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Make Healthy Breakfasts -- for a Buck

Several fast food chains will be expanding their dollar value menus to include breakfast items as the new year begins.

But "Early Show" financial contributor Vera Gibbons points out there are healthier ways to start your day -- for that same greenback.

Fast food chains seem to be benefitting from the financial meltdown, as people look for value, Gibbons notes. However, the number of fast food customers overall is down. People don't have jobs, there are fewer commuters, and McDonald's and other fast food giants are losing consumers.

With those factors in the background, McDonald's is rolling out a national dollar breakfast menu for the first time, starting in January.

McDonald's has been pushing breakfast value for awhile now with various offerings, and in what has now become a very competitive landscape, is rolling out more breakfast offerings, enhancing others, and playing up value more because our dollars matter more.

Even though McDonald's is the leader in the fast food arena, it's up against increasing price competition, and Burger King, Wendy's and Dunkin' Donuts are playing up their value offerings.

Burger King, for instance, has offered a $1 breakfast value menu since 2007, recently upped the ante on its marketing, and is trying new items. One is The Little Enormous Sandwich, made with egg, sausage, cheese, hash browns and bacon.

Dunkin' Donuts is rolling out its $1 breakfast menu in January, as well.

What's on the menu?

For McDonald's, Gibbons observes, it seems to be the sausage showdown!

The sausage burrito on its $1 menu is a sausage, scrambled egg mix with American cheese in a flour tortilla. It has 300 calories (140 from fat), 16 grams of fat and 830 mg of sodium.

The sausage biscuit, which by the way is getting better reviews online than the other sausage items on the dollar menu, is a sausage patty on a flaky buttermilk biscuit. It has 430 calories (240 from fat), 27 grams of fat and 930mg of sodium.

The Sausage McMuffin is a sausage patty, a slice of American cheese on a toasted English Muffin. It has 370 calories (190 from fat), 21 grams of fat, and 790 mg of sodium.

A 12-ounce coffee and 2-ounce Hash Browns have 150 calories (80 from fat), 9 grams of fat, and 310 mg of sodium.

"Early Show" recipes galore!

$1 sounds like a great deal, but is it the best way to start your day?

As we have all heard, breakfast is an important meal to fuel us throughout the day and, says the Department of Agriculture, 80 percent of us eat breakfast). Fast food is convenient. But it's not necessarily the best, or healthiest way to begin your day. Plus, if you load up on fast food, you'll likely be hungry in two hours, and probably refueling.

So, Gibbons put together some better options at the same price point.

Healthier Alternatives that Won't Break the Bank

Gibbons spoke to a licensed nutritionist who told her proper breakfast fuel is very important. In fact, studies show kids who eat a proper breakfast do better in school. And breakfast is important to maintain a healthy weight. Many people believe that they will lose weight if they skip meals such as breakfast, but that just isn't true; the body expects to be refueled a few times each day -- starting with breakfast. In fact, people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. It also keeps your blood sugar in-check.

With that in mind, Gibbons assembled some healthy alternatives that are about one dollar -- and they don't require any culinary skill!

OATMEAL

Oatmeal is an inexpensive power meal that is quick, easy and good for you. The nutritionist likes it, too, since you can vary it and change it according to your tastes. It's also high in fiber, low in fat and fills you up. It lowers your cholesterol, as well, and it's only 17 cents a serving (at Walgreens, it's $4 foe 18 ounces). It also gives you a serving of fruit, protein and carbohydrates.

Whole oats are a high-protein and low-fat grain, containing 66 percent carbohydrates, 17 percent protein, and only 17 percent fat. Oats are low in sugar and salt, and provide vitamins, minerals, and the ever-elusive dietary fiber.

Best of all, oatmeal's goodness is natural, not added back after processing. The ingredients on the oatmeal package should read nothing more than "rolled oats" or something just as simple. Traditional and economical!

Plain oatmeal is about 100 calories a serving, 2 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber. You could also add in 1/2 cup blueberries (about 40 calories, 4 grams of fiber) or 1 apple (approximately 75 calories).

18 ounces of oatmeal (Quaker Oats Plain for 18 ounce box) at $3.00 amounts to to $.16 cents a serving
1/2 cup whole milk at $.12 cents
10 ounces of organic frozen blueberries at $6.19 amounts to $.60 cents a serving

Total Cost: 88 cents a serving

HIGH-FIBER BREAKFAST BAGEL

Sometimes, you can't beat the heartiness of a breakfast sandwich. And this dish includes eggs, an important source of protein and B-vitamins. Eggs are a great source of morning energy.

If you're concerned about fat and cholesterol of whole eggs, consider just using egg whites. The whites contain a fair amount of protein, zero fat and no cholesterol.

Some research even indicates that people who eat whole eggs for breakfast eat fewer calories during the rest of the day. The mechanism for this is still unknown, but the theory is that the fats in eggs help satisfy people and stabilize blood-sugar levels.

