Nutritionally speaking, many Americans are not getting off on the right foot each day. According to the National Institutes of Health, almost 25% of people in the U.S. skip breakfast, even though we've all heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
While nutrition recommendations and trends are full of opinions and constantly changing, most nutrition professionals argue breakfast is essential. Your morning habits set up your whole day, so starting with a healthy and satisfying breakfast is a great way to fuel your entire day.
And if you think healthy breakfasts have to be blah or time-consuming, keep reading, as we've got a list of more than 20 delicious breakfast ideas you'll want to try asap!
We've got you covered with a variety of meal types: sweet and savory; meal prep or zero prep or slow weekend mornings; carbohydrate or protein focus; plus several ways you can add a nutritious boost to any of the meals.
We'll start with the components that make up a healthy breakfast before moving on to easy ways to boost your breakfast, and then, you'll find plenty of ideas for nutritious, delicious breakfasts. A cup of coffee does not make a nutritious and healthy breakfast!
The Building Blocks of a Nutritious Breakfast
There are many ways to make a nutritious meal. A simple approach is building a meal that includes all three macronutrients - protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
- Protein helps make your meal more filling, keeps you satisfied, and is essential in building and maintaining muscle. It is often overlooked at breakfast, but this is a critical time to include protein that will set you up for the rest of the day.
- Fat provides extra energy and helps your body absorb essential nutrients and fat-soluble vitamins. You can find fat naturally in some dairy products or add it to your meal with foods like eggs, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
- Carbohydrates provide energy and fiber to your body. There are many ways to include carbohydrates at breakfast, from convenient options like frozen waffles or cereal to more nutrient-dense options like fresh fruit, oats, and other whole grains.
When you include protein, fat, and carbohydrates in your meal, you will ensure you have a balance of energy to keep you satisfied until your next meal. When you skip one component, you may find that you are hungry again soon after eating.
You'll also want to make sure you are eating enough! So much of what we hear is about eating less, but your meal also needs enough energy (calories) to be satisfying.
Once you have covered your bases with the big macronutrients, you can easily add micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) by including various foods in different colors. Fruit (fresh or frozen) is a great and delicious way to add valuable vitamins, antioxidants, and color to your breakfast. No need to stress about every small micronutrient; instead, aim for a variety of foods - it's more helpful and much less stressful.
Another important piece of nutrition and healthy eating is the ability to find satisfaction and enjoyment in our food.
If you crave pancakes but choose a yogurt parfait instead, your meal won't be satisfying. You may seek out less healthy foods until that need is met. You could have eaten the pancakes, felt satisfied (though you might want to add a protein on the side), and moved on.
Be sure to tune into your body's cues and listen to what it tells you so your meals are satisfying.
Nutrient-Dense Ways to Boost Your Breakfast
If you've got the building blocks of meals covered, there are also ways to add a nutritious boost to just about any breakfast easily:
- Chia seeds - Sprinkle into cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt bowls for protein, fiber, and omega-3 fats.
- Hemp seeds - Sprinkle over savory toasts or over peanut butter toast for some omega-3 fats.
- Nuts or nut butter - Spread onto toast or add a spoonful to oatmeal and yogurt, and you'll add some protein, fat, and fiber to your meal.
- Eggs - Top your toast with a fried egg, scramble eggs with veggies and cheese, or serve your meal with boiled eggs for protein, fat, and essential vitamins.
- Protein powder - Blend protein powder into smoothies or mix collagen into your coffee for a quick and convenient protein.
- Berries - Berries are high in antioxidants, a great source of fiber, and add sweetness to your plate. Serve them in the meal if you're having something like oatmeal or cereal, or serve as a side.
Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas
If you want to spend less time on breakfast, try one of these quick and easy breakfast ideas that are easy to throw together in minutes.
- Smoothies - Smoothies are a quick and easy way to include a variety of ingredients in a portable drink! Ensure your smoothie contains fruit, veggies, and protein (yogurt or protein powder would work). Bonus points for including smoothie boosters like chia seeds, hemp seeds, or almond butter. Healthy green smoothies made with spinach are a great way to have veggies first thing in the morning.
- Smoothie bowls - Acai bowls are the most popular and well-known, but you can almost turn any smoothie into a smoothie bowl by adding less liquid to keep it thick. Serve in a bowl and top with granola, berries, sliced bananas, and a drizzle of honey.
- Cereal - Cereal may have a poor reputation, but it's a quick, easy-balanced breakfast. Choose whole grain and pair it with fresh fruit for even more nutrition. You may need to add a protein side if you use a milk alternative without protein.
