The next time you rush out the door in the morning without something to eat, consider this: Skipping breakfast can set you up for overeating later in the day. A healthy a.m. meal, on the other hand, can give you energy, satisfy your appetite, and set the stage for smart decisions all day long.
You may have noticed a heart-shaped seal on your box of oatmeal recently. The seal’s there because oats contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber that’s been shown to help lower cholesterol when eaten regularly. Need another reason to dig in? Oats are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. Steel-cut oats, which take about 15 minutes to cook, contain more fiber than rolled oats or instant varieties, but any type of oatmeal is a healthy choice. Just avoid the flavored kinds, which can be packed with sugar. Instead, sweeten your bowl with milk and a bit of honey, and top with fruit and nuts.
This tangy, creamy yogurt is loaded with calcium and boasts plenty of protein—nearly twice as much as regular yogurt—to keep you feeling full throughout the morning. Your best bet: Choose a plain, nonfat variety, and add some fruit to give it some sweetness and flavor (and a dose of added nutrition).
There’s nothing like a banana at breakfast to keep those mid-morning cravings at bay. The yellow fruit—especially when they’re still a touch green—are one of the best sources of resistant starch, a healthy carbohydrate that keeps you feeling fuller longer.
These incredible edibles have made quite a comeback in recent years. Once shunned for being high in dietary cholesterol (one yolk contains about 60% of your daily allotment), eggs are now embraced as a healthy source of protein and nutrients like vitamin D. Why the turnabout? Research has shown that the cholesterol in our food has less of an impact on blood cholesterol than previously thought.
As its name suggests, watermelon is an excellent way to hydrate in the morning. What’s less well known is this juicy fruit is among the best sources of lycopene—a nutrient found in red fruits and vegetables that’s important for vision, heart health, and cancer prevention. Best of all, watermelon contains just 40 calories per cup, landing it on lists of so-called negative-calorie foods that supposedly burn more calories during digestion than they add in. (Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s no reason to not eat watermelon!)
Fresh or frozen, these tiny superfruits pack a big antioxidant punch. Or better yet, a flurry of punches: Studies suggest that eating blueberries regularly can help improve everything from memory and motor skills to blood pressure and metabolism. (Wild blueberries, in particular, have one of the highest concentrations of the powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins.) Blueberries are also lower in calories than a lot of other fruits (they contain just 80 per cup), so you can pile them onto your cereal without worrying about your waistline.
Strawberries are good for your ticker, too. A 2013 study found that women were less likely to have a heart attack over an 18-year period if they ate more than three servings of strawberries or blueberries per week. (Strawberries, like blueberries, are a good source of anthocyanins.)
That espresso doesn’t just wake you up. Coffee drinking has been linked to a lower risk of several diseases (such as diabetes and prostate cancer), and it may even help you live longer. Researchers suspect the combination of caffeine and antioxidants are responsible for many of the observed health benefits. (A 2005 study found that coffee is the number-one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, believe it or not.) Of course, loading coffee up with cream and sugar may erase any potential benefits. So skip the fancy flavored drinks, and stick with skim milk.
Not a coffee person? Tea has a pretty impressive résumé of health benefits, too. Because it has less caffeine, it hydrates you more effectively than coffee, and it’s also a rich source of the immunity-boosting antioxidants known as catechins. All tea (black, green, or white) provides antioxidants, but green tea may be healthiest of all. Research suggests that drinking five cups a day can increase your body’s metabolism and help you lose more weight around the middle.
Any fruit is a good addition to your breakfast, Giovinazzo says, and cantaloupe is no exception. A six-ounce serving (roughly a quarter-melon) contains just 50 calories and a full 100% of your recommended daily intake of both vitamin C and vitamin A, an important nutrient for smooth, younger-looking skin. And, like most melons, cantaloupe has a high water concentration, which means it will help you stay hydrated and keep you feeling full until lunchtime.
This fuzzy little fruit has about 65 milligrams of vitamin C per serving—nearly as much as an orange. It’s also rich in potassium and copper and contains more fiber per ounce than a banana, which makes it a good aid to digestion. (In one study, eating two kiwis a day for one month lessened constipation in people with irritable bowel syndrome.) Kiwis are slightly tart. They’re delicious by themselves, but if you prefer a sweeter flavor, try mixing them with strawberries and bananas in a smoothie or fruit salad.
Fresh squeezed OJ is a classic (and tasty) morning beverage, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved on. For even more nutritional benefit, you’ll want to opt for a store-bought variety that’s fortified with vitamin D. Along with fatty fish and fortified milk, fortified OJ is one of the few dietary sources of the sunshine vitamin, higher levels of which have been linked to a lower risk of osteoporosis, depression, and certain cancers. Whichever OJ you prefer, stick with one small glass a day,
Cranberry juice, which helps limit bacterial growth, is best known for warding off urinary tract infections (UTIs), but its healing powers may not stop there. The tart juice appears to promote cardiovascular health, and preliminary research in petri dishes suggests that compounds in cranberries can even increase the effectiveness of certain ovarian cancer drugs. As with OJ, though, you’re better off sticking with small servings. Cranberry juice—not to be confused with cranberry juice cocktail—isn’t as sugary as other fruit juices, but its high acidity can sometimes contribute to bladder problemsbesides UTIs.
These summer favorites are the main berry source of ellagitannins, a type of antioxidant that is thought to have cancer-fighting properties. They’re also high in fiber (8 grams per cup), vitamin C, and vitamin K, which helps build strong bones. Although you can buy fresh raspberries year-round, during the off-season you’ll find them cheaper (and with equal nutritional value) in the frozen foods aisle. They’re perfect as an addition to cereal or yogurt, or mixed into a smoothie for a quick, drink-on-the-go breakfast.
Carbohydrates are a breakfast mainstay, but the type of carbs you choose can make a big difference in the overall health of your meal. The simple rule to remember is that whole wheat and other whole grains—whether they’re found in bread, toast, or English muffins—contain more fiber and nutrients than their white, refined counterparts.