“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” may sound like an old wives’ tale at this point, but some time-honored beliefs are worth the hype. In order to avoid potential brain fog induced by low blood sugar, you need breakfast. Starting off the day with a full, nutrient-dense meal also allows you to keep making better choices throughout the day and helps you fuel the runs or other workouts you have planned (or refuel after, if you run in the morning).
Here are our top guidelines to make your breakfast that much more delicious (and nutritious):
Eat breakfast every day (no exceptions!): A large body of evidence consistently supports the idea that consuming breakfast leads to better overall health. Research suggests that you’re likely to burn more calories throughout the day after having a big breakfast, while skipping breakfast is linked to burning fewer calories throughout the day.
Skip the sugary stuff: Cereals, granola, oatmeal, bars, bagels, and juice tend to have a lot of sugar, which can set you up for an energy crash and likely overeating later on in the day. Look for cereals with single-digit grams of added sugar, breakfast bars that are under 4 grams of added sugar per serving, and unsweetened dairy products. Most importantly, steer clear of sugary beverages, which often include sweetened coffee and tea drinks.
Choose lean protein: Prioritize eggs, seafood, unsweetened dairy products (like yogurt), poultry, legumes, beans, and lean cuts of beef and pork, and minimize your intake of processed deli meats.
Power up with produce: Try adding leftover veggies to eggs for a satisfying breakfast combo (plan ahead by making extra at dinner!), add more vegetables to omelets, or grab a piece of fruit on your way out the door. More produce equals more fiber, which can help you stay fuller, longer.
When in doubt, make it bigger: Breakfast should contain at least 300-350 calories for most of us. Additionally, you should be chewing, not drinking, your morning meal; many shakes can be processed, and your body is more efficient at using nutrients in their most natural forms.
A good breakfast should combine protein, stick-to-your-ribs fat, and some fiber-filled carbs. This is your key to feeling satisfied, ene rgized, and not ready to eat your stapler by lunch. To make any of the breakfast combos suggested below heartier, up the veggies and/or fruit—these are unlimited as far as we’re concerned, especially at breakfast.
If you’re already a breakfast eater and you know that adding more veggies and fruit isn’t going to make you feel more satisfied, then it’s pretty likely that you’re not getting enough protein at breakfast. Add an extra egg, more nuts or nut butter, or some leftover chicken—you get the picture.
Here are 15 great breakfast options, below.
Oats are one of the best foods we can eat for a number of reasons. As a 100-percent whole-grain, they’re filled with fiber, plant-based protein, B-vitamins, and minerals, including iron, calcium, and magnesium. They’ve been linked to reduced risk of heart disease thanks to a type of fiber called beta-glucan that has been shown to improve cholesterol levels. This fiber also fuels for your body’s probiotics, helping friendly bacteria to survive and thrive.
Full of vitamins A, D, and B12, eggs are an inexpensive and nutrient-dense ingredient. Two large eggs contain more than 50 percent of the choline you need each day, which affects memory, mood, and muscle control. Just one egg has about 8 grams of protein as well. Nearly everything in our bodies requires protein, such as our skin, blood, and bones. Protein takes longer to digest than carbs, keeping you fuller, longer. Make breakfast a combo of filling fiber and lean protein, like scrambled eggs on whole-grain toast with sliced tomato or a spinach-broccoli-mushroom omelet. Or grab a couple of hard-boiled eggs if you’re on the go.
Sesame, chia, sunflower, pumpkin, flax … The list of great-for-you seeds goes on. Add them to cereal, smoothies, puddings, and even baked goods. Just 1 ounce can contain 10 grams of protein! The zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium in seeds will help you stay healthy and boost immunity. Seeds also contain soluble fiber that can help lower your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) while increasing “good” cholesterol (HDL). The combination of protein and fiber is really optimal when it comes to preventing a blood sugar spike (and subsequent crash).
Unsweetened Greek Yogurt
Unsweetened plain Greek yogurt provides probiotic benefits. Choose ones that have five strains or more of bacterial cultures per 180ml serving. It’s also a great choice if you’re aiming for lower-sugar breakfasts but still like a sweet flavor in the morning—just add fruit! Greek yogurt is full of calcium and many versions get fortified with vitamin D. It also merits an A+ for its high protein content. We love Siggi’s (all flavors)!
