Healthy breakfast components
For most people, healthy breakfast ideas start with three components: a serving of a whole-grain carbohydrate, a serving of a dairy or high-calcium food and a serving of fruit. Together, that’s roughly 1200 kilojoules. A high-protein serving (like meat or an egg) is fine as long as it doesn’t add too much fat or kilojoules. These healthy breakfast ideas combine all three components:
- a bowl of high-fibre, multigrain cereal, lots of strawberries, and low-fat milk
- a granola bar, an apple, and low-fat milk
- non-fat yoghurt, fresh blueberries, and a slice of wholemeal toast with fruit spread
- a mini wholemeal bagel, spread lightly with cream cheese and jam, a peach and a cup of yoghurt
- scrambled egg on a wholemeal roll, with fresh fruit salad and a cup of low-fat milk
- a low-fat muffin, a slice of rockmelon, and a cup of coffee made with skim milk.
Aim for at least 5 grams of fibre
Without a good start on your daily fibre intake, you’ll never reach the recommended amount (25-30 grams per day). You can get those five grams in just a few bites with a large raw apple, 1/2 cup of a high-fibre cereal, 1/2 cup of blackberries, or two slices of dark, whole-grain rye bread. Fibre is quite filling with no extra cost in kilojoules.
Top your cereal with soy milk
Packed with potent phytoestrogens, soy has been credited with everything from protecting your heart to promoting stronger bones. But make sure that it’s fortified with calcium, otherwise you’re missing a great opportunity to get some bone-building calcium.
Sip green tea with breakfast
One of the most beneficial healthy breakfast ideas involves swapping out your morning cup of coffee in favour of green tea. In addition to its heart-protective benefits, green tea may also have some weight-loss benefits, with one study finding it appears to raise the rate at which you burn kilojoules and speed the rate at which your body uses fat.
Drink 3 cups of unsweetened orange juice every morning
The vitamin C in OJ not only boosts your immunity, but also improves your cholesterol levels. One study found that drinking three glasses of orange juice a day for four weeks raised levels of HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol, by 21 per cent. If three cups is too much for you, substitute for a couple of oranges. For the best results, make your juice calcium-fortified.
Eat a bowl of sliced strawberries three times a week
Loaded with vitamin C, strawberries have numerous health benefits, one of them being protection for your eyes. One study of 247 women found that those taking vitamin C supplements were 75 per cent less likely to get cataracts than those who didn’t take it. It’s better, though, to get your vitamin C from food.
Other health benefits of berries: they’re rich in a wide variety of antioxidants, low in kilojoules, and even have a low glycaemic index (shown to better maintain healthy blood sugar levels.)
A bowlful of high-fibre cereal
With 10 grams of fibre, All-Bran cereals put you well on your way to the 25-30 grams of fibre you should be eating every day. Studies find that people who regularly start their day with a bowl of cold cereal get more fibre and calcium, but less fat, than those who breakfast on other foods. Another study found that people who ate two bowlfuls of high-fibre cereal every day spontaneously cut the amount of fat they ate by 10 per cent.
Eat organic eggs
They’re quite a bit more expensive than non-organic eggs but are higher in all-important omega-3 fatty acids, shown to benefit everything from your mental health (reducing risk of depression) to your heart health (reducing risk of atherosclerosis and atrial fibrillation), says integrative physician, Dr Fred Pescatore.
Shop for vegetarian alternatives
Soy bacon and sausage, lentil burgers and soy crumbles make great sources of protein for breakfast without the saturated fat of their meat originals.
Eat half a grapefruit twice a week
Grapefruits are loaded with folate, found to significantly reduce the risk of stroke. However, be cautious if you’re taking regular medications. Grapefruit and its juice can interact with medications that are processed through the liver. Check with your doctor about any possible interactions between grapefruit and any medications you’re taking.
Slice two kiwis into your morning smoothie
You may have just reduced your risk of premature death by as much as 30 per cent. According to a British study, every gram of vitamin C-laden fruit you eat a day reduces your risk of premature death by 10 per cent. Want an even easier way to eat a kiwi? Just slice the top off and scoop out with a teaspoon. It’s delicious, fun, and fast.
