Berries are low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants and phytonutrients, which have been shown to protect against heart disease and some cancers. Try adding a cup of fresh or unsweetened frozen strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries to your morning cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt.
While cold cereal has been vilified in recent years for its sugar content, there are nutritious options out there. Check the ingredient lists and nutrition-facts labels and look for cereals that have at least 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams or less of sugar per serving. Also, choose cereals that are made with whole grains and that have sugar low on the list.
High in protein and calcium, cottage cheese is an excellent choice in the morning. To limit saturated fat, choose 1 or 2 percent milk-fat varieties. If you don’t like the texture, says Blatner, “puree it smooth and it becomes a great spread on toast with sliced apple on top and cinnamon.”
Rich in protein, eggs eaten as part of a balanced breakfast will keep you full all morning long and supply more than a dozen essential nutrients. For those concerned about cholesterol, Blatner says not to fret: “If someone is worried about blood cholesterol levels, they should be primarily concerned with keeping saturated fat low and making sure fiber in the diet is high.”
Green tea is rich in antioxidants called catechins, which have been shown to prevent cell damage to the body. Blatner suggests steeping green tea 4 to 5 minutes to release the catechins. Another benefit is that green tea has about two-thirds less caffeine than coffee does. “You can still get a little pick-me-up without all the caffeine,” she says.
Oatmeal is packed with soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels, and which can keep you satiated for hours. Avoid high-sugar instant packets and opt for the plain ones, or try rolled (old-fashioned), quick, or steel-cut oatmeal prepared with low-fat milk or water. “Two ideas for oatmeal that I usually give people are natural peanut butter stirred in with some chopped-up bananas or mixing chopped apples with uncooked rolled oats and milk to make a muesli,” says Blatner.
Natural peanut butter is a good source of monounsaturated fat, which may help lower bad cholesterol in the blood. (Look for a brand that contains peanuts and not much else.) It’s also a good source of protein and can help you feel satisfied without becoming stuffed. Moderation is key, so limit your portion to 1 to 2 tablespoons per sitting.
Smoothies are an easy and delicious way to meet the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Start with a protein-rich base of low-fat milk or plain yogurt, then add unsweetened frozen fruit, such as berries or bananas. If you’re feeling adventurous, throw in some flaxseed for its omega-3 fatty acids or a handful of kale.
Compared with refined white bread, whole-grain varieties are a better source of fiber and many nutrients, including iron, B vitamins, and vitamin E. They’ve also been shown to lower the risk of a number of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. For breakfast, try a whole-wheat English muffin or toast.
Yogurt is packed with filling protein and bone-building calcium. Blatner suggests buying plain yogurt and adding your own sweetener. “The fruit-flavored ones have a lot of sugar that’s added. It would be better to get plain and then add a teaspoon of honey,” she says.