Bananas help you fill up and come in their own portable packaging. The folate and vitamin B6 in bananas aid in the production of serotonin, which can help improve mood and reduce anxiety. The soluble fiber will also help lower cholesterol by removing it from your GI tract and preventing it from moving into your bloodstream (i.e., clogging your arteries). For an extra heart-healthy boost, slice bananas on top of morning oats with a tablespoon of chia seeds or walnuts.
Black Tea or Coffee
There’s a slew of studies that link the antioxidants and caffeine found in unsweetened tea and coffee to health benefits, including decreased risk of chronic disease and weight management. Pro tip: Drink 470ml of water or unsweetened tea or coffee before you head out the door in the morning. This will help you get a head start on your hydration goals for the day and ensure you’re making up for overnight losses.
By making a large (470ml and up) latte a part of your breakfast, you’re getting around 13 grams of protein! It’s a great solution when you’re pinched for time. Since milk is 80 percent water but also contains minerals such as calcium and potassium, it can help you hydrate with both fluid and electrolytes. Skip flavored syrups, sugar, caramel, due to their added sugar. Choose coffee–based beverages like café au laits, lattes, or mistos instead.
100% Whole-Grain Toast
Whole grains provide antioxidant benefits, protecting your tissues from harmful, inflammation-causing damage. Plus, they’re loaded with minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron—key to your overall immunity and heart health. The B vitamins found in whole grains also help your body convert food into energy.
These fruits have a unique mix of heart-healthy fats, water, and dietary fiber. That combo enhances feelings of fullness, making you less likely to overeat throughout the rest of the day. A winning breakfast combo? Avocado toast, which packs B vitamins and minerals from both avocado and whole grains. (Bonus points if you put an egg on it for extra protein!). The unsaturated fats in avocado are also linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, lifestyle-related cancers, and diabetes.
Nuts and Nut Butter
What can’t peanut butter do?! It contains 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoon serving plus heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Tree nuts and peanuts in general have been linked to reduced risk of chronic disease and weight loss or maintenance if that’s your goal. Look for nut butters made from only nuts and salt with less than 140mg of sodium per serving, though brands that use oil as a stabilizer are okay, too. As for nut-based bars, choose ones made from 100 percent real food ingredients.
Just a cup of blueberries can pack up to 9 grams of fiber and 50 percent of your vitamin C needs for just 60 calories. The antioxidants found in berries (including raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries) also have cell-protecting properties. Eating more of these foods can help protect your blood vessels from harmful plaque and have a circulation-boosting effect. If you’re not as keen on berries, citrus fruit, apples, stone fruit, and melon are all great alternatives. They’re filled with potassium to help balance blood pressure and help with muscle contraction.
Just one medium-sized sweet potato provides almost 400 percent of your daily vitamin A. Its orange-flesh is rich in beta-carotene, which is crucial for immunity. A single sweet potato also contains 15 percent of our daily recommended fiber intake, which can lower LDL cholesterol levels and boost your GI health.
Just one piece of part-skim mozzarella can add 8 grams of protein (that’s the same as one egg!) to your breakfast. A half cup of lower-sodium cottage cheese can pack up to 20 grams. Dairy also provides calcium, magnesium, and potassium that’ll aid in balancing blood pressure and helping you stay energized. Use around 1⁄3 cup of cheese as the main source of protein in the meal; use 1⁄4 cup if it’s for adding flavor (e.g., an omelet).
How to Organize a Complete Breakfast, Fast
Some of our favorite breakfast-in-a-hurry options are combos of these delicious foods—especially since the idea of “making” breakfast can sound daunting (compared to the idea of simply organizing it,right?). Here are some ideas from the book, Dressing on the Side:
• 2 eggs on a slice of 100 percent whole-grain toast with 1⁄2 of an avocado and 1⁄2 cup tomatoes; add salt and pepper to taste
• 1⁄2 to 1 cup cooked oatmeal with 1⁄2 cup milk of choice, plus 2-3 tablespoons mixed nuts (or 1-2 tablespoons nut butter), plus 1 piece of fruit
• 1⁄2 to 1 cup Greek yogurt with 1–2 cups berries of choice, plus 2 tablespoons of nuts
• 1⁄2 to 1 roasted sweet potato with 1⁄2 tablespoon nut butter, plus sliced apple/pear/banana
• Last night’s leftover veggies, plus 2 hard-boiled eggs, 1 100 percent whole-grain English muffin with 1 ounce cheese and sliced tomatoes, plus seasoning to taste