Healthy breakfast foods for the most important meal of the day
It’s a weekday morning and you’re late for work. Do you:
- A. Skip breakfast? You’ll just wait for lunch time.
- B. Grab a donut and a Venti?
- C. Have one of these hard-boiled eggs or bowl of oatmeal you always keep in the fridge when you’re in a rush?
[Score: A=0, B=1, C=5]
Yep, a sugar-laden donut is better than you ‘‘running on empty’’. Don’t get me wrong, that’s unhealthy but skipping breakfast is even more so: it causes your body to go into conservation mode which means that you’ll probably feel sluggish and moody throughout the day. Plus if you regularly skip breakfast, you may unfortunately see the scale go up and your muscle mass decrease.
What makes a breakfast healthy?
Your first meal of the day will serve to kick start your metabolism and help you perform better at work or at school. Thus, it should consist of:
- At least 5g of lean protein;
- At least 5g of fiber from whole grains and/or fruits and vegetables;
- Some healthy fats;
- Plenty of fluid (to rehydrate yourself after a night’s rest since being only 1% dehydrated can make you lethargic as your metabolism will slow down).
Here are some yummy foods that will help power your day:
Eggs: These are full of protein — about 6g per egg— which will help you feel full and satisfied by blunting the rise in blood glucose and insulin levels. Moreover, since protein takes more time to be digested, it ensures slow release of energy; thereby helping to improve mental alertness and keep hunger pangs at bay during the morning hours. A 2010 study showed that having eggs for breakfast suppressed ghrelin response, the hormone which stimulates hunger, and helped participants consume fewer calories during the day1.
Bonus: the yolk contains the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
If you’re making an omelet, substitute your high fat cheese with some shredded spinach — this way, you’ll get some fiber and antioxidants with your protein and fats.
Oats: Coarse or steel-cut oats are terrific sources of soluble fiber — the type that helps you feel full longer. In a study involving over 1000 subjects, for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7% over 5 years2— this dangerous fat has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
To make your oatmeal more ‘interesting’, complement it with some yoghurt or milk for protein, some fruits for vitamins and antioxidants and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon powder to stimulate your metabolism.
Smoothies: Make your morning routine healthily delicious with a home-made smoothie that can pack a whole lot of vitamins. For a boost of antioxidants, mix together in a blender 1 cup of almond milk, 2 tablespoons of almond butter, ½ cup each of frozen berries and pineapple chunks and 1 cup of baby spinach.
Whole-wheat products: The body takes more time to digest and absorb whole grains compared to refined ones. What this means is that if you eat refined carbs for breakfast, these will be rapidly converted into sugar and quickly absorbed by the body, leaving you tired and grumpy. Instead of donuts or sugary cereals, choose:
- Whole-wheat toast with some peanut butter (protein) and a fruit.
- A multi-grain frozen waffle with some Greek yoghurt and fresh fruits.
- A whole-grain English muffin with some chicken salad.
- A whole-wheat burrito with veggies and an omelet or some beans and salsa.
1. Ratliff J, Leite JO, De Ogburn R, Puglisi MG, VanHeest J, Fernandez ML. (2010) “Consuming Eggs for Breakfast Influences Plasma Glucose and Ghrelin, While Reducing Energy Intake During the Next 24 Hours in Adult Men.” Nutrition Research: 30(2): 96–103.
2. Hairston KG, Vitolins MZ, Norris JM, Anderson AM, Hanley AJ, Wagenknecht LE. (2012) Lifestyle factors and 5-year abdominal fat accumulation in a minority cohort: the IRAS Family Study. Obesity 20(2):421-7.