Wake up and smell the coffee—and while you’re at it, eat breakfast within the first two hours of rising if you want to optimize your health, energy and brain power. Studies have shown that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, so much so that public schools in the United States began supplying breakfast for students needing food assistance for that very reason.
Eating breakfast — or not — has an impact on the rest of your day in terms of your ability to think, plan, reason and resist high calorie foods. If you start by scarfing down a doughnut or sugary muffin, that sets you up for a sugar crash later that not only destabilizes your ability to think clearly, it also has a negative impact on your metabolism and your will power to avoid other high-sugar or high-carb foods throughout the day. When it comes to eating sugar first thing in the morning, follow the anti-Nike advice: just don’t do it.
Nutritionists call the Standard American Diet “SAD” for a good reason. American breakfast tends to be one of the least healthy meals, though it is the most important one for the body. There’s a saying that goes, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper” to keep a healthy weight. Breakfast should supply at least 20-35% of a person’s calories for the day.
So here are some healthy breakfast options that incorporate elements everyone should be eating in the morning to feel like a king: protein, fiber, calcium and omega 3s and 6s—which promote low cholesterol and brain function. These items can be eaten alone or in different combinations: eggs, oats, fruit, Greek yogurt, cheese, fish, rice or quinoa, nut butters and homemade trail mix.
Hard-boiled, they are the ultimate fast food. Just peel and go. Poached allows you to dip raw vegetables into the egg yellows or strips of multi-grain toast into them. Scrambled eggs can go into a tortilla for a one-handed meal. Eggs are full of protein, and if you only eat a few eggs each week, you shouldn’t be concerned about having too much cholesterol in your diet. They contain healthy fat if the white and yellow are eaten together. If you prefer fried eggs, use olive oil for the omegas.
The trick with oats is to avoid adding too much sugar. Pre-packaged oatmeal and granola usually violates this rule. Making your own healthy oatmeal can be accomplished by cooking rolled oats in advance and heating them up and adding a spoonful of honey, jam or fruit. Oatmeal can also help with weight loss because it keeps you feeling fuller longer—it’s a slow release source of carbohydrates. Because insulin doesn’t spike, it doesn’t signal to the body to store fat. Granola can also be made in the oven using old-fashioned rolled oats mixed
- Fruit, Greek Yogurt, Cheese
Raspberries are full of fiber and vitamins and blueberries are loaded with antioxidants. Both satisfy a craving for sweetness without causing blood sugar to spike—and fiber helps promote weight loss. Combine either with Greek yogurt—which has the highest protein content—and milk or a milk substitute to make a protein-filled, healthy breakfast. Add chia seeds if you really want an Omega boost. If you’re in a hurry, slices of cheese go well with slices of fruit for a protein and fiber combo. Some people like to make a “parfait” of granola, Greek yogurt and fruit.
- Fish, Rice & Quinoa
Japanese breakfast, served in many high-end urban hotels, offers a small slice of roasted or steamed fish, rice or rice porridge, pickled vegetables, miso soup, wakame seaweed and variations such as deep-fried tofu, daikon radish, fried egg and sardines. Any of these options are good for you. If you want a simpler version, you could eat pre-cooked salmon and rice. Or open a can of sardines and serve with a leftover cooked quinoa—which is a high-protein grain similar to rice—with a nuttier flavor.
- Nut Butters & Homemade Trail Mix
Put peanut butter on a banana sandwich and you have a healthy meal. Almond butter or peanut butter also pair well with apples, granola and oatmeal. For homemade trail mix, buy fresh nuts and combine them with dried fruit, such as apples, cherries, apricots, chopped dates and raisins for a satisfying breakfast or snack.
Each recipe makes only one serving.
FRIED EGGS WITH CAULIFLOWER HASH
(Use roasted cauliflower prepared in advance to save time. Roast olive oil-brushed pieces in oven at 425 for 20 minutes.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut into ¼-inch cubes
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ head uncooked cauliflower, chopped into florets
- 3 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 large eggs for women; 3 large eggs for men
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet over medium high. Add onion.
- Once softened, add uncooked cauliflower and three tablespoons of water with seasonings.
- Cover and cook for three to five minutes.
- Once golden, uncover and add garlic for two minutes. At same time, fry eggs in olive oil in another skillet.
- Serve eggs over cauliflower.
Use one part oats to one part liquid.
- ½ cup oats
- ½ cup dairy or non-dairy milk
- ½ banana
- Teaspoon chia seeds (gives a pudding-like consistency.)
In the morning, mix in fresh or dried fruit, nuts, nut butters, seeds, granola, coconut or cinnamon to add flavor. Slivered almonds, walnuts and peanut butter are all great protein additions. Apples, cinnamon and maple syrup are a great combination, too.
BLUEBERRY YOGURT SMOOTHIE
- 1 cup blueberries, frozen
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 cup almond/rice/hemp/soy or other milk
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon honey
Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender; puree until smooth (about 1 minute).
LEMON BERRY GRANOLA
- ¼ cup turbinado sugar (or your favorite type of granulated sugar)
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 3 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. lemon extract
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- 3 cups rolled oats (optionally gluten free)
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 cup dried berries
- Preheat oven to 300°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
- Place sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice and lemon extract in small saucepan over medium heat. Heat just until sugar is completely melted, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut oil.
- Stir together oats, coconut, pecans, lemon zest and salt in large mixing bowl. Add lemon juice mixture and stir until oats are evenly blended.
- Divide mixture among baking sheets, spreading in even layers. Bake 30 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.
- Allow to cool completely. Transfer to airtight storage container and mix in berries. For a tart flavor, add dried cherries.