Simple ways to start your day (and year) off right!
A good breakfast can help you lose weight, boost brainpower, increase energy, and set a healthy tone for the rest of your day—so make it count each morning! "A great breakfast provides a number of food groups, especially those that most Americans fall short on if they don't include them in the first meal of the day," says Christen Cupples Cooper, MS, a registered dietitian. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight and stay focused all day, studies also show that regularly eating a healthy breakfast can help prevent diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer, Cooper says.
To help you make the most out of your morning meal, we asked nutrition experts for their top low-calorie breakfast ideas that are easy to make (or that you can grab on the go) and are sure to keep you satisfied till lunch.
While eggs are a great protein-rich breakfast, they aren't always convenient to make on a busy morning. Mary Hartley, MPH, a registered dietitian in New York City recommends making your frittata the night (or day) before.
"My favorite is frittata made with potatoes and any cooked vegetable. I zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds, or I eat it cold," she says. "It's super healthy with fewer than 200 calories per slice, and I've already eaten vegetables before my day begins!" We love this easy Vegetable and Cheese Frittata recipe!
For only 228 calories, this berry parfait will provide you with 12.5 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 44 percent of your recommended daily vitamin C intake, and 33 percent of your daily calcium needs.
"This little recipe is wildly nutritious for the calories spent," Hartley says. "I make it the night before, cover, and refrigerate, and in the morning, the granola is soft and the frozen berries are thawed."
To make: In a goblet, layer the following ingredients twice: berries (1/4 cup of sliced strawberries and ¼ cup of blueberries—can be fresh of frozen), 6 ounces of vanilla low-fat yogurt, and 2 tablespoons of granola (and finish with a few berries on top).
Want something that is easy to make (and even easier to eat) on a hectic morning? Try Jimmy Dean Delights' Canadian Bacon Honey Wheat Muffin. Pop a frozen muffin in the microwave and your breakfast will be ready to eat in less than five minutes.
"Made with Canadian bacon, egg whites, and just a little cheese, this sandwich is healthier than most others," Hartley says. With only 210 calories and 4.5 grams of fat, this quick and easy breakfast packs in 15 grams of protein to keep you satisfied and full of energy for hours.
"I love the taste of natural peanut butter or almond butter on grainy, whole wheat bread topped with a bit of honey," Hartley says. "I down it with a glass of fat-free milk, grab a piece of fruit, and I'm out the door!" This balanced and substantial breakfast (including milk and fruit) is only around 320 calories.
If you think breakfast should come in a bowl, Cooper has a few tips to help you pick a smart cereal: look for a brand that contains at least five grams (or more) of fiber per serving, add a half cup of skim or low-fat milk to your bowl to provide calcium and protein, and toss in a serving of fruit (berries or bananas go great with cereal) to boost the filling fiber content of your meal. And if you love cereal but don't have time to sit down with a bowl, bring it in a baggie and eat it with a six ounce container of yogurt, says nutritionist Amelia Winslow, founder of Eating Made Easy.
Not a fan of traditional breakfast foods? Try this easy-to-make, energizing morning meal: cut a ripe avocado in half, scoop it out of the peel, remove the seed, put your favorite fresh salsa in place of the seed, and sprinkle with a little sea salt.
"This isn't your typical breakfast, but it's perfect for those who are looking to be sustained with energy and fullness during the day. And while avocados do have a lot of fat, it's the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and they're a good source of vitamin K, a vitamin that is important in proper blood and bone function," says Margaux J. Rathbun, Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and founder of Authentic Self Wellness.
This smoothie is full of immune-boosting antioxidants and plenty of fiber, plus the chia seeds add protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
"This smoothie is a delicious way to boost your immune system while giving you a natural lift of energy," Rathbun says.
To make: combine 1 cup of strawberries, 1 cup of raspberries (Rathbun recommends using organic berries to limit your exposure to pesticides), a half cup of pineapple, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, five tablespoons of plain whole mile yogurt (or kefir), and six tablespoons of coconut water in a blender and mix until smooth. (If you want to make it cold, toss a few ice cubes into the blender).
This energy-boosting recipe is delicious, nutritious, and easy to make, Rathbun says. "The added flax oil gives this breakfast a boost of omega-3 fatty acids, perfect for promoting a healthy heart, skin, hair, and nails. The oil combined with the oats also gives your body a natural boost of long-lasting energy, and oats are an excellent source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, calcium, and iron."
To make: combine 1 cup of old-fashioned oats and 2 cups of rice milk, dairy milk, or water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for about 1 minute over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add in ¼ teaspoon of vanilla (Rathbun recommends using an all-natural and organic brand), sprinkle in some cinnamon and honey (to taste) and then stir in two tablespoons of flax oil.
Skip the processed breakfast bars that can be loaded with sugar and try Rathbun's easy recipe for Do-It-Yourself Breakfast Bars.
"These bars are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and ‘good' fats that will kick hunger-cravings to the curb, give you a boost of energy, clear brain fog, and help you get through your day. The bars also contain ingredients full of fiber to help promote healthy digestion. I suggest making a batch on Sunday so you'll have the breakfast bars on-hand during the week."
To make: combine ¼ pound of pitted, dried prunes, ¼ pound of dates, ¼ pound of figs and ¼ pound of raisins in a food processor and blend. In a bowl, stir together ¼ cup of raw honey, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of flax oil, ½ cup of wheat germ, and 1 tablespoon of grated orange rind. Stir in the processed fruit and mix together. Mold the mixture into a pan and refrigerator for one hour, and then cut into bars and serve. (Recipe yields about 12 bars). You can also freeze the bars to make them last longer during the week, Rathbun says.
Need a breakfast that you can eat on the go? Wrap up a portable, protein-rich breakfast burrito. Combine one steamed egg (scramble an egg in a mug and microwave 45-60 seconds or until fluffy), two tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese, and two tablespoons of salsa and roll it into a whole-wheat tortilla, Winslow says. Not a fan of eggs in the morning? Make your burrito sweet instead: spread one tablespoon of peanut butter on a whole-wheat tortilla, layer with sliced apples or bananas, and roll into a burrito.
Just got to have your Starbucks in the morning? Skip their calorie and fat laden pastries and mocha-lattes and order a Spinach, Roasted Tomato, Feta and Egg wrap with a tall coffee with low-fat milk, Winslow says. The wrap contains only 270 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat, and provides 14 grams of protein and 8 grams of filling fiber.
While Jamba Juice seems like a very healthy place to have breakfast, their menu may be misleading. "Smoothies can be deceiving, leaving you with too much sugar and calories without a fully satisfied feeling," says a Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and America's Eating Strategist. "Unless you opt for the light menu (which uses artificial sweeteners), your best bet at Jamba Juice is to always go for a small and add the protein boost."
Better yet, order up their flatbread sandwich, the MediterraneaYUM.™ For only 320 calories, you'll get 13 grams of filling protein (versus a 16 ounce, 300 calorie Strawberry Surf Rider Smoothie that only has 2 grams of protein), and a sandwich that is much more likely to keep you full until your next meal, Batayneh says
Is Dunkin' Donuts your go-to breakfast spot on your way to work? Don't even think about going for an empty-calorie donut that will cause a blood sugar crash mid-morning. Instead, order up an Egg White Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap, Batayneh says. For 150 calories, this satisfying wrap packs in 11 grams of protein and still leaves you plenty of calorie room for a large coffee with milk.