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The Best Breakfast Foods for Energy

By Sandi Busch

Breakfast should supply about 25 percent of your daily calories, according to the University of Wisconsin - Madison Health Services. If your breakfast is too low in calories, you won’t have enough energy to make it to lunch. You also shouldn't need to restrict calories the rest of the day because you overindulged at breakfast. Complex carbohydrates form the basis of an energy-rich breakfast, but your first meal of the day should include a variety of nutrients.

Breakfast Essentials

When you need energy, you need complex carbohydrates. But when it’s energy at breakfast -- a time of day when your body yearns for fuel and needs to kick-start its metabolism -- you’ll get optimum energy by combing complex carbs with protein, a little fat and a serving of fruits or vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain complex carbohydrates for energy, and add essential nutrients. Columbia University's Go Ask Alice! website recommends one or two servings of complex carbohydrates and one serving each of protein, healthy fats and fruits or vegetables.

Charge-Up With Complex Carbs

High-sugar foods and processed grains, such as white bread, quickly flood your bloodstream with sugar. The sugar gives you a brief burst of energy, then blood sugar plummets and your energy crashes. Whole-grain foods contain fiber and complex carbohydrates, which keep blood sugar balanced and provide long-term energy. They’re also good sources of the B vitamins your body needs to turn food into energy. Choose your favorite waffles, toast, or ready-to-eat cereal, as long as they’re whole grains. Better yet, go with real grains, such as oats or less traditional breakfast choices such as quinoa.

Protein for Metabolism

Protein helps balance blood sugar because it's digested slowly. It's also essential for synthesizing enzymes needed to metabolize carbs. Getting lean protein at breakfast is as simple as including fat-free dairy products. Whether you put milk on your cereal, enjoy a cup of yogurt, or spread fat-free cream cheese on a whole-wheat bagel, fat-free dairy products supply about 8 grams of protein per serving. One whole egg contains 6 grams of protein, while the egg white has 4 grams. Whole grains contribute another 3 to 5 grams of protein. If you include breakfast meats, choose low-fat options, such as turkey bacon and meatless sausage to get protein without artery-clogging saturated fats.

Ideas to Get You Started

Whole-grain cereal and skim milk make a great breakfast classic, but it doesn’t take a lot of time to create other high-energy breakfast options. Spread your favorite nut butter on whole-wheat toast and add sliced bananas. Pop whole-grain waffles in the toaster and top them with yogurt or low-fat ricotta cheese, fruit and sunflower seeds. Slice an apple and mix it with fat-free vanilla yogurt and granola. Enjoy oatmeal with walnuts and berries. Bake a batch of raisin bran muffins made with whole-wheat flour and use applesauce or mashed bananas to replace oil or butter. Store them in the freezer, thaw them in the microwave and serve them with strawberries.

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