How to Make a Healthy Breakfast for Weight Loss

Tips, Calorie Guides, and Nutrition Advice for Your Morning Meal

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents
Healthy Weight Loss Breakfast
Cultura/Brett Stevens/Riser/Getty Images

A hearty breakfast can boost your energy and mental focus in the morning. Eating a morning meal that provides healthy fats, carbs, and protein helps you feel full and energized as you navigate your daily activities.

But some people may also try to reduce breakfast calories in order to reach a weight loss goal. To cut calories while keeping your breakfast nutritious, use these time-saving breakfast tips and nutritional guidance designed specifically for weight loss.

Weight loss is not an appropriate goal for everyone and losing weight does not always mean you will be healthier. Health is about much more than the number on the scale or your body size, and a lot of weight loss strategies can contribute to unhealthy physical and mental health practices. Speak to your doctor to see if weight loss is an appropriate goal for you.

How Many Breakfast Calories Do You Need?

Some of the most popular breakfast foods are high in fat and calories. For example, eggs cooked in butter, sausage, bacon, a peanut butter smoothie, and even oatmeal with toppings can substantially boost your total energy intake—making it harder to lose weight.

But if you skimp on breakfast calories and have a small snack bar or a cup of coffee, you're likely to get hungry around 10 or 11 a.m. At that point, you might reach for whatever's handy to curb those hunger pangs, jeopardizing your weight loss goals.

Determine Your Breakfast Calorie Count

There is no magical number of calories in the perfect breakfast for weight loss. When you see lists that focus on 300-calorie or 500-calorie breakfasts, that doesn't mean that 300 or 500 is the right number of calories to eat in the morning. Everyone's number is different.

One way to determine your needs is to use hunger and satiety cues. That is, eat foods that help you to feel satisfied and energized, and eat enough of them to feel full.

If you want to use a calorie goal, first determine the total number of calories you need to eat every day to lose weight. Then divide the calories by the number of meals and snacks you consume during the day. This project is likely to take some experimentation. There is no right or wrong answer.

Breakfast Calorie Examples

The correct number of calories for your healthy breakfast depends on your lifestyle, activity schedule, weight-loss goal, and personal preferences. These sample meal plans take those factors into account.

More Calories in the Morning

Jennifer's goal is to consume 1,200 calories per day to lose weight. She prefers to exercise after work and go to bed early, so she doesn't eat much at night. That means she can load up her calories in the morning and afternoon.

  • Breakfast: 400 calories
  • Lunch: 400 calories
  • Pre-workout snack: 200 calories
  • Post-workout snack: 200 calories

Bigger Afternoon and Evening Meals

Bill's goal is to consume 1800 calories per day to lose weight. He works out at lunchtime and prefers to exercise on an empty stomach. But he finds that he gets ravenous in the hours after his workout. So his intake is steady in the morning but allows him to consume more calories in the late afternoon and early evening.

  • Breakfast smoothie: 400 calories
  • Light pre-workout snack: 100 calories
  • Post-workout lunch: 600 calories
  • Dinner: 600 calories
  • Snack before bed: 100 calories

Steady All-Day Energy

Mary is a stay-at-home mom, and her routine requires her to be active from 7 a.m. until about 10 p.m. She needs steady energy throughout the day, but to lose weight, she must consume approximately 1,400 calories daily.

  • Breakfast: 300 calories
  • Snack: 100 calories
  • Lunch: 300 calories
  • Snack: 100 calories
  • Dinner: 500 calories
  • After dinner snack: 100 calories

Healthy Foods for a Weight Loss Breakfast

Now it's time to choose the best breakfast foods to help you lose weight. Nutritional quality matters at every meal, but it may be even more important in the morning.

Nutritional experts have found that people who choose starchy or sugary foods in the morning are very likely to get hunger cravings and make poor food choices in the 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. time frame as a result.

For example, grabbing a bagel or a muffin for breakfast without fiber or protein may increase your cravings and lead to energy crashes later in the day. Choose nutrient-dense foods for your morning meal to avoid this very common pitfall. Foods that provide fiber and protein help you feel full longer.

Breakfast Swaps

Of course, choosing quality calories doesn't mean you have to give up your favorite foods. It just means that you have to make a few healthy adjustments.

Bagels

If you love bagels, keep them on the menu. But choose a whole-grain bagel, and top it with salmon and cream cheese. Adding some fresh greens, cucumber, or peppers will up the nutrient profile. Enjoy the bagel with a handful of fiber-rich, low-calorie, and naturally sweet raspberries.

Oatmeal

If you love oatmeal, keep eating it! But consider swapping out the single-serve flavored oatmeal packets. While these are good for portion control, they often contain added sugar. Instead, make your batch of rolled oats or steel-cut oatmeal ahead of time.

You can even make a week's worth, store it in the fridge and have it ready to microwave in single-serve containers. Top the grains with fresh blueberries, chopped almonds, sliced apple, and Greek yogurt for fiber, nutrients, and protein.

Oatmeal is the perfect meal for adjusting to your tastes and nutrition needs every day. Try adding protein powder, yogurt, cottage cheese, shredded zucchini, berries, nuts, seeds, nut butters, or high-protein milk to balance out the macronutrients and provide a super satisfying and filling breakfast.

Bacon and Eggs

Are you a bacon and eggs eater in the morning? You're not alone. You don't have to ditch this routine, but to control the fat and calories, you may want to switch up how you prepare these foods.

