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Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast
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Jennifer Fleming, MS, RD and Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD

heart healthy breakfast

Breakfast is an important meal because your body has been without food (and fuel) for a long time, frequently for 12 hours or more. Breakfast provides the energy we need to start our day, and helps replenish our glucose “stores”; glucose is an important fuel for our body.  Related to this, a study conducted in the United Kingdom showed that eating breakfast helps prevent big swings in blood glucose over the course of the day. This is important for protecting our pancreas from over-producing insulin, which could eventually lead to less insulin being produced, which leads to a high blood glucose.

Not eating breakfast can increase the production of hunger hormones, which can cause snacking before lunch – often on foods with little nutritional value (i.e., pastries, chips, and candy). This can lead to eating excess calories over the day and, if sustained, can cause weight gain.  In fact, many studies have shown that breakfast eaters weigh less than people who do not eat breakfast and, importantly, have better diets (i.e., nutrient dense).  There are many other benefits of breakfast including overall good health, better memory and concentration (especially in the morning), as well as lower LDL-cholesterol and fasting glucose levels, both of which, when elevated, are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, respectively.

Several studies also have shown that eating breakfast contributes to weight control and is especially helpful in preventing weight regain after weight loss. This is a huge benefit for eating breakfast – helping to keep the weight off that has been very challenging to lose.

What is a healthy breakfast?  Importantly, it needs to provide adequate calories and nutrients.  In general, breakfast should provide between 15% and 35% of your total calories for the day.  The variation is largely a function of the number of daily eating occasions.  Breakfast is a good time to enjoy fruits, and even vegetables, whole grains, and non-fat dairy products.

Choose your foods wisely and avoid high sugary foods like sugar-sweetened cereals, syrups & honey, sugar-containing breakfast and coffee drinks, and some breakfast bars and smoothies.  It also is important to avoid salty foods that are a popular breakfast food like bacon, ham, sausage and some cheeses.  Also, some bread products are high in salt (be sure to read the Nutrition Facts Label and choose the lower sodium version). In addition, veer away from foods that are high in saturated fat such as egg dishes prepared with cheese and butter.  Some examples of healthy breakfast meals are shown below.

Healthy Breakfast Suggestions

Breakfast #1 – Get your whole grains:
Fruit compote
Steel cut oatmeal with raisins and walnuts or almonds
Skim milk
Coffee or tea

Breakfast #2
– Get your whole grains
French toast made with whole grain bread topped with unsweetened applesauce
Skim milk
Coffee or tea

Breakfast #3
– Get the protein you need
Greek yogurt
Whole grain toast with soft margarine
Skim milk
Coffee or tea

Breakfast #4 – Another high protein meal
Berries (fresh or frozen)
Egg white and vegetable omelet or frittata
Whole grain toast with soft margarine
Skim milk
Coffee or tea

September Recipes

Baked Eggs in Avocados

Oatmeal Cottage Cheese Banana Pancakes

Spinach and Mushroom Egg White Frittata

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