When you sleep, you are essentially doing an overnight fast. What you eat to break that fast (aka breakfast) is critical in your day. A healthy breakfast can lead to lasting energy and a speedy metabolism and help you make better daily food choices. A not-so-healthy one can make your metabolism sluggish, have you hit that mid-day slump, and cause you to turn to more unhealthy, sugary foods in an attempt to pump yourself full of energy? Thankfully, there are plenty of healthy breakfast options available for even the busiest of people. This article will help show you how to build a healthy breakfast, what to avoid, and how to feel awake and alert all day.
What is a Healthy Breakfast?
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it provides the necessary nutrients to keep us healthy and energized throughout the day. A good breakfast is not just about filling up your stomach; it should be well-balanced and should contain the necessary nutrients in the right amounts. A good breakfast includes lean protein, healthy fats, fiber, fruits and vegetables, and low glycemic index foods. On the other hand, a breakfast you should eat less often is high in saturated and trans fats, fried foods, sugar, creamers and sweeteners, no-fiber carbohydrates, and no fruits and vegetables. (1, 2)
A good breakfast should contain a good source of lean protein. This is important because proteins are the building blocks of the body, and they help to repair and maintain our muscles, bones, and skin. Healthy protein sources include eggs, low-fat cheese, Greek yogurt, low-fat milk, beans, and lentils, and lean meats like turkey and chicken.
Healthy fats are an important component of a good breakfast because they help keep us full and satisfied throughout the day. They are also important for many of the systems and functions in our bodies, such as our endocrine (hormones) system. Good sources of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil.
Fiber is another important component of a good breakfast. It helps to keep our digestive system healthy and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. A high-fiber breakfast will help you feel full for longer and help regulate your energy levels throughout the day. Fiber is also extremely important for your heart health. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are also an important part of a good breakfast. They provide important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help to keep us healthy and prevent disease. Fruits and vegetables are also important sources of water and fiber in our diets. There are countless numbers of fruits and vegetables that are easily added to a healthy breakfast, such as berries, apples, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, kale, and more.
Read: 34 Foods That Give You Longer Lasting Energy Than Coffee
Foods To Avoid
On the other hand, unhealthy breakfasts are those that contain high amounts of saturated and trans fats, fried foods, high sugar, creamers and sweeteners, no-fiber carbohydrates, and no fruits and vegetables. Think fatty meats, fried foods, pastries, or coffees full of cream and sugar.
10 Healthy Breakfast Options
The list of breakfast options that are both delicious and good for you is endless. Truthfully, anything can be a breakfast food if you want it to be. While in Western culture, we tend to think of breakfast as eggs, cereals, and sweet things, many other places consume the same things that they may eat at lunch or dinner in the morning. For example, in Indonesia, Nasi Goreng is commonly eaten in the morning and later in the day. Still, here is a list of breakfast options that are quickly prepared and packed with nutrition.
1. Oatmeal with fruit, nuts, and a drizzle of honey
Oatmeal has plenty of fiber to keep you full and your digestive tract moving. Add in fruits, like berries, banana slices, or cut-up apples, for added nutritional value. Top with nuts or no-sugar-added nut butter for some healthy fats. Finally, if you wish, add a light drizzle of honey for a touch of sweetness. Don’t choose flavored oatmeal, as these have too much added-sugar.
2. Greek yogurt with berries and a handful of almonds
Plain Greek yogurt makes for a high-protein start to the day. Choose plain for no added sugar and one with no more than 2% fat. Almonds add a crunch of healthy fats and berries with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for your day.
3. Whole wheat toast with avocado and poached egg
Whole grain toast is high in fiber. If you can make it sourdough bread, that’s even better. Spread some tasty avocado on it for deliciously creamy healthy fats. Finally, one large egg has about six grams of protein, so with that, you truly can’t go wrong.
4. Spinach and mushroom omelet with a side of whole wheat toast
For those who have more time in the morning, this is a delicious way to start your day. Start by sauteing the spinach and mushrooms. Once they’ve cooked down, add in your whisked eggs. If you wish, you can add a small amount of cheese, such as feta. Another option if you don’t have time is to make this ahead of time, but pour the mixture into muffin tins and bake them in the oven. You can keep this both in the fridge or freezer for a quick, on-the-go breakfast.
