Breakfast Is King

Start your day the healthy way with a nutrient-rich breakfast

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

"Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper" is an expression that contains a valuable lesson. While most of us heed the advice in reverse, the important take-away message is that breakfast should never be skipped even if it is not the largest meal of the day.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day because it kick-starts your metabolism after a night of rest and provides fuel to your brain and your body. And, it is not just for kids. Whether you are in the boardroom, classroom or on the playing field, you need fuel (blood sugar) to perform your best.

Healthy Breakfast Meals

A healthy breakfast needs to include a source of protein and fiber to keep you feeling full for several hours. Protein helps you feel satisfied for several hours and when paired with foods rich in fiber, the meal will help keep your blood sugar steady until lunch.

Grabbing a cup of coffee and a donut are not exactly the ingredients for a nourishing breakfast. In fact, when you eat a meal of refined carbs, like a muffin, donut or plain bagel, without a good source of protein and fiber, you probably will be foraging for a snack long before lunch.

Coffee is a great source of antioxidants and can be part of a healthy meal as long as it is not overloaded with cream and sugar. There are no calories in coffee, but the add-ins can add up quickly. Enjoy your morning "cup of Joe," black or lightened with low-fat milk with just a pinch of sugar or artificial sweetener.

Sample healthy breakfast meals:

  • Poached egg, whole wheat toast and half a grapefruit
  • Smoothie made with low-fat yogurt, fruit and 100% fruit juice
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt parfait with fruit and granola
  • Egg sandwich with cheese on a whole-grain English muffin
  • Whole-grain cereal, low-fat milk and fruit
  • Oatmeal, chopped nuts and dried fruit
  • Whole-grain waffle with peanut butter and banana
  • Bean burrito with cheese and salsa
  • Scrambled eggs with spinach, whole-grain toast and orange juice
  • Whole-grain bagel with cream cheese and salmon and tomato juice
  • Last night's leftover dinner

No Time to Eat, No Problem

When time is tight, breakfast is often the first thing to go. By planning ahead, you can set your alarm to rise 8 minutes earlier to enjoy a quick sit-down meal or pack a breakfast-to-go the night before.

Nutrition bars can be an on-the-run breakfast solution if you choose carefully. Purchase nutrition bars loaded with good nutrition instead of those loaded with sugar. When choosing cereal or food bars, aim for less than 200 calories, 5 to 7 grams of protein and at least 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving and try to keep added sugar below 7 grams per serving, as well.

Benefits of Breakfast

Studies show, people who eat breakfast tend to have a lower body mass indexes (BMIs) and in general have a more nutritious diet than people who skip breakfast.

Why? Because breakfast is a great opportunity to satisfy servings for fruits, whole grains, dairy, lean protein and meet fiber recommendations. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast sets the tone for the day and encourages people to choose wisely the rest of the day.

Weight control is usually enhanced with regular breakfast because a meal containing protein and fiber is satisfying and therefore you are less likely to overeat and more likely to lose weight. In fact, successful losers, people who have lost weight and kept it off for years, make it a habit to eat breakfast almost every day.