Do Your Heart a Favor: Don’t Skip Breakfast

heart healthy breakfast

You may go without breakfast because you want to lose weight, you have no time, or you’re just not a morning person. But believe it or not, eating breakfast can keep you healthier — and trimmer!

This happens for three reasons, explains Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, from Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute’s Preventive Cardiology Nutrition Program:

  • Eating breakfast is a great way to get your metabolism up and running. Studies show that we’re more alert and ready for daily challenges when we eat breakfast.
  • The metabolism boost from breakfast is a great way to shed unwanted pounds.
  • Breakfast is a good place to start getting the 25 or more grams of dietary fiber we need each day to help lower cholesterol.

With a little planning, you can enjoy the health benefits of breakfast every day — at home, in your car, at a restaurant or even in the drive-through. Here are some quick and easy ideas for starting your day right:

Breakfast at home

Making a healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be time-consuming; try these ideas:

  1. Oats: Instant oatmeal or oat bran with fruit and/or walnuts, and skim milk or low-fat soy milk
  2. Cereal: Ready-to-eat high fiber cereal with fruit and/or walnuts, skim milk or low-fat soy milk
  3. Whole grains: 2 slices of whole-grain toast or an English muffin with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 teaspoon trans-fatty-acid-free margarine or 2 tablespoons of non-fat cream cheese
  4. Yogurt: 6 to 8 ounces of non-fat or 1% yogurt with fruit, nuts or granola
  5. Cottage cheese: 4 ounces of non-fat or 1% cottage cheese, served with tomato or pineapple slices
  6. Granola bars: 2 low-fat hard granola bars with 8 ounces of skim milk or low-fat soy milk
  7. Egg whites: “2-egg” omelet made with egg whites or egg substitute, served on whole-grain toast with orange wedges
  8. Bagel: 3-ounce whole-grain bagel with ½ cup non-fat or 1% cottage cheese, broiled for 5 minutes until crisp and then topped with berries or fruit of choice
  9. Yogurt smoothie: 8 ounces yogurt, mixed with fruit of choice plus 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed or wheat germ and ice in a blender
  10. Leftovers: When all else fails, enjoy last night’s dinner for breakfast!

Breakfast in the car

You may be rushing to get to work, but you’ve got time to munch on something on the way:

  1. Trail mix: Trail mix of high-fiber Chex® cereal or flakes, dried fruit and nuts
  2. Cereal: Bag of dry high-fiber cereal and carton of skim or 1% milk
  3. Fruit and yogurt: Piece of fruit with 8-ounce container of low-fat or fat-free yogurt, or yogurt smoothie
  4. Bagel with topping: Toasted 3-ounce whole-grain bagel or bread with 2 tablespoons peanut or nut butter (soy, almond, cashew)
  5. Granola bar: Low-fat granola bar (less than 150 calories and more than 4 grams of fiber per bar) and 4 ounces 100% fruit juice
  6. Bran muffin with fruit: High-fiber, low-fat bran muffin with piece of fruit or 4 ounces 100% fruit juice

Breakfast at a restaurant

Going out for breakfast doesn’t have to mean bacon and eggs or pancakes. Look for “light” or “heart-healthy” items on the menu and other healthy options:

  1. Oatmeal: Bowl of oatmeal with whole-grain toast and 4 ounces 100% fruit juice or fresh fruit cup
  2. Bagel: 3-ounce (or half 6-ounce) whole-wheat bagel with light cream cheese and fresh fruit cup
  3. Omelet: Egg-white or egg-substitute vegetable omelet served with fruit or tomato slices, and whole wheat toast or bagel
  4. Yogurt and fruit: 8 ounces non-fat or low-fat yogurt topped with granola, nuts or fruit
  5. Cottage cheese, fruit and toast: Low-fat cottage cheese with fruit, applesauce or tomato slices and a side of dry whole-grain toast
  6. Light pancake breakfast: Pancakes topped with fresh fruit and light syrup, served with Canadian bacon
  7. Cereal: Cold high-fiber cereal served with skim milk or low-fat milk
  8. Muffin with cottage cheese or fruit: Bran or low-fat muffin with cottage cheese or fruit

Breakfast at a drive-through

It’s best to avoid fast food restaurants whenever you can, because healthy food choices are limited. But here are some healthier options:

  1. Yogurt: Yogurt, fresh fruit and granola cup
  2. Muffin and fruit: Bran or whole-grain, low-fat or no-added-sugar muffin plus 4 ounces 100% fruit juice or fruit cup
  3. Light pancakes: Pancakes with light syrup either dry or with margarine, and 4 ounces 100% fruit juice or fruit cup
  4. Breakfast sandwich: 3-ounce (or half 6-ounce) bagel or English muffin — not croissant or biscuit — breakfast sandwich; remove meat when served with egg, meat and cheese, and swap Canadian bacon for cheese
  5. Bagel: 3-ounce (or half 6-ounce) whole-grain bagel with peanut butter, jelly or non-fat cream cheese rather than butter or regular cream cheese
  6. Other tips: Avoid hash browns, donuts, high-fat muffins, Danish and other pastry; enhance the meal with non-fat yogurt or a piece of fruit from home

These ideas should help you start each day with a healthy breakfast rich in fiber and nutrients. Your heart will thank you for it!

  • Kelly Luke

    I always ate butter. Makes sense, it’s real. Tastes better. I like salt. Red meat doesn’t always agree with me, same with too much dairy. Sad, I love ice cream. I didn’t always listen to the latest scientific findings. I use MY common sense. Which is not always reliable. So I investigate when I need to.

  • Alba Leclerc

    In other words… eat Italian, not Itamerican.

  • SloopJB

    This fixation on cholesterol is quite antiquated, get with the program Cleveland!
    Cutting carbs sorts it all out, fat (incl saturated fat) is good. Do it radically and you lose lots of weight too, then ease off once you’ve reached your desired weight.