What's On the Table?
Planning out a balanced breakfast should be easy if you study the Oldways Food Pyramid or the USDA’s My Food Pyramid. With these guides, you will figure out the best sources of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats from the many options at hand.
That all-important nutrient, protein, helps fill you up and squelches hunger pangs until lunchtime by helping to keep blood sugar levels up. For vegetarians who include eggs and dairy products in their diet, building breakfasts around rich protein sources is a snap: soymilk, whole or skim milk, eggs, yogurt, hard and soft cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese, and grains and legumes are ideal day-starters. You can also turn to the numerous soy meat alternatives and the various types of tofu for real energy boosters.
For stricter vegetarians, getting ample protein is still a cinch: nut butters, tofu and tempeh, special grains and cereals, legumes, and soy meat alternatives fill the bill.
Kindly Complex Carbs
In the past, the words starch and carbs have become big headliners, adding to the confusion about what people should or should not be eating.
Dieters, health food faddists, nutritionists, and just about every savvy consumer have weighed in on the carbs/no carbs debates.
But you should know this: Carbohydrates are essential elements in the diet. To get a handle on the debate, understand the differences between simple carbohydrates—the simple sugars found naturally in fruits, in vegetables, and in those products such as cakes and sodas made from refined sugars, for example—and complex carbohydrates, made up of fibers and starch found in all plant materials.
Complex carbs help the body to function smoothly, to regulate the digestion of sugars and the release of energy, and to keep at a balanced weight. Eliminating carbohydrates in favor of a protein-only diet, as some groups propose, can lead to chronic health problems. Note that besides starch and fiber, unrefined complex carbohydrates add vitamins and minerals to the diet.
Putting complex carbs on the breakfast table means serving whole-grain breads and cereals, plenty of whole fruits and vegetables, and/or cooked legumes. How about a baked sweet potato loaded with sweet or savory add-ins to start your day?
With their negative connotation, fats have taken a bum dietary rap, yet everybody needs some dietary fats. And what to consume and how much are spelled out clearly by the Food and Drug Administration in its Dietary Guidelines.
Experts stress that you should avoid trans fatty acids by choosing fats and oils—olive oils, soybean oil, flaxseed oil, and nuts, for example—that contain no saturated fats or trans fats; limit the oil and fat intake to about 20 to 35 percent or less of your daily caloric intake; and routinely select foods naturally low in fat. Although vegetarians have cut out such fat sources as animal meats from the diet, you should also limit the amounts of cheeses and other whole-milk dairy products to keep your fat intake in check.
Breakfasts on the Run
Everybody does it—you grab a quick bite before rushing off to get to work, to school, to the train or bus, or to a meeting on time. And it’s easy to miss out on the basics when you don’t plan ahead for those super-busy days. But since breakfasts need to pack in the protein and complex carbs, you should stock up on quick bites that offer what you need.
Since grab-and-go options are plentiful, from microwavable entrées to ready-to-go whole grain cereals and granola bars, you can easily avoid the convenient fast-food eats that are high in calories and fats and skimpy on the rest of the nutrients. And in a pinch, you can pick up your breakfast at your favorite coffee shop, bakery, or fast-food outlet that serves vegetarian-friendly menu items.