Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but how many of us really follow it? On weekdays, I’m usually rushing out the door with only a cup of coffee to sustain me until lunchtime, by which time, I’m usually starving. Of course, I’ve always heard about how important eating a good breakfast is, but I never really thought it was a realistic goal for my lifestyle.
So why is it important to eat a nutritious breakfast? Studies show that people who eat a good breakfast end up eating fewer calories throughout the rest of the day. Eating a good breakfast keeps you feeling fuller longer so that you will avoid overeating later in the day. Although you may think that skipping breakfast will help you lose weight by cutting calories, it actually increases your risk of obesity. Eating breakfast boosts your metabolism, which makes you burn more calories throughout the morning rather than storing them.
Eating breakfast also helps boost your intake of important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. People who eat breakfast are more likely to eat a healthier diet overall, including less fat and cholesterol, which is good for your heart and helps to maintain a healthy weight. Also, eating breakfast gives you more energy, which translates into increased concentration and productivity throughout the morning.
So what exactly constitutes a healthy breakfast? A good breakfast includes a balance of complex carbohydrates with protein, fiber, and just a small amount of fat. This combination will keep you feeling full for many hours as opposed to the high-carbohydrate breakfasts that we sometimes grab in a rush, such as muffins, bagels, and sugary cereals. These foods give you a short burst of energy, but in no time, you’ll be left feeling tired and hungry all over again. These are the components you want to include in your breakfast:
• Whole grains
• Lean proteins
• Low-fat dairy or soy products
• Fruits and vegetables
If you include foods from all of these categories in your meal, you will be eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast. Need some examples? Here are some specific examples of healthy breakfast ideas that are quick and easy to prepare:
• Bowl of whole-grain cereal (watch the sugar content) with berries and skim or soy milk
• Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and sliced apples
• Whole-grain waffle topped with almond butter and sliced strawberries or banana
• Bowl of oatmeal with fresh or dried fruit and/or chopped nuts (apples, walnuts, and cinnamon are a great combination; another good combo is blueberries and almonds)
• Whole-grain toast with low-fat cottage cheese and sliced peaches or pineapple
• Parfait made with layers of fat-free Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and chopped nuts or whole grain cereal
• Smoothie made with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, fat-free yogurt, and flaxseed
• Whole wheat pita topped with low-fat cottage cheese or part-skim ricotta cheese and sliced tomatoes; serve with fresh fruit or a glass of fruit juice on the side
• Whole-grain English muffin with lean ham or turkey, reduced-fat cheese, and sliced tomato
• Homemade breakfast burritos (see recipe below)
My Jump-Start Your Day Breakfast Burritos are a hearty and nutritious meal to jump-start your day and set you on the right path for healthy eating all day long. And the best part is that if you’re not a morning person, you can prepare a whole batch of them ahead of time and freeze them. Then when you want to eat one, you just unwrap, pop it in the microwave, and take it to go!
Jump-Start Your Day Breakfast Burritos
Makes 6 burritos
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon chili powder
6 whole eggs plus 6 egg whites
½ cup shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese
6 (9-inch) whole grain wraps (I used La Tortilla Factory Smart Delicious Whole Grain Soft Wraps)
¾ cup salsa
¼ cup sliced scallions
Hot sauce (optional)
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper to the skillet and season them with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, for 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the beans and chili powder, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until heated through. Pour the contents of the skillet into a bowl and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean.
Whisk the eggs and egg whites together in a large bowl along with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Spray the skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the eggs and cook them, stirring occasionally, until soft curds form. Stir in the cheese and cook 1 minute until melted. Remove from the heat.
Spread each tortilla with equal amounts of the veggie/bean mixture and top with the scrambled eggs. Spread 2 tablespoons salsa, some sliced scallions and hot sauce (if using) on top. Roll the tortillas up burrito style—fold the side closest to you over the filling, then fold both sides in toward the center and roll up. Serve alone or with reduced-fat sour cream, if desired.
If not eating right away, wrap each burrito in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and freeze. To reheat, unwrap and microwave until warm, about 2 minutes, turning over halfway through. For a crispier wrapping, heat in the microwave, then bake in a 450° oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
Dr. Ruder is a mom of a two-month-old daughter, an emergency physician at Coral Springs Medical Center near Fort Lauderdale, FL, and a recipe developer and blogger at TheFoodiePhysician.com.