Did you know that September is Better Breakfast Month? A healthy breakfast helps kick-start metabolism, boost energy levels and can improve concentration and performance in school and at work. Additionally, breakfast eaters tend to maintain healthier body weights possibly by reducing food cravings and overeating later in the day. Unfortunately, so many people skip this important meal or choose less-healthy options that lead to a growling stomach shortly after eating. The key is to have a balanced breakfast low in sugar and high in nutrients. Follow these simple tips to build better breakfasts and start the day off right!
- Start with Fiber: Breakfast is an easy meal to incorporate heart-healthy whole grains that help keep our energy levels up and tide hunger over until lunch. Oatmeal, whole grain toast or English Muffins, whole grain tortillas and whole grain cereals are great choices. When choosing cereal, the key is to choose a cereal with > 3 grams of fiber per serving and < than 6 grams of sugar per serving. Be sure to read labels as sugar sneaks into almost every cereal! When in doubt plain oatmeal sweetened with fruit is a great choice. A few good cereal options include plain cheerios, Nature’s Path Heritage O’s or Flakes, Barbara’s original Puffins or Multigrain Spoonful’s, Post plain Shredded Wheat and Bear Naked “Fit” granola.
- Add Protein: Protein is especially important soon after waking to replenish protein needs after an overnight fast and increase satiety. Shoot for a minimum of 15 grams of protein with breakfast from a variety of protein sources. Some examples of protein foods include eggs (7 grams/egg), low fat plain Greek yogurt (~15-24 grams/cup), low fat cottage cheese (7 grams per ¼ cup), low fat milk or soy milk (~7-8 grams/ 1 cup), almonds or other nuts (4-6 grams per 1 oz.), lean breakfast meats such as Canadian bacon (6 grams/oz.) or veggie sausage patties (10 grams per Morningstar sausage patty) or even an all-natural protein powder (~20 grams per scoop). Whole grains also provide more protein than their less-healthy refined-grain counterparts. Rolled oats, for example, provide 5 grams per ½ cup dry.
- Include Healthy Fats: Including heart-healthy fats helps the body absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D and K and provides the body with sustained energy. Fats are not the “villains” we once thought and are an important part of a healthy diet. The key is to not go overboard on portion size and to choose heart-healthy fats from primarily plant-based sources most often. Nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil and omega-3 enriched eggs are examples of fats to choose most often. Adding 1-2 Tbsp. of nuts or seeds to cereal or adding a few slices of avocado to whole grain toast would do the trick.
- Incorporate fruit and/or veggies: Fruits and vegetables form the foundation of a healthy diet yet the majority of us are far from reaching recommended servings per day. Incorporating fruit and/or vegetables at every meal is an easy way to meet needs and boost intake of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Tossing berries into cereal or yogurt, slicing a banana over oatmeal or peanut butter toast, adding spinach and bell pepper to an omelet or adding a handful of leafy greens to a fruit-smoothie are easy ways to incorporate more fruit and vegetables.
Example Balanced Breakfasts:
- Low fat plain Greek yogurt + 1 Tbsp. chia seeds or nuts + 1 cup berries +-1 cup whole grain cereal
- 1 whole wheat English muffin + 1 poached egg + 1 slice cheese + wilted spinach on top + 1 orange on the side
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal + 1 Tbsp. peanut butter and ½ -1 scoop protein powder swirled in + 1 sliced banana on top + splash low fat milk
- 2 egg scramble + mushrooms and spinach + ¼ diced avocado + 1 slice whole grain toast with a small smear of butter and jam
- Smoothie made with low fat plain Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, 1 Tbsp. seeds or nuts, large handful of leafy greens and splash of almond milk
- 1 cup shredded wheat + ½ cup low fat milk + 1 cup strawberries + 1 Tbsp. almonds + 1 hard-boiled egg on the side