Do you eat breakfast? If you answered no, you are not alone. Only 44% of Americans eat breakfast daily¹. The rest of us skip breakfast for a variety of reasons, such as lack of time and lack of options due to poor planning. Schedules continue to get busier, which limits the amount of time for preparing and eating. It may seem impossible to include breakfast in your busy routine, but it’s not. A little planning can make all the difference. Eating breakfast daily can be easy and beneficial for your health. Some easy strategies shared later in this post can help you fit breakfast into your day.
What is all the hype about breakfast?
Research has shown that people who eat breakfast daily gain less weight over time than those that skip breakfast². Breakfast eaters usually have fewer calories throughout the day because they are less prone to snack without thinking³. Snacking can be part of a healthy meal pattern. However, mindless snacking often includes high-fat and high-sugar items (e.g. cookies and chips) instead of healthier options. These provide extra calories that lead to weight gain over time.
The benefits of eating breakfast daily do not stop there. Breakfast eaters tend to have lower triglyceride levels and a lower fasting insulin level⁴. Which means a lower risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Adding breakfast to your day can be an important step for improving your health. However, eating the right types of foods for breakfast will have the biggest impact.
What does a healthy breakfast look like?
Quick, easy, nutritious and delicious breakfasts are not that difficult to get. Healthy breakfasts have both high fiber and protein rich foods¹. The fiber fills you up and the protein has lasting power. Including both in your breakfast will help start your day right⁵. An example of this is 1 cup of Greek yogurt with ¼ cup granola and ½ cup of mixed berries, which provides 29 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber.
Whole grains are a key source of fiber, but fruits and vegetables provide fiber too. However, whole grains are a longer lasting energy source and curb hunger because they take longer to digest⁶. Identifying whole grains can be challenging. Some grains are always whole, such as brown rice, oatmeal, bulgur, and quinoa. Other grains can be more confusing. Checking ingredient lists for the word “whole” before a grain is an easy way to be sure.
Like whole grains, proteins take longer to digest, and keep you feeling full, which helps breakfast eaters avoid the mid-morning impulsive snacking. Animal-based and plant-based proteins are both good options. Eating a variety of protein sources is important. However, plant-based proteins are typically lower in fat and calories. Checking nutrition facts labels can be helpful in identifying healthy breakfast options. Look for those with 5% or less of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
Whole grains and proteins are good sources of many vitamins and minerals but fruits and vegetables fill in the gaps. Many of us struggle to eat enough fruits and vegetables. Adding them to the morning meal gives us a head start on meeting our daily needs. Keep in mind that fresh, frozen, canned and dried all count. Use what is easiest and affordable for you. Bananas, oranges, and apples are inexpensive, portable options that can also be used as a mid-morning snack.
Putting it all together
Use this table to plan easy and nutritious breakfasts for you and your family. Choose items from each category for a filling and delicious start to your day.
1-2 corn Tortillas
1-2 slices whole wheat Bread
1 whole wheat English Muffin
1 whole wheat Mini Bagel
½ cup cooked Brown Rice
½ cup cooked Oatmeal
½ cup cooked Quinoa
½ cup cooked Bulgur
¼ cup Granola
1/3 cup Hummus
½ cup cooked Beans
1 tablespoon Peanut Butter
1-2 tablespoons Seeds or Nuts
2 tablespoons low-fat Cheese
1 ounce cooked Chicken or Turkey
1 cup low-fat Plain Greek Yogurt
¼ cup low-fat Cottage Cheese
Fruits & Vegetables
Tips for Busy Mornings
Mornings can be hectic and squeezing in breakfast can be a challenge. Try some of these tips and easy recipes to include breakfast in your day.
- Prepare breakfast the night before and simply reheat in the morning.
- Overnight Oats: Mix ¼ cup uncooked oats with ¼ cup liquid (water or milk) and refrigerate overnight. Add nuts, fruit, and spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, for more flavor. Enjoy cold or heat in the microwave for a warm breakfast.
- Freeze extra breakfast burritos; microwave when ready to eat!
- Breakfast Burrito: Place a scrambled egg and chopped vegetables of your choice into a whole wheat or corn tortilla.
- Hard-boiled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Avocado and Egg on Toast: Make 1 to 2 pieces of toast, spread with ½ of an avocado, and top with a sliced hard-boiled, scrambled or fried egg.
Use What You Have
- Fresh, frozen (thawed), and canned fruits and vegetables are all great options.
- Use leftovers such as cooked rice, cooked meats, chopped fruits and vegetables.
- Egg scrambles and smoothies are easy ways to use up leftover items.
Grab and Go Items
- Grab whole or pre-sliced fruit and a cheese stick.
- Add frozen fruit to a cup of plain yogurt.
- O’Neil CE, Byrd-Bredbenner C, Hayes D, Jana L, Klinger SE, Stephenson-Martin S. The Role of Breakfast in Health: Definition and Criteria for a Quality Breakfast. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014;114(12):S8-S26. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.08.022.
- Odegaard AO, Jacobs DR, Steffen LM, Van Horn L, Ludwig DS, Pereira MA. Breakfast Frequency and Development of Metabolic Risk. Diabetes Care. 2013;36(10):3100-3106. doi:10.2337/dc13-0316.
- Eating Breakfast Helps Weight Loss. Healthy Eating. http://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/Healthy-Living/Weight-Management/Article-Viewer/Article/347/Eating-Breakfast-Helps-Weight-Loss.aspx. Accessed March 3, 2017.
- Smith KJ, Gall SL, McNaughton SA, Blizzard L, Dwyer T, Venn AJ. Skipping breakfast: longitudinal associations with cardiometabolic risk factors in the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010;92(6):1316-1325. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.30101.