Selecting Healthful Foods for Breakfast

Whether at home or away, start your day with breakfast. “Breaking the fast” provides your body with both nutrients and energy. People who eat breakfast tend to have more energy and, on average, are better able to regulate their appetite during the remainder of the day than their breakfast- skipping counterparts.

Unfortunately, many Americans do not eat breakfast. Some skip breakfast because of their schedule, whereas others do so in a misguided attempt to control weight. However, you can eat a healthful breakfast with the time you have. There are many ways to make what is perhaps the day's most important meal a nutritious, fast, and convenient one.

Breakfast is the foundation of a healthful diet. Use the Food Guide Pyramid as a practical resource for planning your breakfasts regardless of whether you choose foods that require preparation or select ones that are ready-to-go. Cereals are a good choice. Simple whole-grain cereals with no added sugar or fat are best.

A breakfast that includes a whole-grain cereal, bread, low-fat milk, and a glass of orange juice is a great starter meal. This breakfast supplies B vitamins, fiber, iron, approximately one-third of the recommended calcium, and 100 percent of the recommended vitamin C for the day. Best of all, it does so in less than 300 calories.

For a change, try a breakfast bagel sandwich. Top a whole-grain bagel with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter and a sliced banana. Add a cup of cold skim milk for a breakfast that is about 400 calories. This breakfast includes foods from most of the food groups, is low in cholesterol, and is a good source of iron, folate, and fiber.

For even more variety, top a flour tortilla with 2 ounces of leftover chicken breast and tomato pieces and 1 ounce of low-fat cheese. As a vegetarian option, top with rice and beans. Wrap the tortilla tightly, microwave for a minute or so, and top with salsa. While you are at it, drink a glass of a spicy vegetable juice.

Both of these quick-fix breakfasts contribute servings from the vegetable, fruit, and grain groups in just 350 calories. They also give you plenty of vitamins A and C. Maybe you prefer eggs for breakfast. The current recommendation is to limit your intake of whole eggs to 3 or 4 per week.

The reason to limit eggs is that the yolk of a large-sized egg contains about 210 milligrams of cholesterol— more than two-thirds of the daily cholesterol allowance. However, eggs also have many nutrients. People with a low blood cholesterol level probably can safely eat a few more eggs than those who have a high level.

Create an omelet with 1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites, sweet peppers, and onions. Serve with oven-browned potatoes and a slice of whole-grain toast topped lightly with butter or margarine.

Or, better yet, top with jam or jelly as a no-fat alternative. Remember to include fruit or juice. This 500-calorie meal—although it contains cholesterol—is a good source of iron and is high in fiber, folate, and vitamin C.

Breakfast Out

Many people are too busy to sit down and eat breakfast at home. The next best bet is to eat breakfast on-the-run, which at times can pose a nutritional challenge. Fortunately, if you know what you are looking for, a nutritious breakfast can be found almost anywhere food is served.

If you are traveling and have time for a “sit-down” breakfast, choose a restaurant that offers a varied menu. If not, try bagel shops, fast-food establishments, the company cafeteria, or even a nearby vending machine.

Some may have a “buffet breakfast” that has everything you need, including hot and cold cereals, breads, bagels, fresh fruit and fruit juices, low-fat milk, and yogurt. Others also may offer options such as low-fat burritos, low-fat granola, or low-fat muffins.