The New Rules of Breakfast
Why You Should Eat Breakfast Every Day
Some studies show that skipping breakfast doesn't necessarily help or harm weight-loss efforts, but is it really all about the scale? Obesity researcher Louis Aronne, MD, from Weill Cornell Medicine, found a drastic surge in insulin when refined carbs were eaten at the beginning of a meal (such surges are a known contributor to fat gain and fatigue).
Cooking breakfast is a hassle that most of us don't want to face on weekday mornings, and that's OK. It can be as simple as a little nut butter on whole-grain bread or protein-packed whole-milk Greek yogurt (a far more satiating option than the 100-calorie, artificially sweetened stuff). A little planning and label reading goes a long way, as you'll see in the eight rules that follow. Eat a balanced breakfast, and you'll have a better morning—you may even eat less lunch. Not sure what to eat? Let us get you started.
1. Start your day with whole grains.
Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy, but choosing the right carbs makes all the difference in whether you end up with a jolt of energy or in need of a nap. Start the day with sugar-coated, white flour pastry, and you'll tank in two hours.
Your blood sugar is at an all-time low first thing in the morning. But shocking it with refined sugars and carbs will leave you drowsy and less able to concentrate by midmorning. Opt instead for whole grains with a savory spin: avocado-smeared whole-wheat toast, oatmeal with nut butter, or low-sugar scones, like these cheesy, oat- and nut-packed triangles.
2. Drink coffee. (But don't start if you never have.)
In a 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 studies involving nearly 1.3 million people, researchers found that those who drank their daily 3 to 5 (8-ounce) cups of coffee were at the lowest risk for heart problems. The long-running Harvard Nurses' Health Study has found that coffee may also protect against type 2 diabetes.
But these benefits are limited to black coffee, not the mostly milk- and sugar-based sips from places such as McDonald's (a large Mocha has 500 calories and 63g sugar), Starbucks (a skinny, grande Pumpkin Spice Latte has 260 calories and 49g of sugar), or Dunkin' Donuts (where the medium Frozen Caramel Coolatta has 450 calories and 106g sugar).
Note: Caffeine has jittery side effects. People who do not rely on coffee or other caffeinated beverages are not encouraged to start.
3. Follow the 5-5-10 cereal rule.
Read labels for the following key criteria, and try these nine cereals that make the grade. (Only 40 boxes in the aisle met our requirements amid the sea of choices.)
FIBER Make 5g the baseline (daily goal is 25g-38g); more is better. Up the count with fresh fruit or nuts.
PROTEIN Naturally occurring proteins found in whole grains, nuts, and seeds are best—instead of added proteins like highly processes "isolates." Aim for at least 5g.
SUGAR Look for varieties with no more than 10g sugar; less is better. Any more than that, and you're in glazed donut territory. Added sugars should be low on the ingredient list, never first.
4. Sit down.
Take a step back. Forget about your emails, your meetings, and the kids' crazy schedule, and take five minutes to sit, focus, and reset your brain. Savor each bite—notice the textures and flavors. Give your body the chance to register a feeling of satiation and wakefulness.
Even better? Sit down with the whole family, and make breakfast the bonding meal. Research shows families who eat meals together have happier children with better eating habits and better grades. But these benefits don't have to be specific to the evening meal. While dinner conversation is retrospective, letting everyone relive what already happened, breakfast looks forward. It's a way to get motivated and put a positive spin on the start of your day.
5. Break the fast, conveniently.
Findings from the Bath Breakfast Project showed that eating within two hours of waking (rather than skipping breakfast altogether) can make a difference in the way you metabolize glucose all day long, maintaining a more stable blood sugar level even after lunch and dinner (unstable blood sugar = unstable energy levels). What you eat may also set your mood and energy for the entire day.
Few of us have time to cook, and yogurt isn't for everyone. Good news: There are plenty of options in the freezer of your local supermarket. Ready in minutes, these picks are filled with protein, fiber, and whole grains, and they won't break the sodium or calorie bank.
6. Add bacon to your breakfast routine.
Most breakfast proteins—ham, sausage, bacon—are loaded with flavor, but that indulgence comes at a sodium- and saturated fat-filled cost. Have your bacon (and eat it, too) by using a small amount to season an entire pan of plants. Bonus: The fat helps you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A and K.
8. Eat whole-milk yogurt.
Unless you’re having some eggs or a spoonful of nut butter with that carton of light or 0% yogurt in the morning, you may want to reconsider. Eating dairy fat alongside a healthy diet may actually help you lose weight. A recent review published in the European Journal of Nutrition reported lower body weights, less weight gain, and a lower risk for obesity among full-fat dairy eaters. “None of the research suggested low-fat dairy is better,” said Dr. Mario Kratz, lead author on the review. More and more research is revealing that when the amount of fat is reduced in the diet, it’s replaced with sugar or carbohydrates.
Full-fat yogurts are thicker, creamier, and more satisfying than the fat-free versions. They’re less processed, have a cleaner ingredient profile, and most importantly, they taste better. The fat softens the tang, creating a more pleasant spoonful with a mightier mouth feel. Unlike the 100-calorie light containers (often artificially sweetened, too), full-fat yogurts boost satiety, helping you eat less overall throughout the day.
Most individual containers (usually 4 to 6 ounces) of whole-milk yogurt have under 200 calories and less than 5g sat fat – a perfectly healthy profile if that’s what you’re planning to eat for breakfast. A 6-ounce container of plain, unsweetened yogurt has about 8g of naturally occurring sugars. Anything more than that has likely been added (and we’ve seen some varieties with more than 20! Buy plain, and add your own fresh fruit or a drop of honey if you need a little sweet.
7. Stop throwing away the egg yolks.
Eggs are a low-calorie, high-quality nutrition powerhouse. One egg has just 70 calories, 6g of satiating protein, and a mere 1.5g saturated fat (that's less than the amount in a tablespoon of heart-healthy olive oil). Eggs are also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin D, folate, and choline (a nutrient especially important for the creation of memory cells), plus vision-boosting antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin—all of which are primarily found in the yolk.
A large egg contains 185mg of cholesterol, which is 62% of a 300mg daily limit that was dissolved last year. For many, that's still a hard number to look past, but most of us don't need to fret about cholesterol in the diet. Harvard researchers found that eating a whole egg a day had no substantial impact on the risk of heart disease among healthy men or women.
Use eggs to help boost other healthy eats such as whole grains, lean protein, and colorful veggies. Here, the yolk of a fried egg acts as a dressing to coat nutrient-dense quinoa Pancetta adds a snap of savory satisfaction to earthy kale, while all-season cherry tomatoes lend a fresh pop of bright flavor.