It's true: breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. A nutritious, well-balanced morning meal not only sustains your energy levels better than endless cups of coffee, but it also can help:
- Boost weight loss efforts. Research shows that breakfast eaters are more successful at losing weight and maintaining that weight loss compared to breakfast skippers.
- Sharpen your mind. People who consume a high-fiber breakfast stay more alert than those who start their day with a high-fat meal, according to research.
- Protect your cardiovascular system. A study revealed that people who consumed whole-grain cereals rather than refined cereals had a lower risk of heart disease.
- Strengthen your immune system. The right breakfast choices help you start your day with immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.
Eating anything you want for breakfast won't bring you the health benefits outlined above. You'll need to focus on certain kinds of foods. Answer the question below to see if your breakfast choices are making you younger.
Choose your cereal wisely. Whether your cereal is hot or cold, you'll always want to check the fiber, fat, and sugar content per serving. For example, many kinds of instant oatmeal tend to be heavily processed, leaving it lower in fiber than unprocessed, whole oats. Choose cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Inspect breakfast bar labels the same way you would inspect cereal labels, noting fat, fiber, and sugar content. Many cereal, granola, and breakfast bars tend to skimp on fiber and instead bulk up on sugar. Your goal should be to get a total of at least 6 grams of fiber at breakfast. If your favorite cereal is low on fiber, add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to it.
Another quick breakfast trick: always keep raisins and nuts on hand. Raisins can be tossed into cereals whenever your fresh fruit supplies are low, or they can be added to cereal in addition to fresh fruit for extra flavor. And nuts aren't only for snacking. They make a great addition to healthy breakfasts by adding unsaturated fat -- the good kind of fat -- to your meal. A little bit of healthy fat in a meal can help you feel fuller for longer, and also can help your body better absorb nutrients from the rest of your meal.
When shopping for fruit juice, make sure it's pure. Fruit-flavored juice drinks, cocktails, and blends often contain loads of added sugar and hardly any actual fruit juice.
Skip the donut or pastry -- their high glycemic indexes mean your body digests them quickly and your energy levels could crash well before lunch as a result. If your cereal bar is low in fiber and high in sugar, you may need another option there, as well. Instead, grab a toasted whole-wheat English muffin topped with a whole-fruit spread. If your breakfast isn't keeping you satisfied until lunch, you may need to emphasize more low-glycemic index (GI) foods, which can help keep you feeling full longer. Low-GI foods include whole-grain (and high-fiber) cereals such as bran, oatmeal, and muesli, and high-fiber fruits, such as berries and apples. Filling up on these satisfying foods at breakfast can help prevent over-snacking during the day, which helps reduce your overall daily calorie intake.
Take your breakfast with you!
No time for breakfast? If you're pressed for time in the morning, stocking your fridge with portable, ready-to-eat portions -- fruit and veggies in sandwich bags, hard-boiled eggs, and low-fat or non-fat yogurt cups -- allows you to grab something quick and easy . . . and nutritious.