Start your day off right
The next time you rush out the door in the morning without something to eat, consider this: Skipping breakfast can set you up for overeating later in the day. A healthy a.m. meal, on the other hand, can give you energy, satisfy your appetite, and set the stage for smart decisions all day long. "You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fiber with some protein," says Erica Giovinazzo, MS, RD, a nutritionist at Clay Health Club and Spa, in New York City. Luckily, your options are plenty. Here's a look at some of our favorite breakfast foods, along with expert tips for making them even healthier.
You may have noticed a heart-shaped seal on your box of oatmeal recently. The seal's there because oats contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber that's been shown to help lower cholesterol when eaten regularly. Need another reason to dig in? Oats are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. Steel-cut oats, which take about 15 minutes to cook, contain more fiber than rolled oats or instant varieties, but any type of oatmeal is a healthy choice. Just avoid the flavored kinds, which can be packed with sugar. Instead, sweeten your bowl with milk and a bit of honey, and top with fruit and nuts.
This tangy, creamy yogurt is loaded with calcium and boasts plenty of protein—nearly twice as much as regular yogurt—to keep you feeling full throughout the morning. Your best bet: Choose a plain, nonfat variety, and add some fruit to give it some sweetness and flavor (and a dose of added nutrition). "I love Greek yogurt because it's really quick and easy," Giovinazzo says. "You can always take it with you on your way out the door."
A little wheat germ goes a long way. Just two tablespoons provides about 15% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin E and 10% of your daily folate. "Vitamin E is often a little low in people's diets, so this is a good way to add in some extra—especially if you don't eat a lot of nuts or seeds, two other big sources," Giovinazzo says. It's easy to incorporate wheat germ into almost any meal, including your go-to breakfasts: Sprinkle it over cereal, stir it into yogurt, or mix it into a smoothie.
Trying to lose weight? According to one study, eating half a grapefruit before each meal may help you slim down faster, thanks to the fruit's fat-burning properties and its beneficial effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. Grapefruit is also hydrating, filling, and packed with immunity-boosting antioxidants. For a well-rounded breakfast, pair it with protein—such as yogurt or an egg, Giovinazzo suggests. But check with your doctor first if you take any medications, as grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interfere with some prescription drugs.
There's nothing like a banana at breakfast to keep those mid-morning cravings at bay. The yellow fruit—especially when they're still a touch green—are one of the best sources of resistant starch, a healthy carbohydrate that keeps you feeling fuller longer. "Slice it up and add it to cereal or oatmeal," Giovinazzo suggests. "It will add natural sweetness, so you may not need additional sugar." Thanks to a healthy dose of potassium, an electrolyte that helps lower blood pressure naturally, bananas are a particularly good choice for people with hypertension.
These incredible edibles have made quite a comeback in recent years. Once shunned for being high in dietary cholesterol (one yolk contains about 60% of your daily allotment), eggs are now embraced as a healthy source of protein and nutrients like vitamin D. Why the turnabout? Research has shown that the cholesterol in our food has less of an impact on blood cholesterol than previously thought. "If, overall, you're choosing lean proteins and not eating a ton of fat and cholesterol, then eggs are a great thing to have in your diet," says Giovinazzo. The American Heart Association recommends that people with normal cholesterol limit their cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day.