To keep your brain powered up, the first meal of the day should be rich in protein and good carbohydrates — the whole-grain variety that will sustain you for a long spell rather than the sugary kind that will push your blood sugar up, then let it fall. We asked three experts for their breakfast advice.
Stacey Nelson, Senior clinical nutritionist, MGH Nutrition Services in Boston
What I ate this morning: Peanut butter and jelly on multigrain bread, ice coffee with low-fat milk.
General recommendations: 1-2 slices of whole-grain toast or whole-wheat English muffin or toasted whole-grain waffle topped with peanut butter and a glass of low-fat milk.
Breakfast burrito: whole-wheat tortilla or pita pocket stuffed with scrambled egg mixed with salsa
1-2 slices of whole-grain toast with melted low-fat cheese and tomato
Whole-grain cereals, hot or cold, with low-fat milk or yogurt and 1-2 tablespoons of slivered nuts on top. If the cereal box label says there are 3 grams of fiber or more a serving, that means there is significant fiber.
What to avoid: I never like to demonize any food. But I would recommend limiting or avoiding refined and sugary starches and very fatty foods in the morning — donuts, a corn muffin with extra butter. The lack of fiber, vitamins/minerals and protein in these meals means minimal nutrition, and a meal that likely won't stick with you for very long.
Terrill Bravender, associate professor of pediatrics and director of adolescent medicine, Duke University
What I ate this morning: Today I had nine-grain organic bread with crunchy peanut butter, a red Gala apple, a glass of skim milk and later a cup of coffee. My 10-year-old son made French toast from whole-grain bread with maple syrup for himself and his 6-year-old brother.
General recommendations: Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, a glass of milk and a piece of fresh fruit.
A bowl of whole-grain cereal (cold or oatmeal), preferably with nuts, milk, fresh fruit.
Whole-wheat toast, 1 or 2 eggs, milk, fresh fruit
What to avoid: Any concentrated sweets that are eaten alone. These would include sugared cereals, fruit juice alone or breakfast pastries alone. Breakfast meat is okay if not consumed in excess and if there is a whole-grain carbohydrate source included.
J. Michael Murphy, senior psychologist, Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of psychology, Harvard Medical School
What I ate this morning: Oatmeal — right from the box — and milk topped with raisins. I don't cook it. I checked with the scientists from Quaker and they said it is fine to eat it this way, too. Cooking the oats just softens them up. [Editor's note: We asked a brave volunteer to try uncooked oats and milk; her verdict: "Okay, but not nearly as good as cooked."]
General recommendation: Whole-grain cereal like oatmeal or shredded wheat with low-fat milk, topped with fresh or dried fruit and honey.
What to avoid: Foods with empty calories like soda and potato chips.