27 Healthy Breakfast Ideas You Can Use Today

Studies find that what you eat for breakfast influences what you eat the rest of the day, so it's key to choose energy-enhancing, healthy foods.

From Stealth Health (Reader's Digest Association Books)
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    For most people, a healthy breakfast has 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 300 calories. A high-protein serving (like meat or an egg) is fine as long as it doesn’t add too much fat or calories. Try these quick combos: • a bowl of high-fiber, multigrain cereal, lots of strawberries, and low-fat milk • a granola bar, an apple, and low-fat milk • nonfat yogurt, fresh blueberries, and a slice of whole-wheat toast with fruit spread • a mini whole-wheat bagel, spread lightly with cream cheese and jam; a peach; and a cup of yogurt • scrambled egg on a whole-wheat roll, with fresh fruit salad and a cup of low-fat milk • a low-fat muffin, a wedge of cantaloupe, and a cup of latte made with skim milk.

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    Aim for at least 5 grams of fiber

    Without a good start on your daily fiber intake, you’ll never reach the recommended amount (15-25 grams per 1,000 calories). You can get those five grams in just a few bites with a large raw apple, 1/2 cup of a high-fiber cereal, 1/2 cup of blackberries, or two slices of dark, whole-grain rye bread. Fiber is quite filling with no extra cost in calories.

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    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.

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    Sip green tea with breakfast

    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 calories and speed the rate at which your body uses fat.

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    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 percent. If three cups is too much for you, substitute a couple of oranges. For the best effect, make it calcium-fortified juice.

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    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 percent 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 packed into berries: They’re rich in a wide variety of antioxidants, low in calories, and even have a low glycemic index (shown to better maintain steady blood sugar levels).

    Courtesy Kashi

    Pour a bowlful of high-fiber cereal

    With 10 grams of fiber, Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! will put you well on your way to the 25-30 grams of fiber you should be eating every day. Other high-fiber cereals include Raisin Bran, Multi-Bran Chex, and Wheat ‘N Bran Spoon Size (8 grams), Kellogg’s All-Bran Original (10 grams), and General Mills Fiber One (14 grams). Studies find that people who regularly start their day with a bowl of cold cereal get more fiber and calcium, but less fat, than those who breakfast on other foods. Another study found that people who ate two bowlfuls of high-fiber cereal every day spontaneously cut the amount of fat they ate by 10 percent. 

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    Eat organic eggs

    They’re not much more expensive than regular eggs but are much 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 Fred Pescatore, M.D., author of The Hamptons Diet and a physician at Partners in Integrative Medicine in New York City.

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    Shop for vegetarian alternatives

    Soy bacon and sausage, garden burgers, and soy crumbles make great sources of protein for breakfast without the saturated fat of their meat originals.

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    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 have to be processed through the liver. Check with your doctor about any possible interactions between grapefruit and any medications you’re taking.

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    Slice two kiwis into your morning smoothie

    You may have just reduced your risk of premature death by as much as 30 percent, since a British study found that every ounce of vitamin C-laden fruits you eat a day reduces your risk of premature death 10 percent. Want an even easier way to eat a kiwi? Just slice the top off and scoop out bites with a teaspoon. It’s delicious, fun, and fast.

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    Enjoy a bowl of sweetened brown rice

    Consider it a takeoff on prepared cereal. Brown rice is full of energy-providing B vitamins, as well as a great source of filling fiber. 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. Don’t like rice? Try any of the cooking grains: barley, rye, red wheat, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, or millet.

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    Sprinkle on a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds

    Try this nutty addition over your cereal, over your yogurt, 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.

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    Add dark chocolate to the mix

    Shave one ounce of dark chocolate over a cup of nonfat yogurt and mix. The calcium-rich yogurt 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. Plus, who can resist starting the day with chocolate?

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    Consider butter substitutes

    If you're concerned about your cholesterol, newly developed soft food spreads such as Benecol, Take Control, or Smart Balance can be used in place of butter and contain heart-healthy plant stanols. Just 2 tablespoons daily can significantly lower your total cholesterol level.

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    Think lunch at breakfast

    Instead of butter or cream cheese, top your morning (whole-wheat) 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 lox or canned or smoked salmon.

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    Sprinkle 1/2 cup of blueberries on your cereal

    Studies find the tiny purple berries are loaded with valuable antioxidants that can slow brain aging and protect your memory. Not into cereal? Try baking blueberries into oatmeal to create your own oatmeal-blueberry granola bar, or mixing them into whole-wheat pancake or waffle batter.

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    Healthy toppers for whole-wheat bagels or toast:

    • 2 tablespoons nonfat 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

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    Make a breakfast sandwich

    Top a whole wheat English muffin with melted low-fat cheese (part-skim mozzarella is a good choice), a sliced tomato, and a sliced, hard-boiled egg.

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    Blend a fast, healthy fruit smoothie

    Simply whir 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 yogurt, 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.

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    Sprinkle a whole-wheat tortilla with 2 ounces grated, low-fat cheddar cheese

    Broil for 3 minutes. While it’s cooking, peel and eat an orange for valuable vitamin C. In this one small, quick meal, you’re getting vitamin C and other antioxidants, calcium, fiber, and enough appetite-satisfying protein to sustain you for hours.

    Jaclyn Bell

    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. Not interested in do-it-yourself? There are a few store-bought brands with reasonable sugar and fat levels, including Nature’s Path and Familia.

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    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).

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    Make a "breakfast blob"

    From nutritionist Alana Unger, R.D., of The Lifestyle Center in Visalia, California, comes this sounds-weird-but-tastes-great idea for an on-the-go breakfast. Mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup nonfat 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!

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    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 fiber and protection against some cancers and heart disease.

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    “Build your own...”

    Choose from sliced fruit, yogurt, whole-grain cereals, and/or whole-grain pancakes or toast, and let everyone mix and match to create their own toppings. 

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    Add a vitamin

    Take any and all supplements with breakfast, suggests nutrition expert Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., author of The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book. Taking supplements with food reduces the chance they’ll upset your stomach, and improves the absorption of minerals.

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