The Breakfast Routine Not only is breakfast the first food and drink your body has had in more than 8 hours, but studies find that what you eat for breakfast influences what you eat the rest of the day. Additionally, people who eat breakfast are significantly less likely to be obese and have diabetes than those who don't. The most important tip we can give you is to eat breakfast every day. Without exception. This one action alone can make a huge, positive difference in your health. But a doughnut or oversized muffin won't do it. The key is to choose energy-enhancing, health-invigorating foods. That's what we'll focus on in the tips ahead. 1. Be consistent with your portions. For most people, a perfect breakfast has three components: one serving of a whole grain carbohydrate, one serving of a dairy or high-calcium food, and one serving of fruit. Together, that would add up to roughly 300 calories. A high-protein serving (i.e., a meat or an egg) is unnecessary but certainly acceptable, as long as it doesn't add too much fat or calories to the mix. Here are a few winning combinations, based on this formula: A bowl of high-fiber, multigrain cereal, lots of strawberries, and low-fat milk on top. A granola bar, an apple, and a cold glass of milk. A cup of nonfat yogurt, fresh blueberries mixed in, and a slice of whole wheat toast with a fruit spread on top. A mini whole wheat bagel, spread lightly with cream cheese and jam; a peach; and a cup of yogurt. A scrambled egg, a whole wheat roll, fresh fruit salad, and a cup of low-fat milk. A low-fat muffin, a wedge of cantaloupe, and a cup of latte made with skim milk. 2. Have a bowl of sweetened brown rice. Consider it a takeoff on prepared cereal. Brown rice is full of energy-providing B vitamins, as well as a great source of filling fiber. Cook the rice the night before, then in the morning, put it in a bowl with a spoonful of honey, a handful of raisins, a cut-up apple, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a unique yet delicious treat. Don't like rice? Try any of the cooking grains: barley, rye, red wheat, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, or millet. 3. Pour a cup of fruit smoothie. Simply whir a cup of strawberries and a banana in the blender, add a scoop of protein powder and a cup of crushed ice, and you've got a healthy, on-the-go breakfast filled with antioxidants. Toss in a cup of plain yogurt, and you've just added a bone-strengthening dose of calcium. An added bonus: You've just crossed three of your daily fruit servings off the list. 4. Use organic eggs. They're not much more expensive than regular eggs but are much higher in all-important omega-3 fatty acids, shown to benefit everything from your mental health (reducing risk of depression) to your heart health (reducing risk of atherosclerosis and atrial fibrillation), says Fred Pescatore, M.D., author of The Hamptons Diet and a physician at Partners in Integrative Medicine in New York City. 5. Sprinkle on a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds. It could be over your cereal, over your yogurt, over your smoothie, or over your eggs. Next to fish and organic eggs, flaxseeds are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. 6. Use Benecol, Take Control, or Smart Balance instead of butter. These newly developed soft food spreads contain heart-healthy plant stanols. Just 2 tablespoons daily can significantly lower your total cholesterol leveTake the Initiative 7. Have lunch for breakfast. Instead of butter or cream cheese, top your morning (whole wheat) toast with 2 tablespoons tuna prepared with low-fat mayonnaise. The tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and an excellent source of energy-boosting protein. For the same healthy boost with a bit of variety, try lox or canned or smoked salmon (they also seem to go better at breakfast). 8. Sprinkle a whole wheat burrito with 2 ounces grated, low-fat cheddar cheese and broil for 3 minutes. While it's cooking, peel and eat an orange for valuable vitamin C. In this one small, quick meal, you're getting vitamin C and other antioxidants, calcium, fiber, and enough appetite-satisfying protein to sustain you for hours. 9. Make your own granola. Most store-bought brands are filled with sugar and fat. To make your own, mix 2 cups rolled oats with 1 cup dried fruits and seeds and a little brown sugar. Toast 3-5 minutes in a warm oven and store in an airtight container. Not interested in do-it-yourself? There are a few store-bought brands with reasonable sugar and fat levels, including Nature's Path and Familia. 10. Pour a bowlful of Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! With 10 grams of fiber, it will put you well on your way to the 25-30 grams of fiber you should be eating every day. Plus, studies find that people who regularly start their day with a bowl of cold cereal get more fiber and calcium, but less fat, than those who breakfast on other foods. Another study found that people who ate two bowlfuls of high-fiber cereal every day spontaneously cut the amount of fat they ate by 10 percent. Don't like Kashi? Other high-fiber cereals include Raisin Bran, Multi-Bran Chex and Wheat 'N Bran Spoon Size (8 grams), Kellogg's All-Bran Original (10 grams), and General Mills Fiber One (14 grams). 11. Eat half a grapefruit twice a week. Grapefruits are loaded with folate, found to significantly reduce the risk of stroke. However, be cautious if you're taking regular medications. Grapefruit and its juice can interact with medications that have to be processed through the liver. Check with your doctor about any possible interactions between grapefruit and any medications you're taking. 12. Sip a cup of green tea with your breakfast. In addition to its heart-protective benefits, green tea may also have some weight-loss benefits, with one study finding it appears to raise the rate at which you burn calories and speed the rate at which your body uses fat. 13. Top your cereal with soy milk. Packed with potent phytoestrogens, soy has been credited with everything from protecting your heart to promoting stronger bones. But make sure that it's fortified with calcium; otherwise you're missing a great opportunity to get some bone-building calcium. 14. Host the breakfast equivalent of "
build your own sundae."