For a breakfast sandwich, start with a toasted 100 percent whole wheat bagel or English muffin (135 calories, 2 grams of fat). Make an egg patty using a brand of eggs higher in Omega 3's (one of those), plus two tablespoons of egg substitute. Or, to make your egg patty, you can use 1 egg white. Whisk the egg and egg substitute or egg whites together while heating a small, nonstick saucepan over medium high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with canola cooking spray, then pour in the egg mixture. Add a cover to the saucepan (this will cause the egg to puff up and cook on both sides). Top the bottom bagel with the egg patty. Top the egg patty with a slice of reduced fat cheddar cheese. Top with the top half of the bagel and enjoy.

6 whole wheat bagels or English Muffins at $2.00 amount to $.41 a serving
1 dozen eggs with higher Omega 3s at $2.50 comes to $.20 cents a serving
Egg beaters (32 oz. Carton at $4.50): 15 cents Cheese (10-slice package of Sargento reduced fat medium cheddar at $2.50): 25 cents

Total cost: $1.01

BREAKFAST BURRITO

These are easy to make ahead of time and freeze as you need them. They're also fairly healthy. And we've figured out a way you can make them at home for less than a dollar a burrito.

Tortillas at $2.95 per dozen amount to .25 cents per burrito
A dozen Eggs $2.20 per dozen come to 18 cents per egg, .36 cents for two
A 2 pound block of cheddar cheese at $4.99 -- 64 tablespoons -- comes to .08 cents a tablespoon
A 16 oz jar of Salsa $2.00 -- 32 tablespoons -- wind up being .06 cents a tablespoon
Assuming each breakfast burrito uses 1 tortilla, 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons each of cheese and salsa, the total cost comes to $.89 cents a burrito.
To make it even healthier, you can add seasonal vegetables or, to vary it, you can use a different type of cheese.

YOGURT PARFAIT

Yogurt is another healthy breakfast choice. Cutting up fruit on top of the yogurt adds carbohydrates to fuel you for the morning, not to mention the calcium and protein in the yogurt itself. You can also layer oatmeal or a whole grain breakfast cereal for a crunch and an extra helping of carbs. Plus, adults and kids alike love parfaits. You can prep them ahead and keep them in the refrigerator for up to a couple of days.

3/4 cup low-fat vanilla or plain yogurt (from a 32-oz. tub at $3): $.56 cents
1/2 cup of fresh fruit (whatever is cheap and in season, such as blueberries, kiwi, orange segments, cantaloupe, or peaches, etc.). -- $.30 cents a serving
1/2 cup whole-grain breakfast cereal, such as low-fat granola (with 16, 1/2-cup servings of Quaker Natural Granola, low fat, with raisins costing $3): $.19 cents
Total: $1.05 a parfait

Other alternatives

Fruit-Yogurt Smoothie, Hardboiled Egg and Hearty Toast Strawberries and Banana Smoothie: $0.85:

1 hardboiled egg: $0.17
1 slice of Hearty Grain Bread, toasted: $0.09
1/2 tablespoon Butter (for spreading on toast): $0.03
Total: $1.11

Steel cut Oatmeal with Cinnamon-Sugar, Raisins and Milk Steel cut oatmeal: $0.10
Served with 1/2 cup whole milk: $0.12
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar: $0.12
1/4 cup raisins: $0.19
Total: $0.53

Yogurt with Granola and Banana
1 cup yogurt: $0.58
1/4 cup homemade Granola (Müsli) $0.30
Half a banana, sliced: $0.12
Total: $1

Cheerios Cereal with Milk and Strawberries
1 cup of cheerios with whole milk: $0.57
1/4 cup strawberries: $0.44
Total: $1.01

Scrambled Eggs and Toast
2 Scrambled Eggs: $0.40
1 Slice of White Bread, toasted: $0.08
1/2 tablespoon Butter (for spreading on toast): $0.03
Total: $0.48

Soft-Boiled Egg, Hearty Toast & Fruit Salad
1 hardboiled egg: $0.17
1 slice of Hearty Grain Bread, toasted: $0.09
1/2 tablespoon Butter (for spreading on toast): $0.03
1 serving of Fruit Salad: $0.63
Total : $0.89

Cheese Omelet, White Toast and Fruit Salad Simple Cheese Omelet: $0.72
1 Slice of White Bread, toasted: $0.08
1/2 tablespoon Butter (for spreading on toast): $0.03
1 serving of Fruit Salad: $0.63
Total: $1.43

Buttermilk Waffles, Maple Syrup and Fruit Salad Buttermilk waffles: $0.22
1/4 cup Maple Syrup: $0.18
1 serving of Fruit Salad: $0.63
Total: $1.03

Scrambled Eggs with Hashbrowns & Toast Hash browns (Country Fries): $0.18
2 Scrambled Eggs: $0.40
1 Slice of White Bread, toasted: $0.08
1/2 tablespoon Butter (for spreading on toast): $0.03
Total: $0.66

8 oz glass of orange juice: $0.52

8 oz glass of apple juice: $0.32

8 oz glass of cranberry juice: $0.32

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