Make your egg(s) in a non-stick skillet with no added fat. You can also blend whole eggs with egg whites to cut fat and calories. Turkey bacon is sometimes (but not always) lower in fat and calories than traditional pork bacon. Or enjoy your eggs with a slice of ham.

If none of those options appeal to you, don't worry; continue eating your bacon and eggs with joy and consider adding more nutrients to fill out the meal, such as fresh fruit, a green salad, or a smoothie packed with fruit and veg.

Cereal

Many cereals provide a healthy dose of good nutrition—especially those made with whole grains. The key is to keep an eye on portion control.

Measure your cereal, keeping in mind that a single serving is usually one cup. Then add milk or a plant-based milk alternative. Top with berries for even more filling fiber. You may want to add a source of protein like yogurt or a protein shake along with a cereal-based breakfast to reap the benefits of this filling macronutrient.

Facts About Breakfast

Here are some interesting facts about how breakfast plays a role in nutritious eating habits.

  • Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. All meals contribute to your nutrition equally. It's your total nutrition throughout the day that impacts your health and weight loss success.
  • Eating breakfast may lead to better overall nutrition. While it's likely a two-way street, research shows that those who eat breakfast tend to consume more nutrients, including fiber, folate, vitamins A, B, D, and E, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
  • Consuming breakfast curbs cravings. Especially if your breakfast contains protein, research shows that morning meals abate cravings later in the day. This includes cravings for foods that may not contribute to a healthy, balanced diet.
  • High protein breakfasts help balance blood sugar. Consuming a balanced breakfast that includes substantial protein can help balance blood sugar and stabilize your energy levels.

Breakfast Dos and Don'ts

Do
  • Watch your portions

  • Prep meals ahead

  • Make low-cal smoothies

Don't
  • Drink a lot of liquid calories

  • Overuse creamer

  • Underestimate "to-go" calories

Dos

Consider measuring portions: It's easy to lose track of portion control in the morning when you are rushing. Using portion control tools may help some people reach their goals. Try keeping pre-measured scoops in cereal boxes, nuts, seeds, or oats. Or keep a digital scale on the counter to measure things like cheese or meats.

Make foods in advance: The easiest way to enjoy a stress-free breakfast is to make it at a time when you are not rushed and have it ready to go each morning. Make oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, or other cooked protein foods in advance. Wash and chop fruits and veggies and keep them in single-serve containers.

Make a nutrient-rich smoothie: Smoothies can be a great breakfast solution when you are too busy for a nutritious sit-down meal. Add filling and nutrient-dense ingredients to your smoothie to keep you going. Try protein powder, Greek yogurt, leafy greens, cottage cheese, berries, nuts, seeds, and milk.

Dont's

Watch liquid calories: Juice is high in sugar and calories and provides less nutritional value than whole fruit since it lacks fiber. Juice can also be expensive. Instead, you may wish to swap juice once in a while and enjoy flavored water, coffee, or tea with breakfast.

Overuse creamer: It's easy to pour flavored creamer or heavy cream into the coffee cup without tracking how much we're using. If you consume several cups of coffee, you might also be adding substantial calories to your daily total.

Underestimate your coffee shop calories: If your morning routine includes a trip to Starbucks or another coffee shop, use the online or smartphone app to calculate calories before ordering. Some coffee drinks have more calories than a full meal.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, the most important thing about making a healthy breakfast for weight loss is how it fits into your complete program to lose weight. This should include attention to the nutritional content, aiming to consume a lot of very satisfying foods that keep you full and provide the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and macronutrients you need. Aim to alance your calories throughout the day to keep your goals and hunger in line, including not undereating by too much. Speak to a doctor about your personal goals and needs for weight loss.

Was this page helpful?
8 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.
  1. Gibney MJ, Barr SI, Bellisle F, et al. Breakfast in human nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative. Nutrients. 2018;10(5):599. doi:10.3390/nu10050559

  2. O'Neil CE, Nicklas TA, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Nutrient intake, diet quality, and weight/adiposity parameters in breakfast patterns compared with no breakfast in adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2008J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Dec;114(12 Suppl):S27-43. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.08.021

  3. Leidy HJ, Ortinau LC, Douglas SM, Hoertel HA. Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girlsThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;97(4):677-688. doi:10.3945%2Fajcn.112.053116

  4. Douglas SM, Byers AW, Leidy HJ. Habitual breakfast patterns do not influence appetite and satiety responses in normal vs. high-protein breakfasts in overweight adolescent girlsNutrients. 2019;11(6):1223. Published 2019 May 29. doi:10.3390/nu11061223

  5. Almiron-Roig E, Majumdar A, Vaughan D, Jebb SA. Exploring the experiences of people with obesity using portion control tools-a qualitative study. Nutrients. 2019;11(5) doi:10.3390/nu11051095

  6. Monsivais P, Aggarwal A, Drewnowski A. Time spent on home food preparation and indicators of healthy eating. Am J Prev Med. 2014;47(6):796-802. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2014.07.033

  7. Lee A, Lim W, Kim S, et al. Coffee intake and obesity: A meta-analysis. Nutrients. 2019;11(6) doi:10.3390/nu11061274

  8. Bleich SN, Wolfson JA, Vine S, Wang YC. Diet-beverage consumption and caloric intake among US adults, overall and by body weight. Am J Public Health. 2014;104(3):e72-8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301556