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How to Make Breakfast Count

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? We’ve heard this said so many times that it almost sounds like an old wives’ tale. However, many studies and years of research have shown that this is more than a tale; it’s a fact. But what is it about breakfast that takes it out of the ranks of every other meal and into the stratosphere of supreme importance? Why is breakfast the most important meal of the day and how can people make sure they’re not only eating breakfast but also getting the most out of it?

What Is So Special About Breakfast?

Eating breakfast literally breaks that fast that the body has been on since last eating the night before. Breaking the fast is a necessary because it kick starts the body for the day, providing energy and sustenance to get started. This helps control over eating between meals and throughout the day. And those that think they are saving calories by skipping breakfast are fooling themselves. Studies show that people who skip breakfast don’t save any calories and indeed may eat more throughout the day. By skimping on a healthy breakfast that would fill us up on good, energizing ingredients, we tend to fill that empty spot in our stomachs with convenient and unhealthy snacks. Eating breakfast also increases metabolic rate, making the body burn calories easier and faster. This will give a person more energy, which tends to burn more calories on its own.

Not All Breakfasts Are Created Equal

Even with all of these advantages, just eating breakfast alone is not enough to reap them. We have to be sure to eat the right thing. Sugary cereals and carbohydrate-filled pastries, items that many people are used to eating everyday, do not make the cut. These foods fill us up with empty calories that pack on the pounds, instead of offering any of the nutrients that energize, kick up the metabolism or help to avoid grazing on unhealthy snacks. In the morning, be careful of liquid calories too. Energy drinks and other sugary beverages can cause energy to spike temporarily and then crash later, pulling the body and mind into a bigger slump than before.

Key Ingredients

Studies show that the key to making breakfast work hard and to our best advantage is healthy, protein-rich ingredients. When healthy proteins at breakfast are combined with other healthy foods like whole grains, cereals (with little or no sugar) and fresh fruits, they burn off slowly enough to provide the body with lasting energy and fullness. These ingredients actually turn off the hormones that tell hunger and cravings to activate, signaling to the body that it is full and does not need to eat until later. People that eat protein-rich breakfasts not only stay full longer until their next meal but also end up consuming fewer calories throughout the entire day. If the right combination of foods is eaten, they should be able to keep a person full until the next meal.

Breakfast Ideas

When it comes to breakfast, think outside the box. Items like vegetables, hummus and chicken are not usually thought of as morning options, but as long as they’re healthy and filling in the right ways, the sky’s the limit. While many people have their routine bowl of cereal or piece of toast for breakfast everyday, there are so many more options; for both the person on the go with two minutes for breakfast or the amateur chef who likes to experiment with a sit-down, hot meal in the morning. Aim for a meal with at least 20 grams of quality protein, lots of fiber to stay full longer, and limited “empty” calories (sugar, excess fat, and other things that don’t offer much nutrition). Here are a few healthy and balanced menu ideas to get you started:

Greek Yogurt Parfait

Not only is this meal healthy and balanced, but it can also be made ahead in a jar or container and taken on the go. Layer 8 ounces of Greek yogurt, 1 cup of fresh berries or fruit, ½  cup of quick cook oatmeal and a few drizzles of honey in a container and enjoy right away or the next morning. The yogurt is packed with protein and the oats and berries help fill up the stomach with good fibers. Making these parfaits ahead will save time in the morning and ensure that, even if it is a quick breakfast on the run, it will still be a healthy meal to help steer clear of the bagel shop.

Vegetable Frittata

Frittatas are quiches’ healthier and easier-to-make siblings. Frittatas cut out the carbohydrate-filled, buttery crust while offering all the healthy protein and nutrients of eggs and vegetables. Mix eggs with almost any combination of vegetables, like zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions or spinach, and bake in a dish or cook up in a pan for a beefed-up version of scrambled eggs. Lean proteins like turkey sausage can be added, but avoid the fattier culprits like bacon. Many quiches also load up on cheese, but cutting this out can save calories and fat. If cheese is a must-have for breakfast, make sure it is low-fat. Roll the scrambled egg mixture up in a whole wheat, whole grain or spinach tortilla and toss on some fresh salsa for a veggie-filled breakfast burrito without all the usual fat.

Grain-Free Pancakes

Trick the mind with these faux pancakes that will satisfy without ruining the calorie count for the day. Mix two eggs, a mashed banana, nut butter, cinnamon and a bit of vanilla and cook like a pancake. Topped with Greek yogurt and fresh berries, they’re as good as the real thing but tons healthier. Instead of empty carbohydrates, you’ll be filling up on a delicious variety of fruits and protein.