Breakfast's reputation as the most important meal of the day is well-deserved. Starting your day with a healthy breakfast can help you avoid a mid-morning energy slump, lower your cholesterol and start your metabolism humming. Get going in the morning with a well-balanced breakfast that contains whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and protein.
Whole grains are an essential part of a healthy breakfast. Making whole grains part of your regular morning routine can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, inflammatory disease, high blood pressure, gum disease and stroke. Incorporate these healthy grains into your breakfast by cooking up 1 cup of oat bran, which contains just 183 calories but has 5.7 grams of hunger-reducing fiber. One cup of quinoa has even fewer calories -- only 132 -- but still packs 5.2 grams of fiber. You can also make nutritious grains part of your morning routine by baking up a loaf of whole-grain bread. One regular slice has just 15 calories, 2.8 grams of fiber and 1.8 milligrams of niacin, an essential B vitamin that boosts memory power and contributes to good circulation.
Protein is the building block for cartilage, bones, blood, skin, bones, hormones and enzymes. Get this essential nutrient each morning by scrambling, poaching or hard-boiling one large egg, which contains 6 grams of protein. To reduce cholesterol, use only the egg whites or cook with a cholesterol-free egg substitute. If you crave meat in the morning, try turkey bacon. Three 1-ounce slices of the pork alternative contain nearly 15 grams of protein and an equal amount of fat.
Low-fat dairy products are another essential component of a healthy breakfast. Dairy products provide protein, vitamin D, calcium and other nutrients that are important for bone health and can lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Add dairy to your breakfast by topping an omelet with low-fat cheese like shredded cheddar, Swiss or mozzarella. One slice of low-fat cheddar cheese, for example, contains 48 calories, 6.82 grams of protein and 116 milligrams of calcium -- 10 percent of the daily recommended amount.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies are an important component of a healthy breakfast, so feel free to load your plate with dark leafy greens, berries, tomatoes or anything that is a rich orange, yellow or red color. Add fruits and veggies to your breakfast by cooking 1/2 cup of tomatoes in an omelet. The red fruit adds only 16 calories but contains 20 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C, a nutrient that contributes to a healthy immune system and can lower blood pressure. You can top your whole-grain cooked cereal with berries, sliced apples or cherries.
- Mayo Clinic: Healthy Breakfast: Quick, flexible options to grab at home
- Whole Grains Council: What are the Health Benefits
- Organic Facts: Health Benefits of Vitamin B3 or Niacin
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Protein Foods
- Mayo Clinic: Are Chicken Eggs Good or Bad for My Cholesterol?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Dairy Health Benefits
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- Harvard School of Public Health: Vegetables and Fruits: The Bottom Line
- HealthDiaries.com: Vitamin C Benefits
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Foods List
Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.