Mom was right: Breakfast may indeed be the most important meal of the day and science now backs it up. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that consuming a big breakfast may help prevent long-term weight gain. (Other factors that may keep you from packing on the pounds based on the research: eating less frequently, no snacking, eating breakfast and lunch five to six hours apart, and fasting overnight for 18 to 19 hours.)
But simply eating breakfast isn’t enough; you also have to be mindful about what you’re eating. Cereal is the busy person’s go-to because it’s quick and convenient—just pour into a bowl, add milk, and you’re good to go. However, many cereals aren’t as good for you as you think. They’re loaded with sugar and have very little to no protein or fiber.
So what can you choose as a convenient, healthy breakfast instead? Eating muesli or granola is a great way to start your day.
Good-for-You Breakfast Food
Those cereal boxes proclaiming that the contents are “whole-grain” and have lots of healthy ingredients may not be telling the whole truth, so read up on ingredients and take a closer look at ingredient and nutrition labels. Steer clear of those that have plenty of sugar and barely any fiber and protein. They may fill you up in the morning, but the sugar will cause a spike in your system and send your energy crashing (and your tummy rumbling) before lunch.
As a general rule, the healthiest foods are those that are closest to their natural form—and crunchy puffs of chocolate don’t exactly grow on trees. Two ready-to-eat options that provide both convenience and health benefits: muesli and granola.
What Is Muesli?
Muesli (pronounced “muse-li”) was introduced by a Swiss physician named Maximilian Bircher-Benner in the 1900s as a healthy dish for patients in his hospital. The original ingredients in muesli were apples, nuts, rolled oats, lemon juice, and cream and honey or sweetened condensed milk. Muesli’s popularity spread in the 1960s when there was a greater interest in health food.
You can make your own muesli with rolled oats, fresh and/or dried fruit, dairy products (like milk or yogurt) or dairy substitutes (like almond milk), lemon juice, nuts, seeds, cinnamon or other spices, and honey. But there are also commercially available packaged muesli made with rolled cereal grains, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds—the usual combination of chewy and crunchy ingredients—plus varieties that have chocolate and other ingredients to add flavor. How do you eat muesli? Because it’s on the dry side, it’s usually eaten with milk. A great way to enjoy it is to soak it in milk overnight for a flavorful breakfast the next morning.
What Is Granola?
Said to be invented at a health spa in the mid-1800s, granola is similar to muesli in that it’s also made of rolled oats and nuts, with other mix-ins such as dried fruit. The difference between muesli and granola is that granola has oil and a sweetener and is baked, resulting in a crunchier, clumpier texture. While granola can be eaten with milk (like muesli), it can also be eaten on its own, with yogurt, or as a topping for smoothie bowls or even ice cream. With more honey or other sweetener, it can be turned into granola bars, a popular snack due to its convenience and healthy reputation.
The problem is some people don’t really look at the ingredients of their store-bought granola and automatically assume that it’s healthy. A New York Times survey found that majority of Americans counted granola and granola bars as healthy versus just 28 percent of nutritionists who thought the same. The nutritionists reason that many of the commercially available granola contains loads of added sugar—even more so than some sugary cereals—and ingredients that add no nutritional value. What started out as a healthy breakfast and snack option has since evolved into something akin to a dessert. Healthy granola is granola without sugar added to it.
The bottom line: Go for healthier breakfast options but don’t assume that all muesli and granola are good for you. Make your own or be a smart shopper. Pay close attention to labels and go for brands that are committed to delivering wholesome products with no additives. Once you find a brand you can trust, add some milk for a dose of protein and top with fresh fruit for more fiber. Bonus tip: If the kids are missing their sugar-bomb cereals, gradually introduce muesli and granola by mixing it into the cereals they’re used to. Increase the amount of muesli or granola and decrease the sugary cereal as the days go by.
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Healthy Options Super Seed Granola Mix
Granola is a wholesome breakfast or snack option for well-rounded nutrition. This homogenous mixture of oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, golden flaxseeds and puffed quinoa make it an ideal nutrient-dense food. Incorporate superfoods such as Maca and Acai along with fresh fruit for a powerhouse meal.
Healthy Options Whole Grain Muesli
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Bob's Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli
This is a traditional European-inspired cereal made from a blend of whole grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Top with milk as cold or hot cereal; cook on the stovetop; or eat it the traditional Swiss way, mixed with yogurt and grated apple and left in the refrigerator to soak overnight.