- Waffles - Top your frozen waffles with a hefty schmear of nut butter for a protein boost before drizzling with maple syrup. Add some milk or hard-boiled eggs for even extra staying power. Try my favorite Waffle recipe.
- Grab and go - Pair a granola bar or frozen breakfast sandwich with milk and some fruit for an easy and portable balanced breakfast.
Breakfast is a great time to get a good dose of protein in, and there are so many ways you can do this! Cottage cheese is having a moment right now, and for a good reason; with 14 grams of protein per ½ cup, it's an easy and delicious way to add a protein boost to any breakfast, but there are a lot of other options as well:
- Cottage cheese - Serve cottage cheese with fresh fruit and a slice or two of toast. Try Cottage Cheese pancakes.
- Greek yogurt parfait - Top plain Greek yogurt with a scoop of peanut butter, fresh fruit, and cereal or granola for crunch. Drizzle with honey to taste.
- Protein plate - Pair breakfast sausage with hard-boiled eggs and a slice of sprouted bread with nut butter.
Don't skip the carbohydrates if you are looking for an energizing breakfast. These meals are great for fueling workouts or your busy day, as carbohydrates are the body's preferred energy source.
- Oatmeal - Top your oats with nut butter and berries or sliced banana. Steel-cut oats are a heartier option with a great texture and can even be made easily in the instant pot.
- Overnight oats - Prep this one the night before by mixing chia seeds and oats with your milk of choice. Refrigerate overnight; when ready to eat, top with fruit and a drizzle of honey.
- Peanut butter toast - This is a classic for a reason. Top your peanut butter toast with sliced banana, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of hemp seeds and cinnamon.
- Bagel - Top your bagel with cream cheese, fresh cucumber, and tomato. Add in smoked salmon (or lox) if you like.
Need to take a healthy breakfast on the go? We've got you covered with these meal prep breakfast ideas.
- Chia seed pudding - Mix chia seeds and milk of choice and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, add desired toppings. Fresh fruit, a drizzle of honey, and something crunchy like granola or chopped nuts have great flavor and a variety of textures. Make a few at a time and store them in the refrigerator.
- Baked oatmeal - This is the best way to prep oatmeal ahead, and it can be made with a variety of ingredients, mixins, and fruits. Try Cherry Baked Oatmeal.
- Make-ahead breakfast burritos - Assemble breakfast burritos with eggs, sausage, hash browns, cheese, veggies, and roll-up. Wrap in foil and freeze until you're ready to eat.
- Meal prep breakfast box - Prep breakfast sausage with plain Greek yogurt, fresh berries, and a sprinkle of granola. You can find reusable containers that make packing easy on Amazon or your local store.
- Frittatas - Make this healthy breakfast ahead of time, and you can easily enjoy eggs all week. Add veggies, fiber-rich carbs like quinoa or sweet potato, and cheese for flavor.
Many of us lean towards sweet options at breakfast time, but savory breakfasts can be mighty delicious too.
- Avocado toast - Toast artisan bread or sprouted bread and top with mashed or sliced avocado, a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, and flaky sea salt.
- Scrambled eggs - Stir in some quick-cooking greens like spinach to your scrambled eggs and top with shredded cheese. Serve with toast.
- Leftovers - Dinner leftovers are a great option, especially when you need something quick!
Weekend breakfasts may take longer to prepare, but they feel more special.
- Classic diner breakfast - Eggs, hash browns, bacon, and toast are a traditional, delicious, and satisfying choice from the diner. Choose whole grain toast for extra fiber and add some fruit on the side for a bit of color.
- Brunch charcuterie board - An abundant breakfast grazing board is the best way to feed a crowd, especially if you have grazers or people waking up at different times. Put out various foods, including a few proteins, a few carbohydrates or baked goods, and a few fruits. Then let everyone create their perfect breakfast.
- Pancakes - Make classic pancakes or a whole-grain version (with extra protein and fiber) for a delicious and satisfying weekend breakfast. Pair with a source of protein and some fruit for a balanced meal.
Now you know how to create a healthy breakfast and have plenty of ideas, it's time to nourish yourself! Taking the time to feed ourselves delicious, nutritious, and satisfying meals is worth the effort, and your body and mind will function so much better when properly fueled.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Emily Dingmann is the founder, recipe developer, content creator, and writer behind myeverydaytable.com. She creates easy recipes for busy families using her degree in Nutrition and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor backgrounds. Her work has been featured on the Today Show, Self Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Twin Cities Live, and more.