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Quick and Healthful Breakfasts

  • Peter Jaret
  • Posted March 11, 2013

On a typically hectic morning, most of us couldn't possibly find the time to make that "complete breakfast" we remember seeing on the side of cereal boxes when we were kids. (And if you're not a morning person, the very idea of eggs, toast, juice, cereal, and milk may be more than you can stomach.) The good news is you don't have to entertain all the food groups at breakfast. What's important is getting yourself a dose of energy and at least a few essential nutrients -- something more than coffee -- before you run out the door.

We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day -- and research reported at the American Heart Association's Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention bears that out. A study of over 2,800 young adults found that those who ate breakfast every day were much less likely to be obese or develop diabetes than those who often skipped breakfast. Here are some ways to give your body what it needs to stay healthy.

What can I eat on the go?

If it's all you can do to grab something to have in the car or while waiting for the bus, go for one of these power sources:

Granola bars. Loaded with fiber from whole grains, granola bars are a great source of energy in the form of carbohydrates. You'll be mentally sharper if you've eaten something, and brain cells need a constant supply of carbohydrates.

Whole wheat bagel with peanut butter. Whole grain bagels such as whole wheat and rye have more fiber than the plain or seeded varieties. Peanut butter is great source of protein, and the fat in the "natural" varieties doesn't clog arteries. (Just go easy on the peanut butter, because it packs a lot of calories.)

Oat bran muffin. With more fiber and less fat than a typical blueberry muffin, oat bran muffins also provide surprising amounts of potassium and magnesium.

Fruit. Apples are high in fiber and refreshing. Bananas top all other fresh fruits as a source of potassium. A snack-size box of raisins is loaded with energy-giving carbohydrates and fiber. By keeping your blood sugar level from slipping, fruit staves off a midmorning slump.

What should I choose if I can spare a few minutes?

Keep your refrigerator stocked with fruit and a few other basic items, and you can be gulping an energizing and nutritious breakfast before your freshly shampooed hair is dry. Here are some delicious ways to pep yourself up:

Orange-banana smoothie. Orange juice, low-fat or nonfat yogurt, and a banana are all you need to blend up a taste treat that's high in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and calcium.

Very berry smoothie. Blend a banana, a splash of cranberry or apple juice, and a handful of fresh or frozen berries, which are exceptionally rich in antioxidants (substances that combat cancerous changes in cells).

Down under delight. Believe it or not, when researchers tallied up the nutritional value of popular fruits, kiwis came out on top. Peel one and zap it in the blender with a banana, apple juice, and your favorite berries.

Fruit salad. Prepare a big fruit salad on Sunday that you can dig into during the week. Add a dollop of yogurt to each serving for extra protein and calcium.

Toaster treats. Frozen waffles take almost no time to make. Choose whole grain varieties for a dose of fiber, and top them with berries or sliced bananas instead of syrup.

What should I eat if I can sit down for 10 minutes before heading to work?

Experts say the healthiest breakfast choice around is cereal with low-fat or nonfat milk. The combo is high in calcium, low in fat, and -- if you choose a whole grain variety -- loaded with fiber. Plus, all cereals these days are fortified with important nutrients like the B vitamin called folic acid. Read labels so you can steer clear of excessive sugar and partially hydrogenated oils; if you have a sweet tooth, sweeten your cereal with raisins, a sliced banana, or other fruit. Place a tall glass of juice alongside the bowl, and the vitamin C will help your body absorb the cereal's iron. Here are three high-fiber, low-sugar cereal superstars:

Wheat or oat flakes. The breakfast of athletic heroes, whole wheat (or oat) flake cereals fill you and keep you going. Look for varieties with at least 5 grams of fiber and no more than a few grams of sugar per serving.

Grape-Nuts. With no added sugar and the goodness of whole grains, Grape-Nuts is one of the best choices on the shelf.

Cheerios. If you loved the little O's as a kid, revisit your childhood. Nutritionists love them because they're made of whole grains and have only 2 grams of sugar per serving. The best choice may be Multi-Grain Cheerios Plus, which is packed with vitamins and minerals.

Instant oatmeal. A minute in the microwave is all it takes to produce a steaming bowl of nutritious high-fiber oatmeal, a comforting choice in wintertime. Add raisins for some sweet energy.

Further Resources

Roberta Larson Duyuff, MS, RD, CFCS, The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Chronimed Publishing, 1996, 1998.

References

Roberta Larson Duyuff, MS, RD, CFCS, The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Chronimed Publishing, 1996, 1998.

American Medical Association, Good Food That's Good For You: Good Nutrition at Every Age

American Academy of Pediatrics, Nutrional Needs of School-Age Children

Eating breakfast may reduce risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease. American Heart Association Journal Report. March 6, 2003. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3009715

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