Your weekday breakfast is latte-only; your weekend breakfast is lumberjack-worthy. But each adds up to a cup (or heaping plate) of empty calories.
Instead of starting off that way, reach for energy-boosting, nutritious, and tasty foods that health experts themselves eat. Whether you're in a rush or have some extra time, here are eight easy breakfasts from top nutritionists.
Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H.
Author of "Body-for-Life for Women" (Rodale; 2005)
Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore
Considering breakfast's benefits -- it provides energy, keeps daily caloric consumption in check, and can even lower cholesterol -- Peeke is amazed that people skip it. If better health isn't a motivator, then try some vanity: According to the largest weight-loss study ever done, a major predictor of a person's success was whether he or she ate breakfast. To get a quick and even mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, Peeke microwaves a piece of low-fat mozzarella cheese and a tomato slice in a whole-grain pita. She grabs an apple for fiber and a cup of her favorite antioxidant-rich Kona coffee (haoleboycoffee.com).
When Peeke has time to stand at the stove, she makes a small bowl of Irish steel-cut oatmeal and tops it with a handful of chopped walnuts, a half-cup of blueberries, and a dash of cinnamon. The oatmeal is full of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Blueberries provide potent antioxidants to boost her immune system, and walnuts offer protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Peeke is an avid runner, and she says, "This breakfast fills me up and gives me all the energy I need." She also squeezes a glass of "true juice" in her juicer. Her favorite combination: an apple with three carrots and a small piece of ginger.
Lisa Hark, PH.D., R.D.
Coauthor of "Nutrition for Life" (Dorling Kindersley: 2005)
Director of Nutrition Education at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Hark doesn't always feel famished when she wakes up, but she eats a light breakfast even on her most hectic mornings, since breakfast jump-starts metabolism. Studies also show that breakfast-skippers rarely make up for the nutrients they missed, despite consuming more calories overall than breakfast eaters. She toasts a slice of low-calorie whole-wheat bread (she likes Pepperidge Farm), and then spreads on two tablespoons of natural almond butter, a good source of protein and healthy fats. She also makes sure to drink an eight-ounce glass of 1 percent milk, a low-fat source of many vitamins and minerals.
When she has time for a more proper breakfast, Hark prepares an omelet. To cut out a little fat and cholesterol (without sacrificing flavor), she whisks together one whole egg with two egg whites, instead of using three whole eggs. Then she folds in fiber and antioxidants with an array of colorful chopped vegetables, including carrots and peppers. For extra protein and a creamy, rich taste, she adds a sprinkling of feta cheese ("You don't need to use a lot to get full flavor," she explains) or a few tablespoons of low-fat cottage cheese. "This combination is as delicious as it is good for you.
Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.
Author of "10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet" (McGraw-Hill; 2006)
Nutritionist in Salem, Oregon
"When you wake up, you haven't eaten since the night before, and your body is running on fumes," Somer says. The breakfast equivalent of high-octane gas, she explains, is a combination of whole grains, protein, and a fruit or vegetable. "Cereal is a quick, healthy option, but it gets boring, she says. To keep things interesting, she mixes cereals from the six boxes in her pantry -- usually two pieces of shredded wheat, one-third cup Kashi Puffs, and a small handful of Oat Cuisine Gourmet Granola (oatcuisine.com). Then she tops the cereals with some walnuts, dried fruit, and plain soy milk. She has fresh fruit on the side.
Somer makes pancakes or waffles for her family. But instead of flipping disks of white-flour empty calories, she creates a batter with Light Bisquick, omega-3 fortified eggs, and a quarter-cup of toasted wheat germ (for fiber and vitamins B and E). "I'm a master of sneaking in nutrition," she says. To make an antioxidant-rich topping, she cooks a bag of plain frozen blueberries in a saucepan over medium heat almost to a boil, stirs in a tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken the syrup, and then spoons it over the pancakes or waffles. She also serves fruit or calcium-fortified orange juice.
Cindy Sherwin, R.D.
Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, and Triathlete in New York City
On early mornings when Sherwin has to train, she packs a breakfast of one cup of Fage Total 0 Percent Greek Yogurt (for calcium and protein) mixed with a cup of fiber-rich berries (preferably raspberries or blackberries), an ounce of nutrient-dense almonds and exactly two Brazil nuts. Why two? "You need only two for a full day's supply," she says of the nut, which is one of the best sources of selenium, an antioxidant that can reduce the risk of cancer and some degenerative diseases. She also likes to grab a cup of green tea, usually Mighty Leaf Mountain Spring Jasmine (mightyleaf.com) and drinks it with skim milk.
Sherwin loves to pick up a loaf of whole-grain olive bread from the farmer's market (though any whole-grain bread will do; just look for brands that offer about three grams of fiber per piece). She cuts off a thick slice, then spreads a couple of slivers of avocado over it for protein, and covers them with three cooked egg whites and a piece of calcium-rich Cabot 50 Percent Light Cheddar Cheese. "I've tasted a lot of light cheeses, and I like this one best," she says (cabotcheese.com). A breakfast like this is sure to be satisfying enough for training for an upcoming triathlon or for just walking the dog.
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