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Healthy 'Briefcase Breakfasts'

A healthy breakfast that you eat on the go isn't impossible. We've got great ideas for healthy breakfasts that fit in your briefcase.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Eat a healthy breakfast, nutrition experts say. Good advice, but like so much good advice, we don't heed it because we're always short on time. Something's gotta give, and which is worse: skipping breakfast or showing up late for work?

Yet there seem to be real benefits to eating a morning meal. For one thing, a healthy breakfast may sharpen your mental abilities in the morning. Studies showing this were done on children, but dietitians say the findings could reasonably be applied to adults, too. What's more, if you skip breakfast, you're likely to gorge on food later.

"When you don't eat breakfast in the morning, you tend to overeat calories the rest of the day," says Cynthia Finley, a dietitian at the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. "You reach the point where you're really hungry, and when you're really hungry you don't respond to your body's cues as well." That is, you don't realize you're full, and you continue to eat.

But it is possible to have a healthy breakfast with a minimum of planning and just a few seconds of actual food preparation.

The main things to look for in a healthy "briefcase breakfast" are protein and fiber. "Those two things are key to feeling full and satisfied," Finley says. Low-fat content is also important. She recommends no more than 5 grams of fat total and no more than 1-2 grams of saturated fat.

Sheah Rarback, a dietitian in Miami and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, also warns against super-sugary breakfast foods. "Sugar gives you calories and nothing else," she says. Sugar also causes a glucose surge, with a crash about an hour later.

Taking these nutritional requirements into account, we recommend the following morsels for a healthy breakfast that's quick and travels well:

Apples and Bananas

"What's quicker than putting a banana in your bag and eating it on the way?" Rarback says. The same could be said of apples, only you have to wash an apple. A banana alone will give you 110 calories, plus 1 gram of protein, and 16% of your daily fiber requirement. Add an apple, and you're up to 190 calories and 36% of your daily fiber, but you don't gain any more protein.

Overall, apples and bananas are low in protein, but a big plus is that you don't need utensils to eat them.

Bar Food

Energy bars, protein bars, cereal bars: We love our bars. Like bananas and apples, you can eat them with one hand, and they don't have much potential for making a mess. They can be good for you, too. But watch out for those that are so fatty and sugary that they're essentially candy bars. As with any packaged food, read the nutrition label.

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