The Best Start to the Day

A new year, a new plan for starting your day. What you put into your body in the morning – what foods you eat, what you drink and the supplements you take – can lay the foundation not only for a healthy day, but also for lifelong health benefits. So this year, make a commitment to jump-start each day with the fuel and nutrition you need to thrive.

Yes, breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day. A nutritious, well-balanced morning meal refuels your body and sustains your energy levels, but it also provides a variety of other benefits:

• Boost weight loss efforts. Research shows that breakfast eaters are more successful at losing weight and maintaining that weight loss compared to breakfast skippers. Filling up on satisfying, low-GI foods at breakfast can help prevent over-snacking during the day and over-eating at lunch, which helps reduce your overall daily calorie intake. Breakfast also keeps blood sugar and metabolism constant throughout the morning, which may reduce cravings.

• Sharper minds. Breakfast eaters have better concentration and productivity throughout the morning. And those who consume a high-fiber breakfast stay more alert than those who start their day with a high-fat meal.

• Heart protection. Eating a nutritious breakfast makes you less likely to eat foods high in fat and cholesterol later in the day. In addition, eating whole-grains, the basis of a good breakfast (see below), can also lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

• Stronger immune system. The right breakfast choices help you start your day with immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.

While eating breakfast is important in itself, eating the right foods provides the optimal benefits. The goal is to choose a combination that provides complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein and a small amount of fat, which will leave you feeling full for hours. Choose one or two options from each category:

• Whole grains (high-fiber cereals, oatmeal, whole grain breads, bagels)
• Low-fat protein (eggs, egg whites, lean breakfast meats, fish, tofu, nuts)
• Low-fat dairy (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk)
• Fruits and vegetables

You can choose to stick with traditional breakfast fare for your combinations, or explore a variety nontraditional breakfast options, such as:

• Cold cereal with a side of fruit (Choose cereals that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving – 5 grams or more is even better – and less than 10 grams of sugar. If your favorite cereal is low on fiber, add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to it.)
• Cooked oatmeal with nuts and/or dried fruit
• Wheat toast with almond butter
• Scrambled tofu, egg whites (or one whole egg with added whites) or egg substitute with low-fat cheese and whole wheat toast
• A whole-wheat pita and hard-boiled eggs
• Leftover vegetable pizza
• A breakfast burrito made with vegetables, salsa and low-fat shredded cheese wrapped in a tortilla
• A smoothie with fruits, low-fat yogurt and a spoonful of wheat germ
• Whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese or peanut butter
• A potato topped with broccoli and grated Parmesan cheese
• A whole-wheat sandwich with lean meat and low-fat cheese
• Multigrain pancakes with fruit and yogurt
• A whole-grain waffle with peanut butter
• Cottage cheese and fruit

If you usually skip breakfast because you are rushed in the morning, plan ahead. Prepare oatmeal, eggs, pancakes, etc. the night before and just heat them in the morning, or stock your fridge with portable, ready-to-eat portions such as fruit and veggies in sandwich bags, hard-boiled eggs, and low-fat or non-fat yogurt cups to take with you.

MORNING BEVERAGES

 While many people can't get started without a cup of coffee (and consider that their breakfast!), it certainly isn't the only option for a breakfast beverage.

• Smoothie. This drink also qualifies as a complete breakfast (see above), made with fruit, low- or non-fat yogurt, and add-ins such as ground flax or wheat germ.
• Low-fat milk. Studies have shown that morning skim milk drinkers felt fuller and ate 9% less at lunch, and consuming low-fat dairy in general has also been linked to weight loss. Milk also provides calcium and vitamin D.
• Soy milk. Soy is an excellent source of isoflavones, which have been shown to have health benefits such as reduced risk of many cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis and more. Soy milk also provides protein without the cholesterol from animal products, and is often fortified with vitamin D.
• 100% fruit or vegetable juices. Although whole fruits and veggies have more fiber, a small glass of pure juice can be a quick, convenient, way to get their nutrients in the morning.
• Tea. Hibiscus, green, white…each has it's own health benefits. See Drink to Good Health with a Cup of Tea.
• Coffee. While too much caffeine can have negative effects such as increased blood pressure, and coffee may worsen conditions like reflux, a cup of coffee in the morning may have its place, and even some benefits. Possible health links include reduced risk of diabetes, Parkinson's, liver damage, and gallstones. Be sure to use low-, non-fat or soy milk instead of cream, and limit the sugar or sweeteners.

SUPPLEMENTS

 No matter how healthy you eat at breakfast or throughout the day, one of the most important things you can do to maintain good health is to take a nutritional supplement on a daily basis. Read Why Take Supplements for some of the critical reasons.

Physicians themselves are also becoming more aware of the need for supplementation. The prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002 stated, "We recommend that all adults take a multivitamin daily." And a survey shows that 79% of physicians and health care professionals do recommend dietary supplements to their patients.

Your nutritional program should include a morning and evening packet, or A.M and P.M. dose, as some ingredients should be separated for maximum absorption. It is usually best to take supplements at mealtimes, which is easier on your stomach and eliminates any aftertaste or nausea from taking them on an empty stomach. It also aids in the absorption of the nutrients. For best results, take your A.M packet with your healthy breakfast, and your P.M. packet with your evening meal.

So this year, give yourself the best possible start to each and every day with a satisfying breakfast, a healthy beverage, and a complete nutritional supplement. You'll be ready to take on the day, and reap the many benefits!

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