So what exactly goes into a "healthy breakfast"? A well-balanced and energy-packed breakfast will contain fiber, protein and carbohydrates to keep you fueled until your next meal. Before you reach for the pop-tarts, frosted flakes, or smother your cinnamon raisin bagel in flavored cream cheese, remember to be conscious of your sugar intake. If your breakfast has more than five grams of sugar in it, you may want to reconsider your choices. Consuming too much sugar first thing in the morning can cause a nasty energy "crash" later in the day, which will leave you reaching for the Tylenol and wondering if you can sneak in a nap at your desk without anyone noticing.
Here are some healthy, nutritious and energy packed suggestions to help you get your day off on the right foot:
When I say oatmeal, I mean plain oats. Not instant, not flavored...plain. Steel-cut oats are simple, quick and healthy without the added sugars of the most popular breakfast cereals. Plus, the healthy carbs first thing in the morning will help you feel full all the way until lunch. Flavor them for yourself by adding berries, honey or agave, peanut butter, cocoa powder or a banana.
Eggs are a low calorie and high protein option to fuel your day. Much like oatmeal, eggs are an incredibly diverse staple in your morning meal. Scrambled, hard-boiled, poached or pan fried (with olive oil or a calorie free cooking spray)...it's hard to go wrong with eggs. Worried about your cholesterol? Try exchanging egg whites for 2/3s of the eggs in your dish (for example, scramble two egg whites and one whole egg instead of three whole eggs). This way, you get all of the flavor, all of the protein and less of the cholesterol.
3. Whole-Wheat Breads
English muffins, waffles, toast, bagels...this is where some of the old familiar breakfast favorites make an appearance! Remember to be cautious of your sugar intake though, as most processed breakfast breads contain much more sugar than is wise first thing in the morning. Why whole wheat? Whole wheat is less refined than the white bread, and thereby retains much more of its fiber and nutrients than the white bread alternatives of the same foods. What you top these foods with counts too! Avoid high-sugar syrups, jellies and unhealthy fats like butter and some cream-cheese brands. Try putting avocado on your bagel, or a little agave and cinnamon on your waffle instead.
4. Almond Butter
Almond butter is an excellent option for protein and healthy fats for those of you who may not eat eggs or other dairy products. Almond butter pairs wonderfully with apple slices and bananas, or as a spread on your favorite whole-wheat breakfast bread of choice.
5. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies bring variety and flavor to any breakfast. Berries like blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that do nothing but good things for your body. Their natural sweetness can help to soothe your taste buds, particularly if you're used to sugary cereals or pastries first thing in the morning. Try making a smoothie with strawberries, watermelon, pineapple, a few ice cubes and water for a delicious and refreshing kick-start to your day. Not interested in a sweet breakfast, but still want some flavor in your first meal? Veggies are just as interchangeable in your breakfast menu as fruits. Bell peppers, carrots, spinach, onions and mushrooms all make phenomenal additions to omelets, scrambled eggs or breakfast quiches and casseroles. Avocado makes a wonderful spread on toast or bagels, and tastes wonderful with a few slices of turkey bacon on top.
Breakfast tastes great, it makes you feel great and a healthy breakfast gives you a positive start to the rest of your day. It really is the most important meal of the day!
Dani Russell is a freelance health and fitness lifestyle writer living in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is currently working to complete a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and is a practicing student therapist. In her free time she can be found playing in the ocean, hiking and weightlifting. You can keep up with her daily quest to balance multiple jobs, fitness and graduate school via her tumblr.