi Go Lean, Arrowhead Mills Shredded Wheat Bite Size, Uncle Sam Original Cereal, Nature’s Path Raisin Bran, Barbara's Shredded Wheat
- Eggs: A classic breakfast choice, eggs are high in protein and nutrient dense with essential nutrients like omega-3s.
o Healthy ways to prepare eggs: poached, hard or soft boiled, over-easy, or baked, eggs go great with fresh fruit or steamed spinach.
- Dairy: Milk is a breakfast staple, from a drop in your coffee to a cup in your cereal, fat-free or 1-2% options are the way to. Other ways to get your dairy and calcium needs are through yogurt and cheeses. Top them with some fresh fruit, healthy granola, nuts/seeds or even cereal is a great way to start your morning.
- Yogurt- 0% or 2% Fage greek yogurt, Chobani, Oikos
- Milk: no specific brand but stay with skim or 1-2%
- Cottage cheese: 2% Breakstone’s cottage cheese or low-fat Breakstone’s Cottage Doubles
- Cereal: As I mentioned above, cereal can be a breakfast do but it can more likely be a breakfast don’t. Most cereals are high in sugar, trans-fat and have enough food coloring to sponsor your child’s 70’s themed t-shirt tie-dying birthday party.
o Things to avoid: fruity cereals, hydrogenated oils, dyes or artificial colors and chemical-preservatives.
- Juices: Especially when you’re trying to lose weight, giving up the morning OJ or apple juice can get you that much closer to your goal weight. In breakfast world, juices are packed with sugar that they will generally leave you thirstier, hungrier and with that midday crash we are trying to avoid. Unless its fresh squeezed with pulp and only 8 oz or less, I highly recommended taking this off your breakfast bill.
The On-the-Go: when you’re in a rush, here are some great options for breakfast so you don’t miss out!
- Fruit (apple or banana) with 1 Justin's Nut Butter (Peanut Butter) packet
- Cascadian Farms Almond Butter granola bar
- Gnu Foods fiber and flavor bar
- Renew LIfe Organic Fiber bar
- Luna Bar- toasted nuts n' cranberry
- Individual sized Kashi Go Lean cereal packe
t (130 cals)
- Individual sized Instant Oatmeal- McCann regular (100 cals)
- Greek yogurt with banana or berries
Now that you’ve got the facts and options for sprucing up your boring breakfast routine, there is no excuse to skip the most important meal of the day.
If you’re still in need for some exciting breakfast ideas check out one of my posts with some healthy breakfast recipes: Nu-Train’s Survival Series: Surviving Breakfast Boredom: Your day does not need to begin with déjà vu
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