Eating breakfast in the morning can allow your body the opportunity to “fuel up,” both physically and cognitively, increasing energy and concentration levels throughout the day. But between the choice of bacon and eggs or a bagel with cream cheese, what would you choose?
A graphic comparing the two breakfast options claims that eating bacon doesn’t make you fat, but a bagel full of carbohydrates “tells your body to keep storing more fat, making you fatter.”
While this infographic may slightly exaggerate the great debate between carbohydrates v. fats, it addresses a great learning point when it comes to macronutrient balance. The body receives calories from three types of macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. That’s it! Vitamins, minerals, water and other micronutrients present in food contribute a great deal to the body’s health and function; however, they provide no energy source that impacts weight status.
Ideally, meals are balanced between these three macronutrients. Comparing these two breakfast plates is a practice in looking at the extremes. The plate of bacon and eggs contains a significant source of protein, but also provides a hefty dose of fats – and not primarily the heart healthy (unsaturated) type.
Contrary to the beliefs of previous low fat fad diets, dietary fat in food doesn’t directly make you gain body fat; rather, any of those three macronutrients can create body fat when eaten in excess. Your body loves a happy balance of calories in = calories burn, which promotes weight maintenance.
On the other side, the bagel with low-fat cream cheese provides a significant source of carbohydrates and not the type that treat our body the best. When refined, or white, carbohydrates are consumed, blood sugar tends to spike, and insulin is released quickly in large amounts. Not all of the bagel is stored as fat, though. Your body will use some of the glucose for fuel, as it does with all carbohydrates (thank goodness, right?).
So, what in the world are you supposed to eat, knowing you want to stay heart healthy but also feed cells with the carbohydrate they all need? Breaking apart the meal into components is the easiest.
Building a Better Breakfast
For starters, choosing a whole grain or high fiber carbohydrate suits the body best. Fiber, the part of plants we don’t digest, does more than just regulate the digestive track. It slows digestion, which keeps blood sugar more stable, lowers cholesterol, regulates blood pressure and promotes weight maintenance. Rather than pick a bagel, opt for two slices of 100 percent whole wheat toast or English muffin.
Because most proteins also contain fat, choosing a more heart healthy unsaturated fat, that is also rich in protein to top the toast, is best. Or to add some variety when choosing animal fats (that are not as heart healthy), opt for low-fat or fat free options. Slather 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter on the toast or top with a slice of low-fat cheese. Increase the satisfaction of this meal by throwing a piece of fruit with the toast to eat more volume of food, without bumping up the calories.
Need more ideas? Try mixing one high fiber carbohydrate below with one heart healthy protein/fat combination. You’ll stay full for several hours and give the body all the nutrition that it needs to stay energized and fueled. Don’t forget the fruit!
High Fiber Carbs (aim for at least 3g fiber):
Two small corn tortillas
1 cup dry oat or bran cereal
2 frozen whole grain toaster waffles
8 wheat crackers
1 package instant oatmeal / ½ cup raw oats
½ cup natural granola
Lean Proteins (aim for at least 5g protein):
6 oz low fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
¼ cup nuts or 2 tablespoons nut butter
2 oz low fat deli meat or Canadian bacon
1 oz low-fat cheese
2 oz low sodium canned chicken or tuna
Download our tipsheet to help you learn more about the building blocks for a healthy (and tasty) breakfast. Bon appétit!