While the benefits of eating breakfast are well-known --  it
can prevent weight gain, boost short-term memory, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and even
make us happier -- most of those health
rewards depend on choosing the right foods.

"In general, a
healthy breakfast contains protein, fruits, whole grains, or
vegetables," says Ruth Frechman, MA, RDN, CPT, nutritionist and
author of "

The Food is My Friend Diet
." Typically, you want to
include foods from at least three of these groups, says
Frechman.

The portion sizes will depend on your age, activity, and diet
goals, but as a general guideline your "plate" should consist of
about 25% protein, 25% carbohydrates, and 50% fruits and/or
vegetables, says Frechman.

Frechman emphasizes the importance of eating breakfast, but
recommends waiting until you're legitimately hungry to break
bread. "If you force yourself to eat at 7 a.m. when you're not
hungry, chances are you are going to gain weight."

When you are ready to chow down, here are some healthy breakfast
options to make sure you start the day off right.

Eggs

Shutterstock.com

"Eggs are your friends again," says Frechman. Although one large
egg contains 212 milligrams of cholesterol -- a relatively large
amount compared to other foods -- it's now known that saturated
fat increases "bad" blood cholesterol and not the cholesterol in
foods.

One egg carries around 70 calories and packs 6 grams of protein.
Before you toss the yolk, remember that the yellowish center is
where most of the nutrients are found. The yolk is a good source
of lutein, a vitamin also found in spinach and kale that helps
prevents eye diseases.

Whole-grain bread, cereal, or oatmeal

Nate
Steiner/Flickr

"Breakfast happens to be the easiest time to get in heart healthy
fiber from whole grain cereal and oats which can help lower blood
pressure and cholesterol," says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, owner of
Your New York
Dietitians
. Fiber
keeps us full
and gives us energy.

"Always look for at least 5 grams of fiber when choosing
breakfast cereals," says Moskovitz. She also says to use any milk
with 1% fat or less. "No one over the age of 2 should be drinking
higher fat cow's milk."

Another warning: If you're watching your weight, you want to stay
away from whole-grain cereals with added sugar because those pack
a lot of extra calories.

Peanut butter

Dustin
Dennis/Shutterstock

There are 8 grams of protein in two tablespoons of peanut butter,
which is roughly 20% of the daily recommended amount
for adult men and women. "It helps to have protein at every meal
to regulate your blood sugar level," says Frechman. "If you were
to have pancakes, syrup, and juice, your blood sugar would spike
and then crash."

Also, peanut butter mostly contains the "good" unsaturated fat.
"I always recommend a nut butter like cashew butter, almond
butter, or sunflower butter instead of putting real butter,
margarine, or cream cheese on a bagel," says Frechman. Yellowish
spreads like margarine are much higher in "bad" saturated fats.

Fruit

Flickr/aryaziai

Berries, bananas, or melon -- take your pick. "There's no such
things as an unhealthy fruit," says Frechman. However, you should
mix and match your fruit choices to take advantage of a variety
of different nutrients. Blueberries, for example, are high in
antioxidants while oranges are loaded with vitamin C and
potassium.

If you're looking for convenience, Frechman recommends bananas
since they're easy to transport and eat without making a mess.

Yogurt

janineomg
via Flickr

"A breakfast
parfait would make a great, very convenient breakfast," says
Frechman. A 6-ounce serving of yogurt contains


as much protein as a serving as meat

. Greek yogurt contains
even more protein -- sometimes double the amount of regular
yogurt. If you have diabetes or are watching your calories,
plain, non-fat or low-fat yogurt is a healthier choice than
fruit-flavored yogurts, which can have a lot of added
sugar.

Smoothies

Flickr

A smoothie makes a complete, on-the-go meal. You can add a base
of yogurt for protein and fresh or frozen fruit, like
strawberries, for sweetness. If you don't like eating your
vegetables with dinner, this blended drink is an easy way to cram
greens like spinach or kale into your diet.

Fruit juice

Jeremy
Keith/Flickr

It's completely acceptable to get your fruit in liquid form, but
make sure to choose 100% fruit juice, otherwise there could be
added sugar. "Punches and fruit drinks have added sugar, which
are just extra calories," says Frechman.

Coffee

Blue
Bottle Coffee/Facebook

Coffee has received a bad rap over the years, but long-term
medical studies are now tipping in favor of the caffeinated beverage.
As long as you're not pushing 4 cups a day, there's nothing wrong
with drinking coffee. 

Foods to avoid:
Bacon, sausage, hash browns, processed cheese, biscuits with
gravy, or granola bars

Most of these foods either contain a lot of saturated fat or are
high in sugar. They're alright to eat once in a while, but not on
a regular basis.

"People tend to think of granola bars as being healthy," says
Frechman. "It's cheaper and more healthy to have just a bowl of
cereal with milk and fruit."


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