Enjoy a bowl of sweetened brown rice
Consider this healthy breakfast idea a twist on prepared cereal! Brown rice is full of energy-boosting B vitamins, as well as a great source of filling fibre. Cook the rice the night before, then in the morning, put it in a bowl with a spoonful of honey, a handful of raisins, a cut-up apple, a splash of low-fat milk, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a unique yet delicious treat. Not a fan of brown rice? Try any of the cooking grains: barley, rye, red wheat, oats, buckwheat, quinoa or millet.
Sprinkle a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds
Try this nutty addition over your cereal, over your yoghurt, in your smoothie, or over your eggs. Next to fish and organic eggs, flaxseeds are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Add dark chocolate to the mix
Thought healthy breakfast ideas meant excluding chocolate? Think again! Shave 30 grams of dark chocolate over a cup of non-fat yoghurt and mix. The calcium-rich yoghurt can actually help in your efforts to lose weight, while the antioxidant-loaded dark chocolate can help reduce the stickiness of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and keep your arteries more pliable.
Consider butter substitutes
If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, newly-developed spreads can be used in place of butter and contain heart-healthy plant stanols. Just 2 tablespoons daily can significantly lower your total cholesterol level.
Think lunch at breakfast
Instead of butter or cream cheese, top your morning wholemeal toast with 2 tablespoons tuna prepared with low-fat mayonnaise if you like. The tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and an excellent source of energy-boosting protein. For the same healthy boost with a bit of variety, try smoked or canned salmon.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of blueberries on your cereal
Studies find the tiny purple berries are loaded with valuable antioxidants that can slow brain ageing and protect your memory. Not into cereal? Try baking blueberries into rolled oats to create your own blueberry granola bar, or mixing them into wholemeal pancake or waffle batter.
Healthy toppers for wholemeal bagels and toast
- 2 tablespoons non-fat cottage cheese sprinkled with flaxseed
- a slice of low-fat cheese melted over a slice of mango
- 2 tablespoons soy butter with a sliced banana
- a slice of baked ham and one sliced tomato
Make a breakfast sandwich
For a healthy breakfast idea, top a wholemeal English muffin with melted low-fat cheese (part-skim mozzarella is a good choice), a sliced tomato, and a sliced, hard-boiled egg.
Blend a fast, healthy fruit smoothie
Simply puree a cup of strawberries and a banana in the blender, add a scoop of protein powder and a cup of crushed ice, and you’ve got a healthy, on-the-go breakfast filled with antioxidants. Toss in a cup of plain yoghurt, and you’ve just added a bone-strengthening dose of calcium. An added bonus: you’ve just crossed three of your daily fruit servings off the list.
Sprinkle a wholemeal tortilla with 60 grams grated, low-fat cheddar cheese and grill
While it’s cooking, peel and eat an orange for valuable vitamin C. In this one quick healthy breakfast idea, you’re getting plenty of nutrition with vitamin C and other antioxidants, calcium, fibre and enough appetite-satisfying protein to sustain you for hours.
Make your own granola
Most store-bought brands are filled with sugar and fat. To make your own, mix 2 cups rolled oats with 1 cup dried fruits and seeds and a little brown sugar. Toast 3-5 minutes in a warm oven and store in an airtight container.
Crush cold cereal in a bag and add a peeled banana
Coat the banana with the cereal. Voilà! Breakfast on a banana (as well as a healthy dose of potassium, beneficial in preventing strokes).
Make a ‘breakfast blob’
This ‘sounds-weird-but-tastes-great’ healthy breakfast idea comes from nutritionist Alana Unger. Mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup non-fat dry milk, 3 cups crushed flake cereal, and 2 tablespoons honey. Form into ‘blobs’ (should make 10 blobs). Wrap each blob in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Grab a couple with a travel cup of skim milk and go!
As a bonus, honey is one of the best foods to prevent ulcers.
Spread apple slices with peanut butter
The protein and fat in the peanut butter provide a good start to the day, while the apple and the quercetin it contains provide fibre and protection against some cancers and heart disease.
Add a vitamin
Take supplements with breakfast, suggests nutrition expert Dr Shari Lieberman. Taking supplements with food reduces the chance they’ll cause an upset stomach, and improves the absorption of minerals.