By Maryann Hammers
You’ve heard it a million times: start your day off right with a nutritious breakfast. Your mama told you; doctors and dietitians agree.
“Skipping breakfast, or making it carb- or sugar-heavy, sets you up for cravings and crashes and low energy later on,” says Mary Purdy, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle.
A healthy breakfast can help keep your weight in check. You are more likely to get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs when you have breakfast. And breakfast can help you stay alert and energized throughout the day.
But the typical American breakfast is anything but healthy, notes Kerry Strom, a registered dietitian in Baltimore. She cites as an example IHOP’s popular “Breakfast Sampler”—a plate of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes, and hash browns.1 The dish contains nearly 1,200 calories, 23 grams of saturated fat, and 3,120 milligrams of sodium 2—well over half the recommended daily calorie intake, nearly twice the recommended daily limit of saturated fat,3 and more than double the daily sodium limits,4 according to the American Heart Association.
Are you more the grab-and-go type who munches on a muffin while heading to work? If so, beware: breakfast pastries are loaded with sugar and fat—and are low on nutrition. “Refined grains and sugars—such as scones, bagels, and sweet muffins—cause a rise in blood sugar and can create an inflammatory environment in the body,” Purdy says.
So what should you be eating instead? Your morning meal should provide you with complex carbs, fiber, protein, and a small amount of fat, according to the Mayo Clinic.5
Does that sound as dreary as dry toast? Fear not. You can still eat the foods you love—just tweak them to include more healthy fats, fiber, and fruits while cutting back on saturated fat and simple white carbs. The chart on the following page shows how to swap that coronary-causing meal with a satisfying breakfast that is heart-smart and delicious.
|If You Love This…||Try This…|
|Fried or scrambled eggs cooked in a gob of butter||“Scramble eggs in a little olive oil with vegetables like spinach or zucchini, with a sprinkle of cheese for extra flavor,” Purdy suggests.Or whip up an egg-white veggie omelet. “This will save 430 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 calories, and 10 fat grams,” says Strom.|
|Croissant sandwich||“Melt a slice of low-fat cheese on an English muffin to add protein. Or scramble an egg white for a low-calorie, low-fat, filling breakfast sandwich,” suggests Strom.|
|Scones or muffins||“Try nut butter and fruit-juice-sweetened jam (instead of sugar-sweetened) on a whole-grain piece of bread,” Purdy says. “Nut butters provide heart-healthy omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids and also provide magnesium, a mineral that supports heart function. Almond butter is a rich source of vitamin E, an antioxidant helpful for fighting inflammation.”|
|Bagels and cream cheese||Try a whole-grain bagel smeared with avocado. Avocados provide monounsaturated fats, associated with heart health and the prevention of heart disease.|
|Pancakes with butter and syrup||Try pancakes with a dab of lite margarine (half the calories of butter, with no saturated fat). Top with berries and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. “Fruit is chockfull of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals,” says Strom.|
- Breakfast Sampler. IHOP website. Available at http://www.ihop.com/menus/main-menu/egg-combos/breakfast-sampler. Accessed July 2, 2015.
- IHOP Nutrition Information. Available at http://www.ihop.com/-/media/ihop/PDFs/nutritionalinformation.ashx. Accessed July 2, 2015.
- Saturated Fats. American Heart Association website. Available at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Saturated-Fats_UCM_301110_Article.jsp. Accessed July 2, 2015.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Sodium. American Heart Association website. Available at https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Frequently-Asked-Questions-FAQs-About-Sodium_UCM_306840_Article.jsp. Accessed July 2, 2015.
- Healthy Breakfast: Quick Flexible Ooptions. Mayo Clinic website. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/food-and-nutrition/art-20048294. Accessed July 2, 2015.