Deciding what to eat for breakfast can be challenging. But skipping breakfast can deprive you of the energy you need for the day.Y
Your carbs, proteins, and fats ratio may vary depending on your diet and weight goals. Still, the nutrients in fruit, whole grains, yogurt, eggs, and nut butter can provide energy, satisfy your appetite, and set the stage for smart decisions all day.
“You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fiber with protein,” Erica Giovinazzo, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in New York, told Health.
Luckily, you’ve got plenty of delicious, easy-to-find options. Here’s a look at 19 healthy breakfast foods and tips from nutritionists for making them even better.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises consuming enough nutrients—carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water—to give your body the energy it needs daily.
Diet and nutrition needs vary depending on gender, age, weight, dietary preferences, culture, and budget. Generally, any balanced meal, including breakfast, has a mix of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. Those foods supply you with nutrients that will energize you at the start of the day and satisfy your appetite.
The Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate tool also helps you create a healthy, balanced breakfast, which includes:
- Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Add grains to one-quarter of your plate. Try to make about half of your grains whole grains.
- Include a lean protein in the last one-quarter of your plate.
- On the side, add a glass of fat-free or low-fat milk or a non-dairy alternative.
Consult a healthcare provider if you are unsure how much of each nutrient to eat to fuel your body properly.
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises not to skip breakfast. In 2017, the AHA reported that nearly two-thirds of people who skip breakfast do not meet their daily nutritional needs.
The AHA notes that people who skip breakfast have a high risk of health conditions like:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
In particular, research has found that skipping breakfast might increase the risk of overweight and obesity. Skipping meals decreases caloric intake, but not eating breakfast may negatively affect the quality of your diet. That’s because breakfast restores your energy, maintains blood sugar levels, and prevents binge eating by satisfying your appetite.
It’s especially important that children and adolescents eat breakfast regularly. The fiber and nutrients in carbs help increase focus, and protein and low-fat dairy build strong muscles.
Read on for healthy breakfast ideas to add to your plate, including fruits, grains, proteins, and low-fat dairy.
Not only does coffee give you a boost of energy, but it also offers possible benefits. Tea has a pretty impressive resume of benefits, too, if you are not a coffee drinker.
Coffee can provide a variety of benefits. Some evidence suggests a link between drinking coffee and a reduced risk of chronic illnesses like:
- Certain cancers
- Liver disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Coffee also has antioxidants and other compounds that help reduce inflammation and protect against diseases. Caffeine is considered an ergogenic substance that helps enhance energy production.
Research has found the compounds in tea might reduce the risk of diseases like diabetes and arthritis. Tea is also a rich source of immunity-boosting antioxidants known as catechins, which may reduce cancer risk.
Fruits contain many essential nutrients that your body needs, such as potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and folate.
The Department of Agriculture advises adding fruits and vegetables to half your plate at each meal, including breakfast. Aim to consume about two to three servings of fruit daily. One serving of fruit includes one cup of whole fruit or one cup of 100% fruit juice.
The yellow fruit—especially when it still has a touch of green—is one of the best sources of resistant starch. Resistant starch is a healthy carbohydrate that resists digestion. Research has found that resistant starch improves post-meal blood sugar levels and increases feelings of fullness.
“Slice it up and add it to cereal or oatmeal,” advised Giovinazzo. “It will add natural sweetness, so you may not need additional sugar.”
Thanks to a healthy dose of potassium, bananas are a particularly good choice for people with high blood pressure. That’s because potassium is an electrolyte that helps lower blood pressure naturally.
Fresh or frozen, these tiny superfruits pack a big antioxidant punch. According to a study published in 2014, regularly eating blueberries might improve your brain function, including memory and motor skills.
The researchers found that blueberries have high concentrations of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant. Anthocyanins help protect brain cells from damage and disease.
“Any fruit is a good addition to your breakfast,” said Giovinazzo. Cantaloupe is no exception.
A one-cup serving of cantaloupe contains 11 milligrams of vitamin C and 232 micrograms of vitamin A. Like most melons, cantaloupes have a high water concentration—about 90 grams—which keeps you hydrated and feeling full until lunchtime.
Cranberries have vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber that aid digestion and support heart health.
Cranberries have a protective effect. Some evidence suggests a link between cranberries and a lowered risk of certain cancers. Cranberries may help fight off norovirus or other foodborne illnesses, too.
