(WellnessNova.com) - “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Even as I say the phrase to myself I can see and hear my mother admonishing me when I was young. And I must have deeply internalized this at some point, because long gone are the days when my morning meal consisted of a hastily downed candy bar and can of pop, as I ran out the door. *Cringe*
Now I, like so many of us out there, am much more aware of my body’s need for a good breakfast to fuel my day. But, with so many breakfast options, not to mention the myriad of schools of thought on what’s really healthful and what’s just plain garbage, many of us still struggle with our breakfast choices. We want a variety, but we’d like the choices narrowed down a bit. So here are some fairly quick, but healthful ideas to feed your body, but free your mind:
Good old oatmeal might seem an old-fashioned choice, but its high-fiber, gluten-free grain is a breakfast powerhouse! It contains 4 grams of fiber per cup, which metabolizes slowly to help keep blood sugar levels balanced, and fills you up so you won’t be hungry before lunch.
Its insoluble fiber may help fight cancer, and beta-glucan, a type of fiber found in some plant foods like oatmeal, may help lower cholesterol levels, thus protecting against heart disease.
The antioxidants in oatmeal are also anti-inflammatory, and unhealthful swelling in the body and its disease-causing effects can be mitigated.
Oatmeal builds energy levels with its complex carbs and 5.9 grams of protein per cup, and is a good source of B vitamins, which are natural energy boosters. Oats are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, zinc, selenium, copper, iron, manganese, and magnesium.
It’s important to choose only the least processed oats you can find for the most nutrition, so look for organic rolled or steal cut oats, if it’s in your budget. The highly processed quick oats or flavored oat cereals are much less nutritious, and are usually loaded with sugar.
Skip the processed sugar and load your cooked-from-scratch oatmeal with fresh fruit such as berries, peaches, raisins, bananas, or apples. Use milk — cow’s, almond, or rice — for a creamier texture, and top with chopped walnuts, almonds, or pecans. You can sweeten it with honey or stevia if the fruit isn’t enough sweetening for you.
But remember, you want to keep even the natural sugars to a minimum, and instead maximize the blood sugar stabilizing effect of the protein and complex carbs.
If you’re eating a gluten-free diet, oats are naturally perfect for you! Just be sure you’re buying oats that are produced apart from all other grains. You can check labels to find the “safe” brands. Or, if you don’t find that information on the package, you can call the company to make sure.
Here are some commercial oatmeal choices available:
Good: Old Fashioned Quaker Oats, NOT the quick oats variety. They may or may not be processed in a gluten-free plant. There’s no need to worry about GMOs, as oats are exempt from this concern.
Better: Bob’s Red Mill steal cut or rolled oats, or oat groats. You can get these in organic or natural varieties. You can find these products in grocery and super stores, or online. Click below for Bob’s Redmill oatmeal offerings.
Arrowhead Mills’ organic steel cut oats are another excellent choice. Arrowhead Mills is a trusted source of organic and healthful foods, which I’ve used in the past. You can find these products online and in health food stores.
Best: Organic rolled or steel cut oats, or oat groats bought in bulk at your local health food store. This option will usually net you the best prices for organic oats, and sometimes you can even buy locally to support your community. Always ask if the oats are processed in a strictly gluten-free plant if you need this assurance.
Smoothies are the best! Why? Because they’re customizable for one thing! And ingredient choices are vast. You can pack all sorts of nutrition into them. You can even incorporate wheat germ, flaxseed, or ground nuts in them, as well as all the nutritious fruits, vegetables, greens, yogurt, and “milks” available.
Other good options are chia seeds, maca powder, and dried acai or goji berries, all of which give a superfood boost! If you are really organized, you can chop any fruits you want for your morning smoothie the night before and store them in airtight containers. Though, you might want to leave bananas for the day you use them, as they can get mushy when stored.
You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of protein for breakfast, so you can make your smoothie with a dollop of the nut butter of your choice. But if this doesn’t appeal to you, a good protein powder is another option. There are so many types to choose from, it’d be easy to find one that fits your particular taste and dietary needs. There’s whey protein, soy protein, spirulina, and other plant based powders.
Just make sure the protein powder you choose is the cleanest possible source you can find, preferably organic. Usually, you can find good quality protein powder at your local health food store, and, as a general rule, the store’s staff can help you make a wise choice.