Who says breakfast has to be boring? Choose a selection of sliced fruit, yogurt, whole grain cereals, and/or whole grain pancakes or toast, and let everyone mix and match to create their own toppings. Lay everything out on paper plates (for easy cleanup). 15. Add a vitamin. Take any and all supplements with breakfast, suggests nutrition expert Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., author of The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book. Taking supplements with food reduces the chance they'll upset your stomach, and improves the absorption of minerals. 16. Spread apple slices with peanut butter. The protein and fat in the peanut butter provide a good start to the day, while the apple and the quercetin it contains provide fiber and protection against some cancers and heart disease. 17. Have a breakfast sandwich. Top a whole wheat English muffin with melted low-fat cheese (part- skim mozzarella is a good choice), a sliced tomato, and a sliced, hard-boiled egg. 18. Crush cold cereal in a Baggie, add a peeled banana, and coat with the cereal. Voilà! Breakfast on a banana (as well as a healthy dose of potassium, beneficial in preventing strokes). l Think Outside the Box 19. Hit the vegetarian section of the grocery. Soy bacon and sausage, gardenburgers, and soy `crumbles make great sources of protein for breakfast without the saturated fat of their meat originals. 20. Make a blob. From nutritionist Alana Unger, R.D., of The Lifestyle Center in Visalia, California, comes this sounds-weird-but-tastes-great idea for an on-the-go breakfast. Mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk, 3 cups crushed flake cereal, and 2 tablespoons honey. Form into "
(should make 10 blobs). Wrap each blob in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Grab a couple with a travel cup of skim milk and go! 21. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of blueberries on your cereal. Studies find the tiny purple berries are loaded with valuable antioxidants that can slow brain aging and protect your memory. Not into cereal? Try baking blueberries into oatmeal to create your own oatmeal-blueberry granola bar, or mixing them into whole wheat pancake or waffle batter. 22. Drink three cups of unsweetened orange juice every morning. The vitamin C in OJ not only boosts your immunity, but also improves your cholesterol levels. One study found that drinking three glasses of orange juice a day for four weeks raised levels of HDL, or "
cholesterol, by 21 percent. If three cups is too much for you, substitute a couple of oranges. For the best effect, make it calcium-fortified juice. 23. Eat a bowl of sliced strawberries three times a week. Loaded with vitamin C, strawberries have numerous health benefits, one of them being protection for your eyes. One study of 247 women found that those taking vitamin C supplements were 75 percent less likely to get cataracts than those who didn't take it. It's better, though, to get your vitamin C from food. Other health benefits packed into berries: They're rich in a wide variety of antioxidants, low in calories, and even have a low glycemic index (shown to better maintain steady blood sugar levels). 24. Slice two kiwifruits into your morning smoothie. You may have just reduced your risk of premature death by as much as 30 percent, since a British study found that every ounce of vitamin C-laden fruits you eat a day reduces your risk of premature death 10 percent. Want an even easier way to eat a kiwi? Just slice the top off and scoop out bitefuls with a teaspoon. It's delicious, fun, and fast. 25. Get at least five grams of fiber during breakfast each morning. If you don't get off to a good start with your daily fiber intake, you'll never reach the recommended amount (15-25 grams per 1,000 calories). Plus, fiber is quite filling with no extra cost in calories. You can get those five grams in just a few bites with a large raw apple, 1/2 cup of the high-fiber cereals mentioned earlier, 1/2 cup of blackberries, or two slices of dark, whole grain rye bread. 26. Choose these toppers for your (whole wheat) bagel or toast: Two tablespoons nonfat cottage cheese sprinkled with flaxseed One slice low-fat cheese melted over a slice of mango Two tablespoons soy butter with a sliced banana One slice baked ham and one sliced tomato 27. Shave one ounce of dark chocolate over a cup of nonfat yogurt. Mix. The calcium-rich yogurt can actually help in your efforts to lose weight, while the antioxidant-loaded dark chocolate can help reduce the stickiness of "
LDL cholesterol and keep your arteries more pliable. Plus, who can resist starting the day with chocolate?