It is often said that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I can also add that Breakfast is the easiest-to-skip meal of the day.
Often we are not hungry when we wake up. If we are trying to lose some weight we decide “I’ll just skip my breakfast. This way I will avoid at least 300 calories which will get me closer to my ideal weight.” (I know I made this mistake in the past.)
Unfortunately this diet strategy works completely against you. It makes you eat more during lunch and later that day, it also makes you crave high-energy (read: high in fat and refined carbs) foods. It also makes you moody and irritated.
Even those who are not trying to lose weight are still losing out when they skip breakfast. In the morning our bodies are getting out of the nighttime fast (just think about it, night is the longest period of starving for our body.) By afternoon glycogen supplies (molecules that work as primary energy sources for the body) start to deplete. By lunch you start feeling fatigued, you lose your focus and the ability to think fast and make decisions. Usually in this state you reach for a cup of coffee with a high-carb treat which makes your blood sugar levels shoot out of the roof only making you even more fatigued in an hour or so.
Here are just a few quick facts why a balanced breakfast is so important:
Children and adults who eat breakfast perform better on tests, have better focus and concentration, they are also able to think faster and make faster decisions (Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital study)
Eating breakfast improves your late-morning mood as well as has advantageous effects on satiety and cognitive performance (University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School)
Eating breakfast keeps you thin. Not only a low-fat breakfast helps you lose weight but it keeps the scale from creeping up with years (National Weight Control Registry)
Breakfast jump-starts your metabolism so that you can start metabolizing fat stored in your body (Duke University Medical School)
Eating breakfast keeps the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol lower protecting your ticker for years to come (October 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
People who typically eat breakfast also get more fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, zinc and iron—and less fat and dietary cholesterol. Perhaps it’s because they often eat cereal, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals, and fruit, which is naturally nutrient-rich.
Balanced and fast Breakfast ideas
Breakfast as any other meal should be a balanced combination of nutrients that will give your body enough energy to go through the entire day. It’s important to include whole grains, fruits or vegetables, protein and healthy fats in your breakfast, but combining any two of these ingredients will still be a great choice.
One of the main reasons why people skip breakfast in the morning is because they do not have time to cook it. Most of us have more important things to do in the morning than cooking breakfast for 30 minutes. In the table below you can find examples of healthy breakfast foods. Combine ingredients from different columns to create a wholesome and balanced breakfast.
Low-fat protein: low-fat yogurt, Greek yogurt, eggs or egg whites (if you are watching your cholesterol you can mix 1 full egg with 2-3 egg whites or substitute for egg beaters), cottage cheese, peanut butter, skim milk or soy milk, smoked salmon, lean slices of meat and poultry.
Whole-grains: whole grain cereal (choose types that have at least 3 g of fiber per serving and not more than 9g of sugar), oatmeal, whole-grain bagel or piece of toast, whole-grain waffles, whole-grain pancakes.
Healthy fat: natural peanut butter (natural varieties do not have added hydrogenated oils or sugar), any nuts, avocado, ground flax seeds.
Produce: dried and fresh berries, (choose varieties with no added sugar) fruit, freshly squeezed juices, vegetables that you can add to your omelets.
Budget-friendly breakfast ideas
- Yogurt parfait:
layers of seasonal or frozen fruit and berries, granola and plain low-fat yogurt.
- 1 whole-grain waffle with peanut butter (instead of syrup) and a few slices of fresh fruit or berries (strawberries, apples and bananas are my favorite.)
- 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 whole-grain piece of toast with naturally sweetened fruit spread or butter.
- 1 whole-grain bagel with low fat cream cheese and several fruit slices.
- Whole grain cold cereal with low-fat/skim milk or soy milk.
- Oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and nuts.
- 2% Greek yogurt sprinkled with toasted wheat germ or granola and with seasonal or frozen fruit.
- Egg or egg-white sandwich: 2 pieces of whole-grain toast with a little bit of mayo or butter, 1 egg or 3 egg whites cooked in a non-stick pan with just a sprinkle of oil or butter.
- 1 piece of whole-grain toast with Cheddar cheese melted o top of it (you can also add a piece of ham if you are craving meat in the morning.)
- Scrambled eggs (2 eggs) with grits (1 cup cooked.)
- Omelet with fresh vegetables.
These vegetables usually taste excellent in omelets:
mushrooms and they are budget-friendly as well.Sauté chopped vegetables in a little bit of vegetable oil (canola or grape seed oil are my favorites), then pour slightly-beaten eggs on top of it.Cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium low and cook until the eggs are set. Top the omelet with cheese if you want.
- Fruit salad:
cut-up fresh fruit that I have in the refrigerator, a handful of raisins and nuts. Sometimes I top it with 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt. This is a great breakfast when you want to cleanse your system and detox your entire body.Even better: Use frozen fruit. Fresh fruit can be expensive especially in winter. Frozen fruit (no sugar or syrup added) are a real powerhouse of nutrients at a fraction of a cost. Most frozen fruit is picked at the peak of freshness and flash-frozen to seal all the vitamins and nutrients. Fresh fruit on the other hand can sit for weeks on trucks and in warehouses causing it to lose its nutrients (vitamin C is the first one to go.)For a healthy fruit salad thaw your favorite fruit or berries and mix them with a fresh banana, apple and nuts.
- Overnight muesli.
It is a great way to start your day because you do not have to cook anything in the morning. Mix everything the night before and in the morning you will have healthy breakfast for the entire family.
