Healthy Breakfast Habits: Make Every Day a New Year

BlogHer Original Post

"Every day is the first day of the rest of your life." Sure, it's an old cliche but it means that when New Years' resolve grows weak, each and every day offers the same fresh start as a whole new year. What makes January 1 so special? What about today? Let's take a look at one healthy habit, eating breakfast -- not just any donut-and-coffee breakfast, mind you, a healthy breakfast.

WHY IS A HEALTHY BREAKFAST IMPORTANT?

Your body is starving. Even if you're not "hungry" (for most of us, hunger is triggered by emotion and the clock), come morning, your body has been without new sources of calories for six to nine and even twelve hours. It wants you to "break the fast" -- yes, that's the origin of the word breakfast.

Breakfast helps us maintain healthy weight. Too many of us, especially dieters, skip meals, especially breakfast. But when your body goes for a long period without nourishment, it begins to think it's facing a period of "famine" and begins to streettttch out the absorption of the calories it has available. In contrast, when the body is fed healthy food several times a day, it understands that it's enjoying a period of "plenty" and absorbs the available calories quickly because it's been taught to expect nourishment at regular intervals.

A healthy breakfast encourages healthy eating throughout the day. Studies show that people who eat healthy breakfasts are more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout the day and are less likely to become obese.

We perform better. Research shows that kids do better in school when they start their days with breakfast -- that means increased attention, fewer behavior issues and better grades. It's not much of a stretch to believe that the same applies to grown-ups, too, in the form of better memory, a more positive attitude and higher productivity.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, USDA, American Dietetic Association


COMMON OBJECTIONS to BREAKFAST

"I don't have time." Then, sorry, make time. We make time for other things that are important, don't we? Add breakfast to the list.

"My kids will only eat sugary breakfast cereal." I suppose that even sugar-coated breakfast cereals are a start, because at least the habit to eat "something" is being formed. Then again, my friend Ann once asked, "What about granola bars?" for her then five-year-old daughter. Granola bars? They're just candy bars wrapped up to look like they're good for you. Sugary breakfast cereals and breakfast bars are examples of "food products" that are packed with refined grains and sugars that train our bodies to only like sweetness. Pound for pound, they're also no bargain money-wise, as convenient as they are.

"I'm just not hungry in the morning." My own experience says that when I'm not hungry in the morning, it's because I've eaten too much the night before. Should I skip breakfast? No, I need to eat less at night. But if you're not hungry in the morning, eat something that's healthy and nutrient-dense but not filling. Try a handful of nuts, a spoonful of peanut butter. If you want to much slowly, cut an apple into many pieces and eat it slowly. Then an hour or so later, eat something more substantial.

"I hate eggs." Steer entirely away from the traditional breakfast foods. There's no reason to not eat soup, say, for breakfast or cook a turkey burger. Think protein, think vegetables, think fruit. When my sister and I were kids, my dad cooked breakfast every day following a two-week schedule. Our favorite was every other Friday, tomato soup with a hamburger patty.

"I'll just grab a bagel with my coffee." First, there's the expense of buying a bagel and coffee every morning. What's $3 or $5 a day times 365? A bucketload of cash, that's what. Second, bagels are made of refined flour, not whole grains, and these days are so frickin' big, you might as well eat a Big Mac.

Enough with the excuses! We know eating a healthy breakfast is the right thing to do -- so let's figure out just how to kick off that healthy habit, then to build it into our lives every single day.


HOW TO EAT A HEALTHY BREAKFAST EVERY DAY

What Is a Healthy Breakfast? If it comes from a box, chances are, it's not a healthy breakfast. If it's been baked with refined flours and sugar, chances are, it's not a healthy breakfast. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Ms. Baker, that includes most of your yummy homemade muffins.) But healthy breakfast foods can be as simple as a box of breakfast cereal or frozen waffles -- just healthier. Think whole grains (whole-grain bread, oatmeal and other grains such as quinoa, say); protein (eggs, nuts, beans and low-fat meats); dairy (yogurt, milk, even cottage cheese); whole fruits such as apples, bananas and oranges versus fruit juices; vegetables are less obvious in western diets but can and should be worked in too.

Plan Ahead The night before, set out the breakfast ingredients along with the next day's clothes and backpacks. Better yet, on the weekend, take the time to experiment with one new easy breakfast concoction that could make for an easy weekday breakfast. If you like breakfast variety, once you have five different healthy breakfast options, make one on Monday, another on Tuesday, etc. On the weekends, make muffins (healthy whole-grain muffins, naturally!) or cornbread (using stone-ground cornmeal) for the week ahead.

Keep It Simple Think of the shampoo instructions of breakfast: Prepare, Eat, Repeat. If variety isn't important, find one or two healthy breakfast options and then eat them over and over again. There's no need for planning, no need to "think" pre-caffeine. I have a "winter" breakfast routine (oatmeal with peanut butter stirred in) and a "summer" breakfast routine (smoothies).

Find a Healthy Breakfast You Truly Love For me, every time I bite into a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter, it's breakfast nirvana. It's cooked in the microwave so takes only two to three minutes. How about a poached egg smashed onto toast? A banana with a little peanut butter? Find something you really truly love and make it again and again.

Go "Mexican" Sauté some onion and peppers, maybe a tomato and a few canned beans, perhaps some spinach or chard. Throw in a couple of eggs and wrap it in a corn tortilla. Easy, protein-packed with a few vegetables for good measure. Still too complicated? Just sprinkle cheese on a corn tortilla and put into the microwave to melt for 15 to 30 seconds. Drizzle with hot sauce or salsa and roll it up to eat.


MORE HEALTHY BREAKFAST RESOURCES
Secrets to a Healthy Breakfast
Egg Muffins
Pop-Quiz Toast-Ups

And you?
And you, do you skip breakfast? Is so, what would it take for you to build breakfast into your daily routine? Or do you eat breakfast every day? What's your secret to eating a healthy balanced breakfast? In the comments, please share your own ideas and bloggers, if you've got them, do share links to healthy breakfast recipes!

BlogHer food editor Alanna Kellogg eats oatmeal with peanut butter nearly every day but still manages to collect other quick and healthy breakfast recipes.

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