Is your morning routine missing something important, like breakfast?
“Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day,” says Carey Shore, MS, RD, LD, wellness coach and program coordinator at Methodist Dallas and Methodist Richardson Medical Centers. “Having a healthy breakfast helps sustain energy levels and aids in weight control.”
Unfortunately, cereal and coffee don’t cut it. Whole grains and protein, augmented with a fruit or vegetable, do a much better job of keeping us fueled until lunch. So what’s the scoop on these nutritional needs?
These are the essential elements of a good breakfast:
Whole grains. Despite the bad rap on carbohydrates, your body needs them to create and sustain energy. “Whole” something should appear in the first three ingredients, regardless of the nutrition messaging on the front of the package.
Proteins. These building blocks contribute to muscle development, sustained energy, and proper brain function.
Fruits and veggies. Besides being full of digestion-aiding fiber, fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function properly. For example, vitamin C supports your immune system, while B12 and B6 help our bodies use the energy that we get from food.
With a few easy steps, your body can be on the way to better health.
The DO’s and DON’Ts
As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs (or carbs, or fruits and veggies) in one basket. Diversification is key to a healthy breakfast.
- Balance your meal by working in the essential elements listed above. Eat half your protein bar with Greek yogurt or half a banana or red pepper, and save the rest of the bar for a snack later.
- Prepare and prepackage. Prepackaging your trail mix and keeping chopped vegetables in your fridge helps you make better on-the-go choices. In fact, consider keeping nuts, dried fruits, granola bars, and other healthy snacks in your car for days you’re really on the run.
- Watch your serving size. Shrink monster-size whole-grain muffins to about the size you’d find in a standard muffin tin. Then pair that portion with yogurt, cheese, or nuts to boost fiber and protein content.
- Plan for after your workout. If you’re an early-morning gymgoer, drinks like chocolate milk and smoothies are great energy replenishers. Incorporate both a fruit and protein in your smoothie to increase your carb intake. Pro tip: Freeze it at night, and then set it out during your workout so it’s ready when you’re done.
Forgo the fats. Healthy fats like those found in avocados and nuts add flavor and help you feel satisfied and stay full longer.
Eat and run, if you can help it. Sitting and taking time to eat helps us enjoy our meal and contributes to better weight control.
Skip breakfast. A meal on the go is better than no meal at all. Beware of high-sugar options and refined carbs, which spike blood sugar and make you want to eat more.
Now for the surprising news: “A healthy breakfast in the morning really is the best substitute for caffeine,” Carey says. “It helps with energy all day.”
Look for combinations that are high in protein and natural glucose, like apples and nut butter or cottage cheese and honey, to give you a boost that your body can sustain.
If your day requires coffee (or tea), Carey advises cutting back gradually and watching the caffeine content on energy drinks.
Try one of these fast, easy, delicious recipes to get your day started:
Healthy berry yogurt smoothie — Just about any combination of Greek yogurt and fruit will work, but check out this concoction from Chef Savvy for a berry good breakfast!
Walnut cranberry trail mix — Pack your snack (or breakfast) with nuts for added protein and fat to fuel your day. Mix and match or use this pick from Healthy Grocery Girl for an early-morning treat.
Five-minute healthy breakfast tacos — See what happens when eggs, beans, and avocado come together in this dish from Slender Kitchen. And yes, you can freeze the avocados!
Blueberry and almond overnight oats — The nuts and berries in this recipe from Busy Girl Healthy World boost fiber content and healthy fat for flavor and staying power. Swap out fruits, or warm it up for a more traditional take.
STAY HEALTHY WITH ONGOING CARE. For more help managing your health, find a primary care provider near you.