So, how do you go about making breakfast the most important meal of the day. Well, first of all you need to pitch that IHOP version of breakfast (pancakes, eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits) out the window. "Important" doesn't mean gut-busting. "Important" also doesn't mean spending a lot of time slaving over a hot stove.
Stocking your pantry with healthy breakfast options is key. Often we make sure that we have plenty of foods for school or work lunches on hand as well as a variety dinner options, but other than bread and milk, the breakfast items often get overlooked. When you go shopping, it's a good idea to divide your list into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Miscellaneous categories so you don't neglect any area, especially the breakfast items. Also, if you make a point of listing breakfast items to purchase, then you'll be less likely to just grab a box of Fruit Loops and a gallon of milk and think your breakfast shopping is done. Listed below are a few good ideas for items to add to the Breakfast section of your shopping list:
oatmeal—steel cut is probably the healthiest because it has more fiber, but quick-cook is fine and so is the instant, just be sure to get a brand that's not too high in sodium
nuts—almonds and walnuts are great choices
nut butters—almond and peanut are good choices
quinoa—quick-cooking whole grain (often found in the rice section) that's high in protein. Often used as a rice or pasta substitute, but it also makes a great hot breakfast cereal.
cream of wheat—a great source of iron and calcium and only takes about 3 minutes to prepare! Great with nuts and/or a little maple syrup on top
whole-grain, high-fiber cold cereals—any brand is fine, some come with added nuts which is fine too.
100% whole grain bread— this can be loaf, bagel, English muffin, whatever suits your fancy (Check the ingredients list of products that say "made with whole grain." If whole grain is first or second, it's probably okay, but often with "made with whole-grain" the whole grain is very little. Ingredients are listed in order of abundance. So whatever is listed first is the most abundant in the product.) Whole-grains will give you sustained energy for your day unlike refined and processed grains.
yogurt—traditional and/or Greek (which is denser and higher in protein); avoid the "dessert yogurts" with all the bells and whistles, they're often loaded with extra fat and sugar
in-season fruits—strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, etc.
year-round fruits—bananas, oranges, apples, grapes
canned or frozen fruits—be sure to buy fruits packed in "natural juices" and not heavy syrup
lowfat cottage cheese
eggs and/or egg substitutes—eggs aren't the evil bad-health culprit that we once thought they were. Eggs are a great source of complete protein. Leaving out the yolk is a great option. If you normally eat two eggs, try using one whole egg and one egg white. You probably won't notice much difference. They're are also several egg substitutes on the market that are pretty good.
lowfat or skim milk or soy milk
Invest a little prep time each week to make your busy mornings a little less hectic and help ensure you have the time to eat a nutritious breakfast. Take about 30-minutes over the weekend and chop up a variety of nuts and store them in a zippered plastic baggy. Nuts are a great way to add more "meat" to a cold or hot breakfast cereal. The added protein will keep you fuller feeling longer. Put berries in a colander and rinse with cold water. Shake out the excess water and then put the berries in zippered baggies. Toss a few of the bags in the freezer then you'll have some berries ready to pop in a breakfast smoothie.
WebMD.com suggest that you use the "strive for 5" rule—5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein—when preparing breakfast. They explain that by balancing carbohydrates (preferably from whole grains, fruit and vegetables) with some protein and a little healthier fat you'll do a better job of staving off hunger, plus you'll have more energy for the first part of your day. The following are two of the great examples that WebMD.com gives of balanced "strive for 5" breakfast ideas providiong at least 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein:
Multigrain waffle (you can buy these frozen now) topped with 1/2-cup fresh fruit and 1/4 cup plain yogurt with 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of ground cinnamon stirred in. (265 calories, 48 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 11 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 12 mg cholesterol, 386 mg sodium.)
Yogurt breakfast parfait made with 6 ounces low fat "lite" yogurt, 1/2-cup fresh chopped fruit and 1/2-cup low-fat granola. (302 calories, 65 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, 10 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium.) For more examples, be sure to check out the website.
For those really busy days, keep some high-fiber granola bars on hand. Fiber One makes a good high-fiber bar. Grab one of those and a piece of fruit as you head out the door and you'll have your "strive for 5" and a pretty good start to your day. A lot better than that cream-filled chocolate covered doughnut from the convenient store. I promise.