You don't have to start every morning with the breakfast of champions. But it's a good idea to kick off your day with a healthy first meal.
Starting your day with a balanced meal can make a major difference in your overall health and well-being, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Breakfast is literally a break in fasting.
The fast is the 8 to 12 hours since you last ate before bedtime. When you wake to a new day, you need food to reload your body's supply of glucose—or blood sugar—that provides energy.
Some of the benefits of eating breakfast include:
- More strength.
- Better endurance.
- Improved concentration.
- Increased problem-solving ability.
On the other hand, if you skip breakfast, you're more likely to be tired, irritable or restless in the morning.
The morning meal is especially important for kids and teens. Kids who eat breakfast have better school attendance, are late for school less often, have improved muscle coordination and are less likely to be overweight, according to the Academy.
Making the right choices
There's no set menu for a good breakfast. But there are some guidelines you should follow to make sure your morning meal is healthy and balanced:
Go easy on sugar. Sugar adds calories but offers few, if any, nutrients. So skip the doughnuts, bear claws and other pastries.
Power up with protein. Protein can help you stay strong and focused throughout the morning, according to the Academy. Good sources of protein include eggs, low-fat yogurt and peanut butter.
Include whole grains. Whole grains are packed with fiber and nutrients. They also tend to be digested slowly, so they provide long-lasting energy.
Add fruits and veggies. Try fresh, seasonal fruit. Or put canned fruit in a parfait. Or try including chopped veggies in an omelet.
Here are some ideas for a healthy breakfast:
- A bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and an orange.
- Egg whites with whole-grain toast and fruit.
- Scrambled eggs, low-fat milk and pancakes topped with fruit.
- Toasted waffles topped with peanut butter and banana slices.
- A whole-wheat pita stuffed with sliced, hard-cooked eggs with a glass of vegetable juice.
- A chopped-vegetable omelet with a slice of whole-grain toast.
And there's no rule that you have to eat typical breakfast foods for your first meal of the day. Veggie pizza, pasta, rice, sandwiches and other healthy leftovers can be fine breakfast substitutes.
Make time for breakfast
If mornings are hectic in your house, it can be easy to overlook breakfast. But there are ways you can make time to eat and still get everyone off to school and work on schedule.
The Academy offers these tips:
- Get ready the night before. Set the table and have breakfast ingredients ready to go. Slice up fruit or low-fat cheese ahead of time.
- Keep it simple. If you're rushed, stick to whole-grain cereals and toast, juice and fruits. Save big, fancy breakfasts for weekends, when you have more time.
- Pack a brown bag breakfast. If you don't have time at home, take breakfast with you. Low-fat yogurt, bananas, oranges and juice containers are all portable, healthy breakfasts.
By making time and smart breakfast choices, you can start your morning on the right foot and look forward to a productive day of work, school or play.