Start Your Day Off Right

Keep your morning going strong with healthy smoothies and other breakfast ideas.

| September/October 2007

When I was a child, my everyday breakfast consisted of a bowl of sugar-coated cornflakes with two spoonfuls of sugar, swimming in whole milk. We didn’t know any better back then. Nowadays, most experts agree that a balanced breakfast probably is the most important meal of the day. In fact, fueling up with nutritious foods first thing in the morning can be an excellent (and enjoyable!) investment in a healthy life.

A healthy breakfast can help you stay more focused and consistently energetic during the day. It even can improve your memory and mood. By eating a balanced breakfast, you jumpstart the day with a hearty dose of fiber, essential fatty acids, protein, complex carbohydrates, key vitamins and minerals (especially the B vitamins), along with an array of antioxidants and other phytonutrients—all of which can help lower your risk for disease. Starting your day off right with breakfast also can give you the edge over weight gain by kicking your metabolism into high gear and lessening the chance of overeating later in the day.

Fast Takes

When hectic mornings leave little time for slicing and dicing, these fast-food ideas can put breakfast together in a matter of minutes and get you out the door.

  • Whole-grain English muffin with your favorite nut butter and fresh berries with yogurt
  • Veggie burger on a whole-grain bun with a glass of soymilk
  • Small pieces of cheese with dried fruits and a handful of nuts
  • Whole-grain bagel or toast topped with ricotta cheese or silken tofu and served with a piece of fruit
  • Lowfat, fruit-filled whole-grain muffins baked the night before
  • Whole-grain pita filled with last night’s veggie and meat leftovers and sprinkled with cheese
  • Whole-grain cereal with fruit and yogurt or soymilk
  • Instant miso soup with tofu and whole-wheat couscous stirred in

Results from a study reported at the American Heart Association’s 43rd annual conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention suggests that breakfast plays a significant role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Foods that contain fiber—especially whole-grain cereal—play a key role in lowering the risk of heart disease. And fiber-rich cereals also can help keep blood cholesterol levels in check. According to the Nurses’ Health Study of more than 68,000 women over a 10-year period, a high fiber intake was linked to a 47 percent reduction in heart disease.

The ideal breakfast includes lean protein, fiber-rich complex carbohydrates and small amounts of essential fatty acids. Aim for a low-sugar breakfast with at least 5 grams each of protein and fiber per serving and no more than 5 grams of total fat. Adding fruit to your meal also will help boost your fiber intake.

My former sugar-enhanced breakfast was a nutritional nightmare that I eventually outgrew. Now my favorite fast-food breakfast consists of organic whole-grain cereal with 1 cup of plain nonfat yogurt and fresh fruit. This breakfast provides plenty of protein (16 grams), fiber (22 percent of the day’s total), phytonutrients and live cultures. Meals like this can be prepared in a matter of minutes and even eaten on the run. For make-ahead breakfasts or when you have a bit more time to spare, the recipes that follow are delicious ways to jumpstart your day—and your life!

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