No matter how early the day starts the thought of eating a delicious, healthy breakfast and enjoying a bold brew of coffee gives plenty of incentive to get up and get cooking! Having energy to get through work or a workout starts with a balanced breakfast.

For many active and health conscious individuals, this means incorporating fiber filled whole grains, lean protein, and good fats.  To get some hearty carbohydrates for energy, choose from whole grain toast, rolled oats, low sugar granola, or a low sugar breakfast cereal with nutrient rich ingredients. Look at the label’s ingredient list to make sure the first word starts with “whole” and that “partially hydrogenated” does not appear. Also, you want to stray away from products that have sugar listed within the first few items.

Eating a source of lean protein adds muscle building potential and a feeling of satiety. Smart options include eggs, egg whites, cottage cheese, low sugar Greek yogurt, low fat milk, and nuts or nut butters. Naturally flavored, pure whey protein can also be added to oatmeal or a smoothie.

If you want to keep your mind sharp and happy be sure to add healthy sources of fat. Examples of these include Omega-3s found in flax seed and walnuts. Avoid products high in saturated and trans fats like those lurking in untrimmed bacon, some breakfast sausages, extra cheese, and processed foods. Look for foods high in mono and polyunsaturated fats.  Choosing items from each category mentioned above will leave you feeling satisfied and prevent nutrient deficiencies.

It may seem daunting to put together a complete morning meal, but the time and effort invested could produce great results in the future. Whole grains have been associated with lower levels of cholesterol, and they tend to pack a good amount of fiber, which will help keep you regular! Look for cereals with at least 5g of fiber per serving. Women need 25g of fiber per day and men need 38g, so starting with a healthy portion early in the day will get you on the way to reaching the recommendations. Studies have shown that adding extra protein at breakfast can help ward off food driven reward behaviors and suppress your appetite throughout the day. This may be one reason why breakfast eaters tend to have lower weights than those who do not eat it. Since every cell has a component of fat in its structural makeup, eating the right kinds could improve your body’s functioning from head to toe! The facts point to fat as an anecdote to the blues. Other benefits include glowing skin, sharper eyes, a stronger immune system, lower cholesterol, and improved reproductive health. The healthy fats, fiber, protein and vitamin E in natural nut butters are just some of the nutritional powerhouses that have been known to promote heart health.  Topping off your oats or yogurt with these delicious morsels will balance out your meal and potentially the scale!

If you typically find yourself rushing out the door and needing to “break fast,” you could prepare your meal in advance or choose a healthy option at a restaurant on route! Below is a recipe for an overnight oatmeal parfait perfect for fall and better fast food options when you have no time to cook at all!

Pumpkin Pie Protein Oats:
3 tbs pumpkinParfait
½ cup plain low fat Greek Yogurt
½ cup unsweetened almond or low fat milk
¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
¼ cup protein powder (or additional oats)

Optional toppings:
Drizzle of Low sugar maple syrup or honey
Sprinkle of Chopped pecans or walnuts

Directions:
Just mix together all the ingredients and let it set, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. Put the toppings on in the morning and eat cold or warm!

Better options on the go:
McDonalds- Egg white Delight
Burger King- Egg and Cheese Croissan’which
Starbucks- Spinach and Feta wrap, Steel Cut oats (without brown sugar on top), Greek yogurt and honey parfait
Chick-Fil-A- Oatmeal, Sunflower Bagel with egg only
Subway- Egg and cheese sandwich with egg white, can add veggies for flavor

By: Anna Munzenmaier, CSCS
SPARC Specialist