If your idea of breakfast is an energy bar on your way out the door or a latte at your desk, think again and try one of these 12 ideas to get your morning going. By: Karen Ansel, MS, RD
Sure, any morning meal is better than none, but what you eat early in the day can have a major impact on your mood, concentration, and energy level. If you don’t think you have the time—or have no clue where to start—check out these 12 breakfast picks. We’ve gone up and down the grocery aisles looking for ingredients and products worth a try for your morning meal. Some are stand-bys like eggs and cereal, and others are new products on the market that get our dietitians’ thumbs up. They’re all guaranteed to banish breakfast boredom and add muscle to your morning.
Aunt Jemima Oatmeal Pancakes are so light and fluffy you’ll never believe they came from your freezer. The fact that they’re made with real milk and eggs and are free of artificial flavors and preservatives doesn’t hurt either. Ready in your toaster or microwave in less than 90 seconds, each 3-pancake serving dishes up 4 grams of filling fiber and 8 grams of protein for a reasonable 230 calories. Top them with pumpkin butter for a spicy morning treat that’s low in sugar.
Tired of toast? We hear you. Why not try a slimming 6-inch corn tortilla instead. They’re ideal if you’re on a gluten-free diet. Each tortilla boasts a skinny 55 calories, nearly 2 grams of fiber, and only 5 milligrams of sodium per tortilla. Load yours with eggs and salsa, roll it with sliced avocado and reduced-fat Cheddar, spread it with your favorite nut butter for a quick grab-and-go meal. If you have time, prepare Egg and Cheese Breakfast Tacos with Homemade Salsa for a weekend brunch.
No time to eat your breakfast? Drink it! This cultured dairy drink is like yogurt only better. While both kefir and yogurt contain probiotics, the live bacteria shown to enhance digestive health, kefir can sport as many as 12 different probiotic strains compared to anywhere between 2 to 5 in most brands of yogurt. Plus kefir is cultured for 5 to 8 times as long as yogurt, giving those beneficial bugs more time to grow and multiply. Sip one of the many flavors of Lifeway Kefir on its own or blend it with fresh or frozen fruit in a smoothie. One cup of plain low-fat kefir delivers 30% of your daily dose of calcium and a hefty 11 grams of protein for only 110 calories and 2 fat grams.
Vegans and carnivores rejoice. This clever plant-based burrito, Amy’s Organic Black Bean & Tomato Breakfast Burrito, is like a mini hand-held version of MyPlate, packing vegetables, beans, and tofu neatly into a whole-wheat tortilla wrapper. And because it’s dairy-, corn-, and tree-nut free, it can be a smart pick if you have food allergies. One burrito serves up 270 calories, 6 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of protein and only 3 grams of sugar. Top yours with salsa and score an extra serving of veggies.
Pump up the protein in your breakfast with satisfying Vans Power Grains Waffles. Not only do they pack 5 grams of protein each, they’re made with a genius combo of cracked red wheat, millet, steel cut oats, and brown rice. With 90 calories and only 2.5 grams of fat per waffle, they’re guaranteed to do your waistline good. Skip the maple syrup and top yours with sunflower butter for an added protein kick.
Toss your breakfast bar and pick up Glenny’s Cranberry & Almond Whole Fruit & Nut Bar instead. Made from real nuts, honey, and dried fruit, these wholesome bars are free from high fructose corn syrup and contain almost no sodium. Pair one with an apple and a non-fat latte for the perfect on-the-go meal. Each bar has 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and is certified gluten-free.
Sprouted grains are making their move in the bread aisle and with good reason. Research reveals they’re higher in nutrients like amino acids and B vitamins than their traditional counterparts. In fact, a 2007 Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry study found that sprouting wheat more than triples its folate content. Made from organic sprouted wheat, barley, millet, spelt, lentils and soybeans, Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain English Muffins get high grades for nutrition, texture, and taste. One muffin contains 160 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fiber.
Studies show that eating cereal for breakfast can help peel off the pounds. Make yours whole grain and you’ll be one step ahead of the game thanks to their filling fiber. When it comes to filling your cereal bowl, this Kashi Autumn Wheat Cereal is an especially smart pick. In one 2-ounce bowlful you’ll snag an impressive 50 grams of whole grains and 6 grams each of satiating fiber and protein. With 180 calories per serving, it’s low in calories, but not so low that you’ll be scrounging for a snack by midmorning. And it has zero sodium. Did we mention that we love its short ingredient list of organic whole grain wheat, organic evaporated cane juice, and natural flavors?
Eggs could be the ultimate breakfast bite. With 6 grams of protein per large egg, they make getting your a.m. protein fix a cinch. Because their protein comes naturally packaged with a small amount of satiating fat, they also keep you away from the office vending machine. Concerned about cholesterol? Relax. Eggs have 14% less cholesterol than they did a decade ago, with about 185 milligrams per large egg. That’s slightly more than half the amount most healthy people can eat in a day. Like peanut butter, it may not always be worth your while to fork over extra dollars for omega-3 enhanced eggs. Many of these are pumped up with plant omega-3s instead of the long chain omega-3s EPA and DHA recommended for heart health, so reading the fine print on the label is a must.
If you’re looking for a heart-healthy spread for your morning toast, bagel, or muffin, look no further. This versatile nut butter is rich in heart-smart mono and polyunsaturated fats as well as vitamin E. Just beware, some “all natural” varieties sneak in saturated fat-containing palm oil for texture so be sure to read the label and stick with brands crafted from 100% peanuts. As for those with added omega-3s like EPA and DHA? Save your money and spend it on fish instead. A 2-tablespoon serving of omega-3 enhanced peanut butter only provides about 32 milligrams of omega-3s, a measly 3% of the amount you’d get from a 3-ounce serving of salmon. Find which spreads won our vote in our Taste Test of Best Peanut Butters.
Move over oatmeal, this South American grain (technically, it’s a seed) makes a super satisfying breakfast. Not only does it boast more protein than any other grain, its protein is complete, meaning that it provides all of the eight essential amino acids that our bodies need. One cup of cooked quinoa packs 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of filling fiber, keeping your appetite in check all morning long. Plus, it’s loaded with minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. For a new twist on hot cereal, simmer yours with dried fruit and top with a drizzle of honey or try our recipe for Hot Quinoa Cereal with Maple Syrup Apples.
Not only is this sturdy fruit quick, convenient, and portable, you can pick one up at practically any coffee shop or convenience store. Plus, they’re packed with potassium, a mineral we need to balance blood pressure yet rarely get enough of. Munch on one medium banana and you’ll rack up nearly 10% of your daily dose of potassium. Rich in carbs, bananas are also perfect for pre-fueling before an early morning workout. They’re also equally good at home afterwards, sliced onto whole-wheat cinnamon raisin toast slathered with nut butter, or as a natural thickener for smoothies. If you’re wondering if you should go organic, don’t bother. The Environmental Working Group ranks them a lowly 30 on its list of the 53 highest pesticide foods.