Quieting your grumbling stomach may be the only reason you give breakfast a second thought. It's great to have hunger off the brain on busy weekday mornings, but making that breakfast a quality breakfast can make getting your work done more pleasant and productive.
Nutritious foods power the mind and body to be more alert, energetic and productive. You don't have to change much about your morning meals to super-charge your performance; experimenting with a different flavored yogurt or replacing your daily bowl of cereal for one of oatmeal could be all it takes to feel a difference. Check out a couple of the simple swaps below.
Swap your buttered bagel for a peanut buttered bagel.
The reason: Gram for gram, peanut butter has fewer calories and less saturated fat than butter. Its real benefit, however, is its protein count. Two tablespoons of the nutty spread contain about 8 grams, while butter has hardly any. Eating protein first thing in the morning can help you feel less hungry and more energized throughout the day. Look for a natural peanut butter that lists peanuts as its only ingredient (many brands add sugar). If nuts aren't your thing, cream cheese or avocado spread on the bagel are both better alternatives than butter. The cream cheese contains a bit of protein and much less saturated fat, and the avocado will fuel you with its many health benefits first thing in the a.m.
Swap your glass of OJ for an actual orange.
The reason: In the case of breakfast, the juice isn't worth the squeeze. Store-bought orange juice typically contains added sugar and, since it's juiced, is robbed of most of its digestive health-promoting fiber. A single piece of the fruit serves up about 3 grams of fiber and about half as much sugar compared to the juice. Bonus: An orange costs a lot less than a carton of orange juice.
Swap your breakfast pastry for a PB&J.
The reason: Pop-Tarts and chocolate croissants can be hard to resist, especially when they're in plain sight, but substituting the nutritionally void bites for something with more sustenance, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, has long-term pay-off. The "J" part of your PB&J offers the sweetness you crave, and the "PB" provides the protein and healthy fats. The childhood favorite is much more balanced than the snacky alternatives, and if you choose a bread made with fiber and whole grains, your meal will be very well-rounded.
Swap your fancy frap for an iced coffee.
The reason: Making this swap will save you from spending big bucks and experiencing a sugar crash. You can bet your bottom dollar that anything made in a store that is frozen, whipped and flavored contains more sugar than most people need to wake up in the morning. Starbucks' 16oz Caramel Frappuccino is packed with 63 grams of sugar (oh, and 14 grams of fat). If you ate two Snickers for breakfast instead, you'd still be consuming less sugar. Go for the standard iced coffee option (which starts off as sugar-free) and experiment with adding low-calorie flavors like cinnamon or powdered chocolate to get the little kick you're after.
Swap your bowl of cereal for a bowl of oatmeal.
The reason: Oatmeal boasts a ton of benefits that cereal simply cannot match. It's inexpensive, can reduce cholesterol and may help stabilize your blood pressure. There's only one ingredient on its label, and that's oats. Cereal, even the kinds branded as "healthy," tend to have added sugars and mystery flavoring. Many varieties have a high glycemic index, which leads to those mid-morning slumps and resurfaced hunger. Alternatively, thanks to its soluble fiber, plain oatmeal has a low glycemic index, in which its sugar is released at a slower rate into the blood stream. If you like your breakfast cold, you're not out of luck: Prepare your oats overnight for a refreshing, textured meal in the morning. Oatmeal lends itself to delicious and healthy additions, like fruit, nuts and protein powders for an extra boost.
Swap your fruit-flavored yogurt for plain yogurt topped with real fruit.
The reason: Not all yogurt is created equal. The kinds with fruit at the bottom or with fruit flavor inevitably have added sugar. To reap the greatest benefits from the breakfast hero, start with an unflavored Greek yogurt with a low sugar and high protein content and dress it with your own sweetness. You can buy frozen berries in bulk (or freeze your own), mix in banana or apple slices or pick up something fresh at the farmers' market.