Nutrition Perfected NYC
It's no secret that many traditional American breakfast foods rank low on the "healthy" scale.  The majority of popular commercial breakfast foods can be broken down into two main categories: those consisting primarily of refined white flour and those made of high fat, processed meat products.  While neither category alone is a picture of excellent nutrition, when you combine the two you create a truly horrific nutritional insult.  Staples of the American breakfast, like pancakes, waffles, sugary cereals, bacon, and sausage links are not good ingredients for fat loss or optimal health.

Strangely, many people who otherwise make sound nutritional decisions regularly consume entirely counterproductive breakfasts.  But why?  The reason, in the majority of cases in my experience, comes down to simple conditioning.  People often get "stuck" on a preconceived notion of what foods can be included on a breakfast menu.  They eat what they've eaten since childhood.  Unfortunately, their inability to consider other breakfast options starts them off each morning on the wrong nutritional foot, hindering their efforts towards fat loss or sports performance improvement.  There are better methods to construct a satisfying breakfast than to rely on fatty meats and processed carbohydrates.  It just takes a little bit of critical and creative thinking.

Think of breakfast as you think of any other meal or snack.  Structure your breakfast like a lunch or dinner and you will begin to see positive results in both your energy level throughout the day and your success at fat loss and muscle growth.  Both goals, while requiring different levels of caloric intake, are achieved through the application of similar fundamental principles.  Breakfast should contain a significant portion of protein, low glycemic carbohydrates, some healthy fats, as well as fruits and/or vegetables.

If you are willing to experiment a bit, you will find options that fit both your palate and your nutritional goals.  While the inclusion of a meat product in your breakfast is a great way to get your protein consumption up, bacon and sausage are not the best choices.  Instead, choose lean meats like turkey, chicken, or even lean beef.  Slicing your meat thin and making sure that it's tender will make it much more pleasant to eat early in the morning. After all, few people want to chomp into a two inch thick steak at 7am.

For those who prefer a vegetarian breakfast, cottage cheese is a great high-protein selection for your first meal.  1% milk fat cottage cheese can supply over 70% of its calories from protein.  In addition, cottage cheese is a perfect base to which you can add either savory or sweet flavors.  On the savory side, course ground black pepper or a flavorful pasta sauce can be great additions to the cheese.  Chopped walnuts or almonds can also add some healthy fats to your meal and supply the "crunch" that so many people crave.  If you lean towards sweet flavors, ripe berries or other chopped fruits are a perfect complement to the mild cheese.  In addition, brightly colored berries and fruits are often packed with phytochemicals including antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Last but not least on the protein front, always remember the good old egg.  With about 70 calories and six grams of protein per large egg, it can be a protein powerhouse.  Mix egg whites with a yolk or two and you have an even healthier omelet.  Although the yolk contains B vitamins, lecithin, and other beneficial compounds, it is also high in calories.  Make sure to balance your calories and protein properly when deciding on your white to yolk ratio.  Fresh or sautéed vegetables along with low-fat cheeses can add flavor and further nutrition to your egg creations.  Finally, eggs go wonderfully with the flavors of many spices.  Get creative in your pantry and try new combinations until you discover some that work for you.

Carbohydrates can be an excellent source of energy and nutrition, so don't exclude them from your breakfast.  However, make sure you choose the right kind of carbohydrate-based foods.  Cereals such as Special K Protein Plus and Kashi GoLean are my picks due to their high protein and fiber contents.  Protein and fiber are two of the best nutrients for satiety, or feeling full.  100% whole wheat breads are also a good choice.  When shopping, make sure to pick breads with 100% whole grain flour and a high fiber content.  Products that include any sort of "enriched" flour are not what you are looking for.  Finally, feel free to choose carbohydrates that are generally associated with lunch or dinner.  Brown rice and quinoa are two grain products that may pair well with your breakfast meat selection while supplying B vitamins and fiber.

When planning your next breakfast, remember that you are not stuck with a limited selection of breakfast ingredients.  Feel free to eat anything you'd like, as long as it fits in with your nutritional goals.  Include products that are high in protein and fiber for a stable energy level and a feeling of fullness that will last you until lunch.  Add fruits and vegetables to get a jump-start on your vitamin and mineral intake.  Experiment with breakfast and find out what works best for you!


09/28/2010 22:40

I've heard that eating oatmeal lowers your cholesterol level. Is that true. I'm thinking about starting a regular oatmeal breakfast thing.

09/29/2010 04:08

Hi, Tom! Yes, there is solid evidence that a type of oat fiber called beta-glucan is capable of lowering both total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. In addition, it appears that the more beta-glucan you consume, the greater the level of cholesterol reduction. Oatmeal for breakfast is a great idea and it can be a perfect base to which you can add other healthy ingredients like fresh berries. Always make sure to combine a a significant portion of protein with a good carbohydrate source like oatmeal to create a balanced and filling breakfast.



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    Rob Bent is the founder and lead nutrition counselor at Nutrition Perfected.  He is a multi-sport athlete and works constantly to maximize sports performance through scientifically-guided nutritional optimization.

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