The Building Blocks Of A Heart-Healthy Breakfast
Everyone’s heard it – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And while there is some debate about that, there’s no question that starting your day off with a healthy meal – even if it is small – has a lot of benefits, including helping you practice self-control. And if you’re concerned about your heart health, it is especially important.
Whether you’re looking to start eating breakfast or feel like you could clean up your current option, know that a healthy breakfast should contain a few fundamental building blocks – and it starts with fiber, followed by protein.
Fiber can be found in whole grains like oats or sprouted wheat, fruit, or nuts and seeds, and it’s an important nutrient that is often overlooked. Fiber helps “clean out” bad cholesterol from the body and helps us feel full longer. Breakfast cereals can be a good source, but it’s important to look at the ratio between dietary fiber and sugar.
A good guideline is no more than double the amount of sugar than there is fiber, or a two-to-one sugar to fiber ratio. And, it’s a good idea to make sure that the cereal you choose has three or more grams of fiber, otherwise you will feel hungry again very soon.
As for the milk, non-dairy options are just fine, but choose the unsweetened varieties. If you just can’t manage and need the sweetened ones, then be sure to count that within your daily budget for added sugar (24 grams for a woman and 36 grams for a man). It’s also important to be aware of some of the differences between the non-dairy milks. For example, coconut milk is higher in saturated fat and most other milks (almond, cashew, flax and rice) have very little protein. Most non-dairy milks are fortified with nutrients like calcium and vitamin D to mimic dairy milk.
If you enjoy yogurt with your cereal, or even on its own, challenge yourself to try the plain variety; this will help limit added sugar. It can take a little getting used to, but adding fresh, frozen or dried fruit and nuts can help.
Breakfast bars, although convenient, tend to lack fiber and that other important building block – protein. Like fiber, protein helps you feel fuller longer. Before you buy any breakfast bar, it’s important to consider how much sugar it contains. Hint: they tend to have too much. Look for the brands with just nuts and fruit, or at least a short ingredient list. Many bars are dipped in chocolate or other coatings and as a result have a high amount of saturated fat. A better option would be to prepare something small in advance – such as no-bake energy bites made with oats, flax meal, peanut butter, miniature chocolate chips and honey.
Another popular on-the-go option is a smoothie. While packed with nutrients, smoothies can quickly become too full of sugar. Use these tips to avoid this pitfall:
- No juice. Use milk or water for the liquid.
- Limit fruit to 1-2 cups.
- Include a veggie, such as kale or frozen spinach.
- Include a protein source (plain yogurt, peanut butter, or unsweetened protein powder.)
Vegetarian proteins like plain yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts or natural nut butters and even hard boiled eggs can be a great addition to any breakfast.
For light eaters, fresh fruit and a 1/4 cup of nuts such as almonds or pistachios, or perhaps avocado on toast are two easy ways to start the day off on the right foot.
Breaking out of the traditional breakfast foods can help keep you interested in breakfast, and even help use up your leftovers. Consider chicken breast and potatoes from the night before. Or, try chia seed pudding or a quinoa bowl, like this Quinoa-Blueberry Bowl.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Zest and juice of medium lemon
- Dash coarse salt
- Dash granulated sugar
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
- Cook quinoa according to package directions. Allow to cool.
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon, salt and sugar. Toss dressing with cooled quinoa and mix in arugula and blueberries. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Top with crumbled goat cheese.
Story Credit: http://www.hngnews.com/sun_prairie_star/community/article_8acf76c0-552b-11e7-aa95-b39c963ee054.html