Healthy Breakfast Foods, Recipes, and Tips for Eating Out

How to start your day with a nutrient-rich meal

healthy breakfast foods, including fruit and oatmeal, on a white tabletop

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Do you start your day with healthy breakfast foods? Or do you tend to load up on convenient, processed foods for a quick jolt of energy? The best breakfast foods provide both quick energy and quality nutrition. Here are a few smart choices for your morning meal, whether at home or on the go. 

What Is a Healthy Breakfast?

A well-balanced, healthy breakfast contains four things: healthy carbohydrates for energy, enough fiber to help you feel full, some protein to assist with muscle growth and maintenance, and healthy fats for satiety. This combination provides a good start to the day.

As far as how many calories to consume, consider your eating habits as well as your health goals. If you're trying to lose weight, a smaller breakfast may be appropriate. If breakfast is usually your biggest meal of the day, you may want to allot more of your daily caloric intake to this meal to help your body get the nutrients it needs.

Eating Breakfast vs. Skipping Breakfast

Research has found that starting your day with food offers many benefits. For example, one study compared breakfast-skippers with those who consumed a ready-to-eat-cereal. It found that those who skipped breakfast were more likely to:

Other studies have looked at the effect of eating breakfast on adolescents. One noted that teens who regularly consumed breakfast had a higher level of cardiorespiratory fitness and healthier cardiovascular profile than breakfast-skippers, with these benefits being more prominent in males.

Breakfast may be an even more important meal for certain people. This includes individuals with diabetes as breakfast assists with greater glucose stability throughout the day. It also includes people taking morning medications that are recommended to be taken with food.

Healthy Breakfast Food Choices

Building your morning meal around healthy breakfast foods can give your body the nutrients it needs to function at optimal levels. Choosing the right foods also helps to curb late morning cravings, prevent mindless eating, and improve portion control throughout the day.

When going to the grocery store to pick up the food you need for the week, here are a few foods to add to your list so you have what you need to make a healthy breakfast:

  • Non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • Eggs or egg whites
  • Steel-cut oats or plain oatmeal
  • Low-fat turkey breakfast sausage
  • Lean ground turkey
  • Skim or low-fat milk
  • Whole-grain bread and cereals
  • Fruit (seasonal berries, bananas, apples, melon)
  • Fresh salsa
  • Spinach
  • Avocado

With these ingredients, you can prepare a nutritious breakfast in advance and keep a week's worth of healthy breakfasts in the refrigerator. That way, meal preparation takes only 5 to 10 minutes each morning.

Breakfast Foods to Limit or Avoid

Many traditional breakfast foods contain added sugar and are high in calories but low in nutrients. While they might be easy to grab and go, they often leave you feeling hungry within an hour or so. This can increase the temptation to stop at the vending machine or convenience store for junk food.

Foods that fall into this category and, therefore, may be best if limited or avoided at breakfast include:

  • Sugary cereals (looks for brands with 5 grams or less of sugar)
  • Bagels
  • Pastries and other sweet baked goods
  • Fruit juice
  • Flavored coffee creamers (even the fat-free varieties)
  • Breakfast bars
  • Single-serving flavored oatmeal packets
  • Some frozen breakfast sandwiches

Healthy At-Home Breakfast Recipes and Ideas

Preparing your breakfast at home allows you to control the ingredients and the nutrients in your meal. Here are a few breakfast recipes that offer a balanced first meal of the day:

Even if you don't follow a recipe, you can prepare a healthy breakfast with very little fuss. For example, protein-rich plain Greek yogurt is delicious with a half cup of blueberries. Or throw some crumbled turkey sausage and a handful of diced red pepper into scrambled egg whites for a spicy morning meal.

Also, consider ways you can make your homecooked breakfast healthier. A non-stick skillet can reduce the need to use oil or butter when you scramble or fry eggs. You can also use olive oil to sauté flavorful onions or shallots to add to your omelets for added nutritional value. 

To make your morning meals easier, prep them in advance. If you like oatmeal, make a big pot of oats just once during the week. Then portion it into single-serving containers to keep in the refrigerator and heat in the microwave each morning.

Tips for a Healthier Fast Food Breakfast

If you're caught hunting for breakfast on the road, you have a few options. Many restaurants offer fresh fruit, oatmeal, or Greek Yogurt on their menus.

If your only choice is to visit a fast-food joint, we offer a guide to finding a healthy breakfast sandwich. We also provide some of the healthiest options on the menu at a few different places that are common breakfast stops, including:

When eating fast food for breakfast, look for items that are fresh as opposed to being frozen and deep-fried. And if you do decide to order a less-healthier choice, stick to smaller meals (instead of large or super-sizes) to help keep the fat and calorie intake lower.

A Word From Verywell

With just a little bit of planning, it's easy to make or grab a healthy breakfast that is high in nutrients. If you eat at home, keeping your pantry and refrigerator stocked with healthy breakfast foods is a great start. Eating healthy on the go is also possible, as long as you know what to look for.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Jakubowicz D, Wainstein J, Landau Z, et al. Influences of breakfast on clock gene expression and postprandial glycemia in healthy individuals and individuals with diabetes: a randomized clinical trial. Diabetes Care. 2017;40(11):1573-9. doi:10.2337/dc16-2753

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By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.