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 - it can't run without fuel. Studies have shown that breakfast is both a physiological and psychological need. 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 or 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 a snooze-button junkie, an early bird exerciser or an up-and-at-'em type of guy or gal, it's 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 (or longer) fast. And no, that cup-of-joe is not a complete breakfast. Need some breakfast ideas? This guide is chock-full of healthy and delicious products to start your day on a healthy foot. If you aren't trying to lose weight, breakfast should hit around 300 calories. If you are trying to lose weight, your breakfast should be around 180-300 calories and should contain protein, carbohydrates and yes, some 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. Carbohydrates are absolutely essential in the morning because your body and brain run on carbs, so be sure to get your fill in order to be alert and productive. Healthy fats are necessary for vitamin absorption, healthy skin and that fullness factor or you'll be reaching for that mid-morning snack an hour early.
What to Eat: 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. Look for a minimum of 3g of fiber and always opt for steel cut or rolled oats.
- Cereals: Cereal can be a breakfast do, but it depends a lot on the ingredients. Look for whole grains, 5g of protein and 5g of fiber per serving, a total carbohydrate to sugar ratio of no less than 4:1 (24g carb: 6g sugar), 25% of RDA for folic acid, zinc, iron and other B vitamins.
- Eggs: A classic breakfast choice, eggs are high in protein and nutrient dense with essential nutrients like omega-3s. Always look for cage-free and organic 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, 1-2% or non-dairy milks like almond milk are the way to go. 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 for a great way to start your morning.
- 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. 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 the breakfast world, juices are packed with sugar that will generally leave you thirstier, hungrier and with that midday crash we are trying to avoid. Unless it's fresh squeezed with pulp and only 8 oz or less, I highly recommend taking this off your breakfast bill, or switch to an all greens juice option, which is a much better alternative.
- Fruit (apple or banana) with 1 nut butter packet
- 2 hard boiled eggs and 1 apple
- 6oz Greek yogurt with banana or berries
- Ready-to-eat organic steel-cut oatmeal
- 2 fiber crackers with 1 packet of nut or coconut butter