Three Elements that Forge a Healthy Breakfast

healthy morning, oatmeal, toast, peanut butterSince breakfast is the first meal of the day, it’s slightly more important than the other meals. Your body will have been fasting during the night–unless you woke up and nommed a late-night snack–so this is the first chance you get to fill up your energy tank. Don’t miss out. Eating a good breakfast helps you have a good day, since you’ll have all the energy you need to work and play well throughout the day.

However, many of the foods in the average American breakfast are basically hyper-processed junk foods like white breads and cereals based on enriched grains. Enriched grains are a misleading name. “Enriched” usually means the grains had most of the nutritional value stripped away during processing and then, to try to compensate for the original loss of nutrition, had some extra vitamins tossed in afterwards. Enriched, then, usually means less nutritious–and these are unfortunately the grains in most of the popular cereals.

Elements of a Healthy Breakfast

Instead, aim for whole wheat grains, cereals, and breads. This will help you make sure to get at least five grams of fiber in your breakfast. Whole wheat comes from the bran, germ, and other nutritious parts of the grain, so eating whole wheat gets you more fiber and other essential things like manganese.

Then, make sure to get five grams of protein in your breakfast too. Proteins are critical for all kinds of important physical and mental things like building and repairing neural connections in your brain. For these reasons, be sure to include some healthy proteins like a few eggs or a glass of milk with your breakfast. Don’t forget: aim for fresh fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas.

Finally, end your war on fat. A little fat in your meal helps you feel fuller longer. If you really want to beat the hungry horrors and have your breakfast last a while, give fat a little room on your plate.

Now, here are a few examples of how to make a superb breakfast.

Try whole wheat oatmeal with some raisins, a side of Greek yogurt (beware the sugar-added yogurts!), and a banana or apple chopped up in the oatmeal. You’ll get your fiber and healthy, whole-wheat carbohydrates with the oatmeal while the Greek yogurt will add in protein and beneficial bacteria that regulate the health of your digestive system. The banana has healthy plant sugars and potassium and the raisins add nutrition and texture to the oatmeal. Add in an  8 oz  glass of milk, water, or 4 oz orange juice to get some liquids–or, in the case of milk, protein too–into your body and you should be on your way to a wonderful day.

Or maybe you’re in a toast mood. Toss some whole wheat bread in the toaster and spread on just a half tablespoon of butter (one patty between the two). The butter ads only 50 calories and helps you feel full longer. Some natural peanut butter smeared on your toast will also supplement your diet with proteins and keep you feeling full longer without added sugars.

Repeat after me: Protein, Fiber, Fats. These three nutrients keep you feeling fuller longer. Experiment with different breakfast foods and write down the results each day. Did you feel satisfied after eating, or find yourself wanting more? How long did it take for hunger to return? How can you tweak these breakfasts to make they tastier, more satisfying and more filling? After a week or two of writing down what you ate and what the results were, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what the best breakfast is for your body and lifestyle.

I did this for a week and discovered that oatmeal with fruit mixed in, followed  by whole milk keeps me full for about 3 ½ hours. Same with two slices peanut-buttered toast and a banana. Things that didn’t work well for me included cereal with milk and toasted waffles. What works for you?