To make a simple, nutrient-rich homemade smoothie, start out with a good basic food extractor like NutriBullet or Ninja, which you can find at Wal-Mart or order on Amazon. (If you want to try using a regular blender, just be aware that unless your blender is particularly high-powered, your smoothies might be a little less smooth.) Then choose your ingredients.
If you’re new to making smoothies, a simple but delicious and nutritious starter would consist of a handful of kale or other baby greens, a chopped medium banana, a half of a sliced apple, skins left on, a handful of berries, and a nutrient boosting add-on, like 2 teaspoons of chia seeds or hemp seeds. (Use all organic ingredients, if you can.)
Then add your protein powder according to the directions on the package. Usually 2 to 4 tablespoons will do it. In lieu of protein powder, nut butter or yogurt will work, too. Use Greek yogurt for the most protein. Add water to the line in your extractor cup and pulse until smooth. If the banana and berries are not enough sweetener, you can add some stevia for a bit more. Pour out and enjoy!
3. Prepared Cereals
But what if you wake up late for work and barely have time to dress, let alone prepare a hot bowl of oatmeal, or cut up fresh ingredients for a smoothie. What to do? Time for the good old stand-by — a quick bowl of cereal. But you don’t want to derail all your sincere efforts at eating more healthfully, so let’s look at some choices that might suffice.
When choosing a cereal, organic is the best way to go. After all, anything we put in our bodies should be GMO-free, and as free of pesticides and other chemical toxins as possible. Fortunately, there are some really good companies with delicious offerings for your cereal bowl. And you can find them more and more often in stores you might be already frequenting. If not, there’s always ordering online, which is a great option when you live far away from a bigger city full of shopping options.
Trusted companies that have stood the test of time:
Arrowhead Mills: This company produces some of the best organic and natural cereals available. It’s a trusted label among those of us who demand the most healthful choices. They make and sell both hot and cold cereal choices in a variety of grains, flavors, and package sizes. You can even buy your cereal in bulk bags if you wish. They also carry gluten-free varieties.
Bob’s Red Mill: This is another well-known company to the healthful eating market. I have used many of their products and have found them consistently high in quality. They carry both hot and cold cereals, and some of them can be prepared both ways. You can purchase both organic and natural cereals, as your budget allows. And if you need alternative grains for a special diet, you’ll find them.
Other well-known brands of natural and organic cereals: Erewhon and Nature’s Path are brands that have been around for a long time. You can also check out your local health food store for these and other trustworthy brands of cereals.
Commercial Cereal Choices:
General Mills is emerging as one of the better commercial companies when it comes to cereals and other foods. Many of their products are made of non-artificial ingredients, and they have reduced the amount of sugar, sodium, and trans fats, while providing more whole grain and fiber in their products. They do admit to using GMO grains in some of their products, calling them safe technology, but they also provide organic (which means GMO-free) alternatives as well.
Cascadian Farms and Annie’s are owned by General Mills and provide organic cereal choices. You can find General Mills cereals just about anywhere you shop.
Kellogg’s is also offering organic alternatives in some of their cereals. Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, and Frosted Mini Wheats are some of the more popular choices. You can look for them in any grocery store or super store like Wal-Mart or Meijers.
More affordable organic brands:
These are a good cost effective choice for those on a tight budget who want to add more organic food into their diets and can be found in many grocery and super stores:
Wild Harvest: This brand offers cereal choices such as Cranberry Almond Cereal, Golden Honey and Flax Granola Cereal, Maple Pecan Flakes and Clusters Cereal, Organic Corn Flakes, Organic Crisp Brown Rice Cereal, and others. You can find Wild Harvest cereals at most Super Valu stores, and some independent grocers, as well.
Trader Joe’s: This store chain carries its own organics brand, which includes cereal, at reasonable prices. And it also carries other organic cereal brands for an even wider selection. For those wishing to spend a little less, they offer healthful natural brands, which have wholesome, if not organic, ingredients.
Wild Oats: Wal-Mart currently carries Wild Oats organic cereals, but will be phasing it out and adding more organics under its own Great Value brand. Let’s hope that means cereal. In the mean time, you can still get a fairly good selection of organic cereals under the Wild Oats label. Wal-Mart also carries other brands like Annie’s and Cascadian Farms.
All of us want to start each day off strong and healthy with a nutritionally dense and tasty breakfast. And fortunately we are seeing more and more options being made available to us without having to put in a lot of time, money, and effort to acquire what we want and need. Hopefully, some of the above-mentioned ideas will help you enjoy the most important meal of the day!
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