How to Make a Healthy, Satisfying Breakfast

Person eating avocado toast

Getty Images / Alexander Spatari

Breakfast can help set a positive tone for the day—eating nutritious food in the morning provides energy for your productivity to thrive. Choosing nutrient-dense ingredients for your first meal is key to avoiding sluggish afternoons.

Despite the importance of breakfast, it's often the meal skipped or rushed. The American Heart Association (AHA) issued a scientific opinion on meal timing and frequency. The organization says that 74 percent of people who skip breakfast do not meet two-thirds of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for necessary vitamins and minerals. Even for those who eat breakfast, 41 percent still do not meet the RDA for optimal nutrition intake.

While incorporating a healthy breakfast into your routine may seem overwhelming, there are some actionable steps to help make this meal a habit. Here are tips on how to make breakfast nutritious, delicious, and satisfying:

Prioritize Protein

Incorporating more protein-rich foods at breakfast not only helps you build a nutrient-dense meal, but the added boost works to keep you full and satisfied as you begin your day. According to Nicole Swingle, RD, one of her best breakfast-making tips is to build this meal around a protein source. “Having a solid protein source at breakfast with healthy fats and carbs will help to keep hunger at bay and help with preserving lean muscle mass,” she says.

Whether or not you struggle with protein deficiency, it can be hard to know how much protein is right for your breakfast (and day in general). The RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To determine what you need, you can multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36.

Protein-First Breakfast Ideas

  • 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt with a handful of berries and nuts
  • English muffin topped with almond butter, berries, and chopped pecans
  • Poached egg with hot sauce
  • Spinach and ham omelet
  • Breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, salsa, and tortilla

Include a Healthy Fat

Fat is necessary to ensure energy and the consumption of fat-soluble vitamins. The World Health Organization and the Dietary Reference Intakes recommend a fat intake of 20 to 35 percent of daily total calories. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends healthy dairy fats, such as yogurt (without any added sugars) for breakfast. Consuming yogurt can produce positive changes in LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. While there are other healthy fats that can easily be included in a breakfast plan, yogurt is a great starting point due to the versatility of toppings you can add.

Healthy Fats

  • Sliced avocados
  • 1-ounce of low-fat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of nut butter (peanut, almond, and cashew)
  • 1 tablespoon of low-fat cream cheese
  • A handful of chopped nuts

Boost Fiber Intake

A high-fiber diet can reduce the risk of health conditions, including diabetes, constipation, heart disease, and colon cancer. To achieve a healthy dietary fiber intake, the AHA recommends eating 25 to 30 grams per day from food and not supplements. Americans only average about 15 grams per day in their diet.

Breakfast is a meal with a variety of fiber-consumption opportunities. Here are ideas to incorporate into your meal:

  • Use whole grain bread for toast. You can scan the labels for the bread with the highest amount of fiber per slice.
  • If you make your own bread, use whole-wheat flour.
  • Keep a jar of oatmeal nearby.
  • Pick cereal brands with at least five grams of fiber per serving.
  • Add banana slices to your cereal.

Christianna Gozzi, RD

Cook oatmeal with milk for protein and fat, mainly traditional dairy milk or soy milk. Nuts and berries boost nutritional value, color, and texture.

— Christianna Gozzi, RD

Incorporate Fresh or Frozen Produce

In a survey of food intake, more than 15,000 individuals were selected for a breakfast analysis. Researchers identified the following breakfast categories: eggs as a primary food group, cereal and no eggs, only bread, cooked cereal, fruit, coffee and a high-fat dessert, no breakfast, and miscellaneous foods. The two groups, cereal and fruit, had the best nutritional profile of total and saturated fats, fiber, and carbohydrate nutrients.

The CDC says that you can choose to consume any number of fruit types. Fresh fruit is good when in season; when your favorite fruits are out of season, dried and canned fruits will work. You should look for canned varieties packed in water or their own juices.

Creative Ways to Add Fruit to Breakfast

  • Blend 2 cups of your favorite frozen berries with 3/4 cup Greek yogurt for a smoothie
  • Add a sliced banana and a handful of berries to the top of steel-cut oatmeal
  • Drop blueberries into pancake batter while on the griddle
  • Mix berries, honey, and slivered almonds into Greek yogurt
  • Top Fuji and Granny Smith apple slices with your favorite nut butter for a sweet-and-sour combination

Plan Ahead

For people who are rushed in the morning, meal prepping ahead of time can keep your nutrition on track (rather than grabbing something on the run or skipping breakfast altogether). “Preparing your meal ahead of time helps you have a healthier meal option,” says Bill Bradley, RD. He recommends making foods like overnight oats for their fiber-rich content.

Pick Purposeful Sweeteners

You can still make a breakfast that tastes sweet and does not ruin its nutritional content. Marisa Moore, RD, recommends honey. “In contrast to some other sweeteners that are created through extreme heat, chemical additives, or ingredient manipulation, honey is just honey and you can feel good about using it because it is 100% pure,” she says. Moore suggests adding this sweetener to pancakes, savory ricotta toast, and in beverages like morning tea.  

Health Benefits of Honey

Honey has a slew of health benefits. It contains 31 minerals, including all of the major minerals, and offers antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as vitamin C and amino and organic acids.

A Word From Verywell

You can make a healthy, satisfying breakfast with little effort—you do not need kitchen skills to create a meal full of nutritional value. Simply plan ahead and incorporate fruit, fiber-packed foods, and protein. For those with tight schedules, meal planning and prepping the night before is key. If you have any questions on what your nutrition requirements should look like, speak to a registered dietitian.

7 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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  2. Harvard Health. How much protein do you need every day?

  3. Liu AG, Ford NA, Hu FB, Zelman KM, Mozaffarian D, Kris-Etherton PM. A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusionNutr J. 2017;16:53. doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0271-4

  4. CDC. Eating Healthy for a Healthy Weight.

  5. UCSF. Increasing Fiber Intake.

  6. CDC. Eating Healthy for a Healthy Weight.

  7. Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey and health: a review of recent clinical researchPharmacognosy Res. 2017;9(2):121-127. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.204647

By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, CPT
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."