Start With a Better Breakfast
Start With a Better Breakfast

Here’s a good deal of science behind eating a balanced breakfast — it sets you up to succeed for the entire day. “Studies support that you need to start your day off with a healthy breakfast,” says Bethany Thayer, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and manager of wellness programs and strategies at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. 

The benefits of breakfast include:

  • Improved mood. Eating breakfast can lift your mood. Studies show that people who don’t eat breakfast are more tired and irritable.
  • More energy to face the day. Before you eat in the morning, your body is running on empty. You get energy from high-quality protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Better concentration. Eating breakfast also improves your ability to problem solve. “You’ll be more productive and better able to handle tasks that require memory,” Thayer says.
  • Weight management. “Studies show that if you eat breakfast, you’re more likely to be at a healthy weight than people who don’t eat breakfast,” Thayer says.

Breakfast foods can also provide a lot of vitamins and minerals. For instance, if you eat a bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and a glass of orange juice, you’ll have consumed your total daily needs of vitamin C and about one-third of your calcium, thiamin, and riboflavin requirements for the day. You’ll also have a good supply of fiber, iron, and folate, especially if you choose a high-fiber cereal. “By missing out on breakfast, you might be missing out on some really great nutrients,” Thayer says.

Basics of a Quick and Balanced Breakfast

One of the most common excuses for not eating breakfast is being short on time to get to work or school. But breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate or time consuming. You can wake up just a little earlier to fit in a nutritious breakfast. Besides, Thayer says, investing time in breakfast pays off through the whole day.

It’s best if your breakfast foods come from three different food groups: protein, whole grains, and fruits or vegetables, Thayer explains. You can get protein from eggs, dairy, lean meat, or peanut butter. Cereal or whole-wheat toast can be your whole grains. And strawberries or blueberries — great sources of antioxidants — make a sweet and nutritious topping for oatmeal, cold cereal, or yogurt.

Cereal is a great choice for a quick and easy breakfast, but look for one that has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. “You want to be sure that whole grain is the first ingredient that’s listed,” Thayer says. Also make sure that sugar isn’t first or second on the ingredients list.

If you prefer sweetened cereals, use a few flakes as a topping for yogurt, Thayer says. Or mix it with a healthier cereal — you can mix several cereals in your morning bowl.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Next time you’re racing against the clock, try these effortless and healthy breakfast ideas:

  • A low-fat bran muffin and a side of yogurt topped with fresh fruit
  • A bowl of oatmeal mixed with raisins or topped with cheese
  • A peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread. “You can make it ahead and eat it during your commute or once you’re at your desk if you’re pressed for time,” Thayer says.
  • An omelet made with one whole egg and extra egg whites and filled with veggies (mushrooms, peppers, onions) and low-fat cheese. Eat it with a slice of whole-grain toast
  • Multigrain pancakes topped with fresh blueberries. You can make them ahead of time, wrap them individually, and freeze, then take out of the freezer to toast or warm just as you would with a box of frozen pancakes.
  • Half a bagel (whole wheat, oat bran, pumpernickel) spread with a tablespoon of hummus or peanut butter, and a piece of fresh fruit
  • An English muffin (whole-wheat or whole-grain variety) topped with a slice of tomato and cheese
  • A low-fat smoothie made with low-fat milk or yogurt and fresh fruit and a piece of whole-grain toast

In a real pinch, don’t overlook last night’s leftovers. You don’t need to limit yourself to traditional breakfast foods, Thayer says. A portion of a casserole or even a slice of pizza (made with whole-wheat crust and low-fat cheese and topped with veggies) can make a good, quick breakfast. Eating a balanced breakfast, with whatever foods you choose, is the best way to jump-start your day and stay satisfied until lunch.

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