Get a good start with a healthy breakfast

January 28, 2013

Every article about healthy eating seems to start at the same place: breakfast. From talk show pundits to medical websites to your mother, the message is the same. A healthy breakfast helps you start the day with the fuel you need for mental focus and physical energy.

What constitutes a healthy breakfast? The key elements are whole grains and lean protein, with fruits and vegetables next on the list. But, there are some additional features to consider, most importantly fat and sugar, the major sources of unwanted extra calories.

Let’s start with the whole grains in the photograph, whole-wheat toast at only 45 calories a slice. If you’ve been to the supermarket bread aisle recently, you’ve seen commercial loaves with per-slice calorie counts more than triple this. Among all the options, your healthier choices will be those with exclusively whole grains, high fiber and low calories.

But there’s a caveat here. Unless you’re a careful label reader you may not notice everything in the fine print. The first ingredient should be whole-wheat flour. If you see terms such as multigrain, unbleached wheat flour or stone-ground wheat flour, your bread has most likely been made with refined white flour.

Another unnecessary ingredient in bread is artificial sweetener, typically sucralose. Vendors typically add sucralose to eliminate sugar in their lower-calorie “lite” products. You can also find bread that has both high-fructose corn syrup (to extend shelf life) and sucralose (for sweetening). It’s possible to avoid the additives and still manage calories by scrutinizing the ingredient list.

One of the most popular breakfast items is cereal, from bare-bones cooked oat bran to waist-expanding granolas. Once again, labels are the way to determine if the health claims on the colorful packaging are true. Select those with at least three grams of fiber per serving and with five or less grams of sugar.

Keep in mind that not all cereals have the same serving size: some are as small as one-third cup, while others can be a full cup. From a calorie standpoint, look for those with 120 calories or less per serving, which is what I did when I grabbed a box of Special K protein plus. Unfortunately, I broke my own rule and only read the calorie count; I didn’t realize the manufacturer used both sucralose and sugar.

Back to the breakfast in the photo - the next item on the plate is a cheese omelet made with liquid egg substitute and low-fat cheddar. Cooked in a nonstick skillet, this two-egg-equivalent omelet is lower in fat and cholesterol than shell eggs and full-fat cheese. It also has only half the calories, with the same amount of protein.

By now you may have noticed the bacon. Keep in mind, this isn’t slab bacon or thick-cut bacon, but center-cut bacon. This type has about 35 calories a slice because it’s trimmed closer to the bone and is less fatty than standard strips. It’s actually similar in calories to turkey bacon, so you can enjoy the flavor without raising the calorie count.

We couldn’t have a healthy breakfast without fruits or vegetables, so we’ve included a broiled tomato. And, since there’s a perennial argument about tomatoes being fruits or vegetables, we’ll let it count as both.


• Cooked oat bran cereal with slivered almonds

• Granola, yogurt and sliced berries

• Microwaved potato with broccoli and Parmesan cheese

• Oatmeal with sliced banana

• Whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese

• Whole-wheat pancakes with sliced fruit and yogurt

• Whole-wheat pita bread with sliced hard-boiled egg

• Whole-wheat tortilla with scrambled egg substitute and salsa

• Whole-wheat waffle with nut butter

Whole-Wheat Pancakes

1 egg
1 1/4 C buttermilk
1 t vanilla
1 C whole-wheat flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t sugar (optional)

Whisk together milk, egg and vanilla; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Pour in liquid ingredients and stir just until combined.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium or use a griddle sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Make each pancake with 1/4 C of batter. When the edges become dry, turn pancakes to cook the other side. Yield: 8 pancakes.

Healthy Granola

2 T maple syrup
1 t vanilla
1 egg white
2 T honey
2 C old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1/3 C slivered almonds
1/3 C dried cherries (unsweetened)
1/3 C pumpkin seeds
2 T wheat germ
1 t cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 300 F. Coat a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Combine maple syrup, vanilla, egg white and honey in a measuring cup; whisk thoroughly.

Place remaining ingredients in a bowl, pour in liquid mixture and stir until evenly moistened. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet and cook until browned, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

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