Healthy Eating: Wake up healthy before you go go

Check out these 5 healthy yet simple ways to start the day off right as well as the unhealthy variations that should be avoided.

By KATHRYN RUBIN
June 20, 2013 12:51
Coffee cup

Coffee cup 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

As we've heard over and over again, breakfast is the most important meal of the day… so why does it get the least amount of thought? Whether running out of the house for work or school, or waking up late on the weekend with no energy to cook, most of us put little effort into what we eat for our first meal of the day. We simply pour ourselves a bowl of cereal, grab an energy bar or something in the fridge on our way out. Or worse still, we pick up something along the way. How can we expect to start the day off right when we are so careless with how we break our night time fast?

Here are some simple yet extremely healthy ways to get your day started:

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Grapefruit

A staple food of many popular diets in the 80’s, the grapefruit is making a comeback, especially when it comes to breakfast time. In fact, this sour yet ever so sweet citrus fruit is one of the best ways to start off the day.

A convenient source of many nutrients, grapefruits are packed with Vitamin C as well as chock full of fiber. What’s more, this pinkish red (or white) fruit is also hydrating and packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. Some studies have even found that eating a grapefruit at a meal may have beneficial effects on blood sugar and insulin levels.

What not to have: A Smoothie.

While loaded with fruits, many store-bought smoothies are also rich in fats and sugary syrups. If you prefer to drink your fruit rather than eat it, blend your own fruits and add in low-fat milk or freshly squeezed orange juice for the base.

Oatmeal

You can ever go wrong by starting your day with a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal. On top of being rich in Omega-3, folate and potassium, oatmeal is an excellent source of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that has been proven to decrease cholesterol levels (when eaten on a regular basis).

Eating oats, such as those in oatmeal, can also help to control insulin levels, as beta-glucan slows the rise in blood sugar levels after a meal. Finally, starting your day off with a bowl of (steel-cut) oatmeal will also benefit your heart as numerous studies have found that oats high in soluble fiber can reduce high blood pressure.

What not to have: Flavored Instant Oatmeal.

While this variety still contains healthy soluble (and insoluble fiber), the mounds of sugar can negate all the positive benefits of the beta-glucan. If you like to start your morning off on a sweeter note, add a touch of honey.

Coffee

For most of us, coffee isn’t just a breakfast food, it’s a morning necessity. Our bodies have gotten so used to drinking a cup or two (and sometimes even three) first thing in the morning that it’s impossible to get through the day without it. However, coffee does more than just wake up your brain, it provides some pretty jolting health benefits to the entire body.

A growing number of studies have found people who drink coffee may actually live longer. Coffee has been linked to decreasing the risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s and dementia. However, that’s far from all. Studies have found that coffee can make you smarter. Now while coffee can’t raise your IQ, it can help to increase neurons firing in the brain, and improves reaction time, mood, memory and overall brain function.

What not to have: Coffee loaded with sugar, creams and flavored syrups.

Nowadays, coffee comes in all types of varieties: iced, creamed, overly sweetened and mixed up with, unfortunately, a bunch of delicious but fattening ingredients. So if you want to start your morning off right, than skip all of the fancy complicated mixes.

Greek Yogurt

By now most of us have heard of the highly publicized health benefits of Greek yogurt. This tangy, creamy yogurt is extremely healthy for you. Packed with protein (nearly double the amount of regular yogurt), Greek yogurt will keep you feeling full straight through to lunch; thus preventing unwanted snacking.

If that wasn’t enough to win you over, Greek yogurt contains substantially more healthy bacteria than regular yogurt and has significantly less sugar – making it an all round excellent way to kick start your day.

What not to have: The overly processed sugar infused kind.

Yogurt is generally considered to be a healthy treat; however, not all yogurts are equal. Many, while certainly tasty, are infused with sugary syrups; while others may be low in fat, but at the expense of cutting out a chunk of the protein (and increasing the sugar content substantially). So when selecting a yogurt for your breakfast, chose wisely.

Flaxseed

While it would be ideal to pack your breakfast with low-fat, high-protein, high-fiber foods, it may not always be possible to find. That’s where nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds are great to add to your breakfast plan.

Sprinkling flaxseeds onto a bowl of cereal or  yogurt in the morning is an excellent way to ramp up your breakfast nutrients. These seeds are not only a good source of protein and fiber, but they are also an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acid. In fact this seed delivers more ALA (the plant form of Omega-3) than any other plant food.

Just two tablespoons delivers more than 100 percent of your daily requirement. So why is this essential fat essential for starting off your day? Like protein, fat helps us stay full longer; so by adding it to a cereal or yogurt in the morning, it's a great way to ensure that your stomach doesn’t start rumbling until lunchtime.

What’s more, this good fat provides a sting of health benefits including decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and reducing inflammation within the body. However, watch out as our bodies don’t digest flax seeds too willingly, and therefore many nutritionists recommend grinding them up before eating them.

What not to have:
Granola

At first glance, granola would appear to be extremely healthy. After all, it contains rolled oats, honey and dried fruits – all seemingly healthy ingredients. However, when it comes to granola, you need to look beyond the seemingly healthy sound of the name and packaging. It’s important to read the label, as most granola is jam packed with sugar, sending the calorie count to well above 400/500 calories per serving.


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