Cap'n Crunch, Count Chocula and Frankenberry may be single-minded pitchmen, but they all learned long ago the importance of fitting into the larger "complete breakfast." To help you take that concept to the next level, here's a list of pre-noon eats that are good for both you and the planet. Keep in mind that the best breakfast is a combination of these foods — but that doesn't mean there's not room for a little Cap'n in you, too.
Fruits and vegetables: Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits are good sources of vitamin C and dietary fiber, and "superfoods" like blueberries, blackberries and raspberries offer cancer-fighting antioxidants. Adding kidney, pinto or red beans to an omelet or breakfast salad will throw in some protein as well as more antioxidants than any other food besides wild blueberries. Buy these organic and locally grown when you can, which will lessen their environmental impact. If the added cost is too much, try growing beans or berries in your back yard, or a citrus tree indoors if you live in a cold climate.
Cereals and grains: Fiber is your digestive tract's hall monitor. It keeps things moving and turns one of the body's less pleasant processes into a breeze. Some types, such as soluble fiber from oats or barley, can even reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. That's why oatmeal is especially recommended. Try to limit sugars if you eat breakfast cereals — namely high-fructose corn syrup, which is heavily processed and contributes to substantial environmental damage — and aim for ones that are organic and fortified with nutrients. That's not to say cereals with mascots can't be part of a complete breakfast, but Toucan Sam will adjust to sharing you with Kashi, Total and Special K.
Dairy: Milk, cheese and yogurt have plenty of protein and less sodium, cholesterol and preservatives than most breakfast meats. Dairy is also the highest natural source of calcium, which is especially important for children and young women. Look for organic labels on dairy products to avoid various factory-farming collateral such as antibiotics and waste pollution. Even if you're vegan, lactose-intolerant or just dairy-wary, calcium isn't hard to come by. Try soy milk, fortified cereals and salmon; spinach, kale and turnip greens are also solid calcium sources that can be added to an omelet or eaten as a side.
Lean meats or eggs: Protein is important in the morning, and although you can get it from things like nuts and beans, animal sources are still at the top of the heap. If you do eat meat, there are lots of healthy options. Fish, poultry, dairy and eggs (or egg whites) are the best bets. If you eat pork or beef, try to find it fresh and organic when possible, and look for low-fat and reduced-sodium versions.
Whole-wheat bagels, toast and English muffins: These are simple, cheap and, if you choose them wisely, nutritious. Make sure they're whole-wheat, and avoid brands sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. English muffins often have fewer calories than bagels (and their nook-to-cranny ratio is much higher). Mainly, though, the healthiness depends on the spread. Don't use margarine with trans fats or high amounts of saturated fat. Look for real butter or cream cheese, or better yet, use fruit or raw honey.
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