We’ve all heard it, and studies continue to back up the claim that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Breakfast is an opportunity to start each day with nutritious energy for your body and mind. It also lays the foundation for lifelong health benefits.

According to the American Dietetic Association, your body is still burning calories while you sleep, which is why you may wake up feeling hungry. After 8 to 12 hours without a meal or snack, you need to break your fast by literally waking up your stomach. Breakfast is the first chance your body has to refuel its glucose levels, which is your body’s main source of energy.

A healthy breakfast not only enhances your concentration and problem-solving ability, but it also aids in weight loss and weight management. Breakfast that contains some protein and some fiber helps to curb your hunger and prevent overeating later in the day. When you eat a healthy breakfast, you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and have lower cholesterol, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.

In order to get the most health benefits, your breakfast should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low or non-fat dairy, and lean protein. These food groups provide a nutritious combination of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and a small amount of fat that can leave you feeling full for hours. Avoid sugary cereals, syrups, pastries, and white breads. If you want to have juice, select 100 percent juice beverages without added sugar.

Try to choose one or two options from each of the above food groups to round out a good breakfast. Some healthy breakfast choices include:

  • Veggie omelet with a bran muffin and a piece of fruit
  • Whole-grain English muffin with low-fat cheese, a scrambled egg, and a slice of tomato
  • Smoothie made with 1 frozen banana, low-fat milk, and whey or rice protein powder
  • Salmon on multi-grain toast with light cream cheese and a piece of fruit
  • Whole-grain cereal with fresh fruit and low-fat milk
  • Oatmeal or quinoa flakes with low-fat milk, raisins, and nuts, and a glass of orange juice
  • A whole-wheat pita stuffed with sliced hard-cooked eggs and a banana
  • Whole-grain bread with almond butter and ½ grapefruit with cottage cheese

If you opt to eat cereal with low-fat milk or grab a handful of cereal to eat dry while on the run, remember that not all cereals are created equal; read the nutrition label and ingredient list. A serving size is typically 3/4 cup to 1 cup. Two key items to evaluate are fiber and sugar. Choose cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, but preferably 5 grams per serving or higher. Also try to choose cereals that have 13 grams or less of sugar per serving. If you are counting calories, pick cereals with less than 120 calories per serving.

Your morning meal doesn’t have to be time-consuming to be healthy. Decide what you’ll eat for breakfast the night before, and if necessary, get up 10 minutes earlier to enjoy it.

Sources: American Dietetic Association, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine, LifeWork Strategies, and Washington and Shady GroveAdventistHospitals. For additional information, consult your physician.