Despite what your barista says, a jug-sized latte, even with all that milk and sugar, isn't a meal. "For most busy women, breakfast is based on convenience, which can backfire nutritionally," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., author of Read It Before You Eat It. Your brain needs certain nutrients early on for all-day concentration and problem solving.
Anatomy of a Perfect Breakfast
A too-big start can make for a too-big you. Shoot for getting 25 to 30 percent of your daily calories: about 400 if you're trying to lose, 500 if you're maintaining or 625 if you're very active. Here's the ideal breakdown:
53 Percent Carbs
"During the night, while you sleep, you burn through your stores of blood sugar, which is your body's preferred fuel source," says David Grotto, R.D., author of 101 Optimal Life Foods. "Carbohydrates replete these stores quickly." But simple carbs (muffins, doughnuts, sweetened cereal) are a no-go: They burn fast and trigger crashes and cravings. Instead, opt for complex ones (oatmeal and whole-wheat bread) that are high in hunger-fighting fiber, digest slowly, and give you sustained energy. Your goal = 35 to 65 g carbs; 6 g fiber
27 Percent Fat
Go for the heart-healthy unsaturated fats found in nut butters or whole nuts, avocado and olive oil. Avoid the saturated fat in butter, bacon and full-fat cheese. Fat digests slowly, preventing those mid-morning munchie attacks. Your goal = 7 to 15 g fat
20 Percent Protein
"Protein makes you feel full longer by turning on and upping levels of natural hunger-busting hormones, like cholecystokinin, and keeping the hunger-inducing hormone ghrelin in check," Grotto says. You may need to combine multiple sources (e.g., egg whites, nonfat yogurt or skim milk) to get enough. Your goal = 15 to 25 g protein
In our Facebook poll, nearly 30 percent of you said you skip breakfast at least once a week. Eat it!
Cop-Out #1: You're on a diet.
Friendly reminder: Shunning breakfast can lead to weight gain. "It makes you more likely to snack impulsively later," explains Cindy Moore, R.D., a nutrition consultant in Cleveland. But beginning your day with healthful foods helps steady your blood sugar level and regulate hunger hormones, which means you munch less and curb weight creep.