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Healthy Start to the Day!

Posted by Leslie Gleason on October 17, 2010 at 10:15 PM

There's a reason they call it the most important meal of the day. Not only is breakfast the first food and drink your body has had in more than 8 hours, but studies find that what you eat for breakfast influences what you eat the rest of the day. Additionally, people who eat breakfast are significantly less likely to be obese and have diabetes than those who don't.

The most important tip we can give you is to eat breakfast every day. Without exception. This one action alone can make a huge, positive difference in your health. But a doughnut or oversized muffin won't do it. The key is to choose energy enhancing, health-invigorating foods. That's what we'll focus on in the tips ahead.

1. Be consistent with your portions. For most people, a perfect breakfast has three components: one serving of a whole grain carbohydrate, one serving of a dairy or high-calcium food, and one serving of fruit. Together, that would add up to roughly 300 calories. A high-protein serving (i.e., a meat or an egg) is unnecessary but certainly acceptable, as long as it doesn't add too much fat or calories to the mix. Here are a few winning combinations, based on this formula:

  • A bowl of high-fiber, multigrain cereal, lots of strawberries, and low-fat milk
    on top.
  • A granola bar, an apple, and a cold glass of milk.
  • A cup of nonfat yogurt, fresh blueberries mixed in, and a slice of whole wheat toast with a fruit spread on top.
  • A mini whole wheat bagel, spread lightly with cream cheese and jam; a peach; and a cup of yogurt.
  • A scrambled egg, a whole wheat roll, fresh fruit salad, and a cup of low-fat milk.
  • A low-fat muffin, a wedge of cantaloupe, and a cup of latte made with skim milk.

2. Have a bowl of sweetened brown rice. Consider it a takeoff on prepared cereal. Brown rice is full of energy-providing B vitamins, as well as a great source of filling fiber. Cook the rice the night before, then in the morning, put it in a bowl with a spoonful of honey, a handful of raisins, a cut-up apple, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a unique yet delicious treat. Don't like rice? Try any of the cooking grains: barley, rye, red wheat, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, or millet.

3. Pour a cup of fruit smoothie. Simply whir a cup of strawberries and a banana in the blender, add a scoop of protein powder and a cup of crushed ice, and you've got a healthy, on-the-go breakfast filled with antioxidants. Toss in a cup of plain yogurt, and you've just added a bone-strengthening dose of calcium. An added bonus: You've just crossed three of your daily fruit servings off the list.

4. Use organic eggs. They're not much more expensive than regular eggs but are much higher in all-important omega-3 fatty acids, shown to benefit everything from your mental health (reducing risk of depression) to your heart health (reducing risk of atherosclerosis and atrial fibrillation), says Fred Pescatore, M.D., author of The Hamptons Diet and a physician at Partners in Integrative Medicine in New York City.

5. Sprinkle on a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds. It could be over your cereal, over your yogurt, over your smoothie, or over your eggs. Next to fish and organic eggs, flaxseeds are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Use Benecol, Take Control, or Smart Balance instead of butter. These newly developed soft food spreads contain heart-healthy plant stanols. Just 2 tablespoons daily can significantly lower your total cholesterol level.

7. Have lunch for breakfast. Instead of butter or cream cheese, top your morning (whole wheat) toast with 2 tablespoons tuna prepared with low-fat mayonnaise. The tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and an excellent source of energy-boosting protein. For the same healthy boost with a bit of variety, try lox or canned or smoked salmon (they also seem to go better at breakfast).

8. Sprinkle a whole wheat burrito with 2 ounces grated, low-fat cheddar cheese and broil for 3 minutes. While it's cooking, peel and eat an orange for valuable vitamin C. In this one small, quick meal, you're getting vitamin C and other antioxidants, calcium, fiber, and enough appetite-satisfying protein to sustain you for hours.

9. Make your own granola. Most store-bought brands are filled with sugar and fat. To make your own, mix 2 cups rolled oats with 1 cup dried fruits and seeds and a little brown sugar. Toast 3-5 minutes in a warm oven and store in an airtight container. Not interested in do-it-yourself? There are a few store-bought brands with reasonable sugar and fat levels, including Nature's Path and Familia.

10. Pour a bowlful of Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! With 10 grams of fiber, it will put you well on your way to the 25-30 grams of fiber you should be eating every day. Plus, studies find that people who regularly start their day with a bowl of cold cereal get more fiber and calcium, but less fat, than those who breakfast on other foods. Another study found that people who ate two bowlfuls of high-fiber cereal every day spontaneously cut the amount of fat they ate by 10 percent. Don't like Kashi? Other high-fiber cereals include Raisin Bran, Multi-Bran Chex and Wheat 'N Bran Spoon Size (8 grams), Kellogg's All-Bran Original (10 grams), and General Mills Fiber One (14 grams).

The Breakfast Routine

Ten ideas for a healthier meal.

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