4 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats, (not quick-cooking or steel-cut)
1 tablespoons dried cranberries or any other dried fruit (I like tropical mix)
1 tablespoon nuts (I like walnuts, almonds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds)
1 tablespoon wheat germ
2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup (I use honey or syrup only for my little girls, my husband and I do not add any sweeteners or sugars)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1) 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt with 1/4 cup unsweetened or fruit-juice-sweetened cranberry juice (you can use any other juice that you like)
2) ½ cup of skim milk
Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Tip: if you forgot to make this cereal in the evening you can still fix it in the morning, mix it with ½ cup of hot milk and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Home-made granola cereal with skim milk.
You can make big batches of this granola cereal every 2 or 3 weeks and enjoy healthy and super-fast breakfasts. Top it with berries or any seasonal fruit to make it even more delicious.
6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
½ cup vegetable oil (I love walnut or almond oil, but you can use any other variety that you like. Olive oil is not the best choice for this cereal because it loses its healthy qualities when it is heated.)
½ cup agave nectar, honey or maple syrup (if honey is too thick you can mix it with ¼ cup warm water)
½ cup wheat germ
1/3 cup wheat bran
1/3 cup ground flax seed
2/3 cup nuts (I usually use walnuts and almonds)
1 cup raisins (you can also use cranberries, cut-up dried apricots, diced dates, tropical fruit mix, banana chips or any other dried fruit.)
Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix all the ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Spread the mixture in 2 shallow baking trays and bake for 30 minutes stirring twice.
Remove the mixture from the oven, allow to cool and transfer to an airtight container.
Tip: put the trays on wet cold towels to cool the trays and stop the cereal from cooking.Important note: this cereal is not a low-calorie breakfast idea and you can easily pack on the pounds if you eat too much of it. To make this cereal less calorie dense you can mix it with 3-4 cups of uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats or toasted oats (spread 4 cups of oats on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 F for 20-30 minutes stirring twice.)Serve with skim milk and top with berries or bananas.
Feel free to improvise with these two cereal recipes. You can add other grains (rye or barley flakes), mix in your favorite whole-grain cereal or puffed rice, add coconut flakes or sesame seeds for a tropical taste, add a dash of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of cinnamon. Work with the ingredients that are available in your area so that you can create a breakfast that you will look forward to.
- Smoothie (great before runs or morning workouts)
1 cup skim milk/soy milk or plain low-fat yogurt,
1 cup frozen berries,
1 tablespoons of wheat germ,
½ tbs of ground flax seed and wheat bran each.
1 teaspoon of instant coffee to help you wake up;
1 tbs natural peanut butter to make smoothie more filling;
½ cup of cottage cheese – a great source of protein;
½ cup of ground oatmeal (put ¼ cup oatmeal in a dry blender and pulse it until the oatmeal turns into powder) – good source of fiber, protein and a great thickening agent if you are not using a banana or yogurt;
1 cup fresh spinach – you won’t taste it but will reap all of its benefits.Blend all of the ingredients and enjoy!
Best drink to jumpstart your day
Most of us are used to drinking a big mug of coffee in the morning to wake up and start the day. I‘ve been a coffee drinker for many years but lately I’ve switched to a healthier alternative.
Coffee is not necessarily a bad thing in the morning. After all it is packed with fiber, it has a nice taste, it helps you to wake up and according to some research it is even a heart healthy drink. I like coffee myself and usually drink it a few times a week.
However, if you start your day with coffee, then continue your mid-morning with another cup from Starbucks and order a few espressos during lunch then we have a problem. Instead of energizing you coffee starts robbing you of energy, it gives you a headache, constant feeling of nervous anxiety and agitation as well as makes you lose your focus at work and at home. Coffee is also a diuretic and it robs your body of vital water.
If you like to start your day with coffee then limit this drink to only 2 cups a day. This way you will get all the benefits without any negatives. Also for each cup of coffee that you drink you need to drink a glass of water double the size of your coffee cup to stay well-hydrated.
The first thing when you wake up, drink a big glass of water with lemon squeezed from a half lemon. It is recommended that the water should be warm but I personally can drink only cold water. This drink helps take a load off your lymphatic system, help cleanse your system and detoxify your liver cells.
The citrus smell is also very energizing so it will help you wake up in just a few minutes.
Lemon juice is also full off vitamin C which can boost your immune system and ward off stress (constant stress depletes your body’s supply of this essential vitamin.)
You can also rely on this drink during the day to keep your energy levels high.
Green tea has high levels of caffeine so it can be used instead of your morning mug of java.
According to various recent studies drinking green tea was reputed to be helpful in preventing or fighting cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, infection and impaired immune function.
If you drink decaffeinated green tea then you still get all the health benefits. However decaf is 50% less potent than original varieties.
- What is your favorite Healthy Breakfast? Please share your recipes and ideas in the comments below.
- Starting tomorrow stick to a healthy breakfast every morning no matter how little time you have or how hungry you are.
- Share pictures of your favorite breakfast on BalanceInMe Facebook page
Keep it balanced!
P.S. Healthy eating is only one part of a balanced lifestyle. I encourage you to take control of your life and start making small steps to a more balanced living every day.
If you don’t know just how to simplify your life then I would like to help you. Take a look at the Reclaim Your Life ecourse, and don’t forget to check out the Lifestyle Revolution package – a special program that I created to help you live a more active and balanced life without sacrificing your lifestyle.