By Amanda Tust Shapes
Shoveling in a bowl of oatmeal every morning can be a healthy choice, but even with the range of extras you can add to your bowl, after a while your taste buds crave a change—and perhaps more texture. Don’t even think about that bacon, egg, and cheese or gigundo bagel—reach for another healthy carb instead.
“All grains offer a unique taste, texture, and nutrition profile,” says Rachel Begun, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Mixing it up will keep things exciting and give you a wider range of the nutrients you need.” The only downside is that most require some simmer time on the stove, so if you want the same speedy convenience as instant oats, prepare a batch the night before. Then all you have to do is pop a bowl in the microwave the next morning.
See how eight grains and seeds stack up against steel cut oats, which provide 170 calories, 3 grams fat, 29 grams carbs, 10 grams fiber, and 7 grams protein in every dry quarter cup, and never eat a boring breakfast again.
RELATED: Oatmeal pairs perfectly with more than nut butters, fruit, and other sweet flavors. Try these 16 savory oatmeal recipes for a delicious meal that’s great any time of day.
Technically a seed, amaranth (as well as quinoa and buckwheat) gets lumped into the grain category because of its texture and nutrient profile. Amaranth is stock full of iron, potassium, and calcium, and packs even more protein than quinoa, so it’ll help keep your stomach from growling during your morning meeting.
Break your breakfast rut: With a mild and nutty or earthy flavor, amaranth flour goes well in crepes, muffins, and pancakes, or boil the grain on the stove and top with banana or peach slices and cinnamon.
Nutrition score per serving (1/4 cup dry): 190 calories, 3.5g fat, 34g carbs, 7g fiber, 8g protein
About one in five young women is anemic because of a lack of iron, which can sock you with fatigue and set you up for mind-crushing headaches and dizzy spells. Red meat isn’t the only way to boost your intake: A serving of teff provides 20 percent of your daily iron, plus 10 percent of your bone-supporting calcium.
Break your breakfast rut: White teff has a chestnut-like taste, while darker teff is earthier with a hint of hazelnut. You can use uncooked teff in place of small grains, nuts, or seeds when baking, or enjoy it cooked with agave syrup and chopped dates and walnuts.
Nutrition score per serving (1/4 cup dry): 180 calories, 1g fat, 37g carbs, 4g fiber, 7g protein
Don’t let the name fool you: Buckwheat is a gluten-free fruit seed that gives your heart some love, Begun says, due to a potent combo of flavonoids and lignans (plant compounds with powerful antioxidant powers) as well as magnesium. This mineral keeps your heart beating steady and appears to help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Break your breakfast rut: Roasted buckwheat has a rich, earthy taste, and the unroasted variety has a softer flavor. Look for buckwheat groats and top with chopped pecans and maple syrup.
Nutrition score per serving (1/4 cup dry): 150 calories, 1.5g fat, 32g carbs, 5g fiber, 6g protein
4. Wheat Berries
High-fiber wheat berries should keep you full until lunch and send some TLC straight to your gut: A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition found that fiber may help boost beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Wheat berries also supply a dose of B-complex vitamins to keep you energized through the morning and antioxidant-packed vitamin E to arm your cells against damaging free radicals.
Break your breakfast rut: Serve the starchy, chewy kernels at room temp with yogurt, flaxseeds, and honey.
Nutrition score per serving (1/4 cup dry): 150 calories, 0.5g fat, 32g carbs, 6g fiber, 6g protein
Spelt is a good source of manganese, another bone-protecting mineral, as well as immune-boosting zinc to help ward off colds. If you’ve already got a case of the sniffles, reach for a spelt muffin and a handful of zinc-packed cashews. A review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that dietary zinc shortened colds by about a day and a half on average.
Break your breakfast rut: Spelt’s nutty flavor means the flour works well in muffin recipes, while cooked spelt berries just need a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Nutrition score per serving (1/4 cup dry): 150 calories, 1.5g fat, 32g carbs, 4g fiber, 6g protein
“Most grains are considered inadequate protein sources because they don’t have enough of the amino acids lysine and isoleucine, but quinoa has a lot of both,” says Sharon Richter, R.D., a nutritionist in New York City. Eat up on days when you’re planning a serious sculpt sesh at the gym since lysine assists in the formation of muscle protein and isoleucine helps heal and repair muscle tissue.
Break your breakfast rut: Nutty quinoa comes in a variety of colors, including light beige, red, and black, with the darker varieties tasting a bit earthier. The fluffy and creamy yet crunchy crunch texture pairs well with dried cranberries and sliced almonds.
Nutrition score per serving (1/4 cup dry): 170 calories, 2.5g fat, 30g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g protein
This gluten-free grain offers a mix of important minerals, including phosphorus and magnesium, to keep bones strong and muscles and nerves performing at their best. A 2012 study from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio found that magnesium also works as a powerful anti-inflammatory in cells and has the potential to be helpful in conditions ranging from asthma to diabetes.
Break your breakfast rut: “Millet can be creamy like mashed potatoes or fluffy like rice, depending on how you cook it,” Richter says. Use 2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup millet for a light, dry texture, or add more water if you prefer a thick, mushy mash. Serve with a splash of milk and dried fruit and honey.
Nutrition score per serving (1/4 cup dry): 180 calories, 2g fat, 36g carbs, 8g fiber, 6g protein
8. Brown Rice
Although ancient grains have become the nutrition darlings, classic brown rice still deserves a place in your pantry. “Brown rice is a good source of fiber and contains a variety of phytonutrients to help prevent heart disease,” Begun says. Temple University School of Medicine researchers credit compounds in a layer of the whole grain that’s stripped away to make white rice for protecting against high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
Break your breakfast rut: The mild flavor makes it a great breakfast sub in, especially if you’re in a rush and there’s an extra carton in your fridge from Thai takeout. Microwave and top with bananas and shredded coconut or raisins and cinnamon.
Nutrition score per serving (1/4 cup dry): 180 calories, 1.5g fat, 37g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g protein
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