5. Smoothie made with spinach, banana, almond milk, and chia seeds
Smoothies are a fantastic way to get in some good nutrition on the go. The possibilities for ingredients are endless: Yogurt, spinach, whichever fruits you want, vegetable milk, and chia or flax seeds for some healthy fats. You can even make your smoothie the night before, so all you have to do is grab it out of the fridge on your way out the door in the morning.
6. Homemade granola with Greek yogurt and berries
Most store-bought granolas are high in sugar, fat, and other unwanted ingredients. Thankfully, granola is easy to make at home. In your granola, you can add various nuts, like almonds or walnuts, for some additional good fats. To keep it crunchy, just store it in the fridge. Put it on top of some plain, low-fat yogurt and berries in the morning for a delightfully crunchy breakfast.
7. Whole grain muesli with low-fat milk and sliced banana
While most cereals are full of sugar and other unfortunate ingredients, muesli is more often than not a very healthy choice. Again, you can make your own pretty easily, as well. When making or shopping for muesli, be mindful of dried fruits as they can really jack up the sugar content. Stick to ones that focus more on nuts and seeds. Top with low-fat milk or vegetable milk and fruit of your choice.
8. Scrambled eggs with spinach and feta cheese
For those focusing on protein, scrambled eggs, spinach, and feta cheese make a great combination. Again, you can make these into scrambled egg cups by baking them in muffin tins in the oven for a fast, on-the-go breakfast. In addition to whole eggs, you can add egg whites to focus on increasing the protein.
9. Quinoa bowl with mixed berries, nuts, and a drizzle of honey
If you’re not a fan of oatmeal, a quinoa bowl is another great option. This is essentially the same as making a bowl of oatmeal but you are using quinoa instead. Quinoa is known for being a higher-protein grain, which may suit your nutritional needs better.
10. Breakfast Taco
Breakfast tacos can actually be very healthy if you do them correctly. Grab a corn tortilla or a whole grain version and fill it with scrambled eggs, black beans, tomatoes, sauteed peppers and onions, or truly whatever vegetable you want to include. Top with some avocado for healthy fats and you’ve got fun, tasty breakfast. To increase the protein even more, you can include lean ground turkey or lean turkey sausage.
10 Breakfasts to Avoid
As already mentioned, some common breakfast go-tos really should be avoided. These items don’t set you up for success and often lead to weight gain and health problems.
- Donuts – sugar, saturated and trans fats, no protein, low in fiber
- Cinnamon rolls – sugar, saturated and trans fats, no protein, low in fiber
- Bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit – Saturated fats, no vegetables, low in fiber
- Fried chicken and waffles – fried and fatty, no vegetables, no real nutritional value
- Pancakes with syrup and butter – high sugar, low fiber, high in saturated fat, no fruits for micronutrients
- Sugary cereal with milk – high sugar, low fiber, no real nutritional value, no satiety value
- Bagels with cream cheese and jam – high saturated fat, low fiber, high sugar (jam)
- Bacon, sausage, and eggs with hash browns – fried (saturated and trans fats), low fiber, no vegetables
- Breakfast burrito with sausage and cheese – low fiber, high saturated fats, no vegetables
- Croissant breakfast sandwich – high in saturated fats, low fiber, no vegetables
Start Your Day Right, Every Day
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it should be well-balanced and contain the necessary nutrients in the right amounts. A breakfast to enjoy more often includes lean protein, healthy fats, fiber, fruits and vegetables, and low glycemic index foods. On the other hand, a breakfast to enjoy less often is one that is high in saturated and trans fats, fried foods, high in sugar, creamers and sweeteners, no-fiber carbohydrates, and no fruits and vegetables. Follow the list of healthy breakfast options and avoid the list of unhealthy options and you’ll have a good start to a healthy day.
Keep Reading: Drink Coffee After Breakfast, Not Before, for Better Blood Sugar Control
- “What’s a healthy breakfast?” Harvard. Monique Tello, MD, MPH. September 13, 2018
- “15 Breakfast Foods to Skip, Plus 10 to Try.” Healthline. SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD. May 27, 2021.