Cranberry juice—not cranberry juice cocktail—does not contain as much sugar as other fruit juices if you monitor the amount of sugar in your diet.
Grapefruit made the healthy breakfast list because it contains vitamins C and A, potassium, and lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant shown to lower the risk of stroke.
The high-fiber content of grapefruit does not impact blood sugar levels since your body cannot digest it. The fruit is an excellent choice for those with diabetes who monitor their blood sugar levels.
“For a well-rounded breakfast, pair it with protein, such as yogurt or an egg,” suggested Giovinazzo.
Check with a healthcare provider if you take any medications, as grapefruit and its juice can interfere with some prescription drugs.
The fuzzy little fruit has about 134 milligrams of vitamin C per cup. Kiwi is rich in potassium and packs 5.4 grams of fiber. Potassium and fiber help aid digestion.
Kiwis are slightly tart. They’re delicious, but if you prefer a sweet flavor, try mixing them with strawberries and bananas in a smoothie or fruit salad.
Fresh squeezed orange juice is a classic and tasty morning beverage, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be made even healthier. Opt for a store-bought variety fortified with vitamin D for more nutritional benefit.
Along with fatty fish and fortified milk, fortified orange juice is a dietary source of vitamin D. One cup of fortified orange juice has 100 international units (IUs) of vitamin D, which helps reduce cancer cell growth and inflammation.
Keep in mind that orange juice is not a complete breakfast. You can pair it with a vegetable omelet or avocado toast to complete the meal. OJ contains vitamin C that can increase the bioavailability of iron if you have iron deficiency anemia.
Raspberries contain ellagitannins, a type of antioxidant that might have cancer-fighting properties. Raspberries also are a great source of vitamin C.
You can buy fresh raspberries year-round. During the off-season, you’ll find them cheaper (with equal nutritional value) in the frozen foods aisle.
Raspberries are perfect as an addition to cereal or yogurt or mixed into a smoothie for a quick, drink-on-the-go breakfast.
“Berries are superfoods because they’re so high in antioxidants without being high in calories,” explained Giovinazzo. Strawberries, like blueberries, are a good source of anthocyanins.
One cup of strawberries contains 85 milligrams of vitamin C and three grams of fiber.
Strawberries are good for your heart, too. Research has found that people were less likely to have a heart attack over 18 years if they ate more than three servings of strawberries or blueberries per week.
As its name suggests, watermelon is an excellent way to hydrate in the morning. One slice of watermelon contains about 9.2 ounces of water.
The juicy fruit is also among the best sources of lycopene, averaging nine to 13 milligrams in 1.5 cups. Lycopene is a nutrient found in red fruits and vegetables that may prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, or heart attack.
In low-fat dairy, nutrients like calcium, potassium, protein, and vitamin D help build and support strong bones. Those nutrients help reduce the risk of bone diseases like osteoporosis as you age.
Plant-based milk and yogurt fortified with calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D are good alternatives for people who do not consume dairy products.
Once shunned for being high in dietary cholesterol, eggs are a healthy source of protein and nutrients like vitamin D. One large raw egg contains 6.3 grams of protein and two micrograms of vitamin D, among other nutrients.
Although eggs have cholesterol, some evidence suggests that eggs do not increase the risk of heart disease. A study published in 2018 found that people who ate eggs had an 11% lower risk of heart disease.
“If overall, you’re choosing lean proteins and not eating a ton of fat and cholesterol, then eggs are a great thing to have in your diet,” said Giovinazzo.
This tangy, creamy type of yogurt packs calcium. Greek yogurt boasts plenty of protein to keep you full throughout the morning. Look for greek yogurts that contain probiotics to promote your gut health.
Your best bet: Choose a plain, nonfat, or low-fat variety, and add some fruit to give it some sweetness and flavor (and a dose of added nutrition). Add some chopped nuts or a tablespoon of nut butter for healthy fat.
“I love Greek yogurt because it’s really quick and easy,” said Giovinazzo. “You can always take it with you on your way out the door.”
Plant-Based Milk and Yogurt
Soy products are a good plant-based alternative since they have a similar nutritional value to cow’s milk. Soy products have protein, calcium, and vitamin D.
In contrast, the Department of Agriculture does not consider plant-based milk and yogurt, like ones made with oat, almond, and coconut, as part of the dairy group.
Look for the following nutrients in plant-based products:
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Try limiting your intake of plant-based products with high added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
Nuts and seeds are a good source of protein when paired with other foods, especially if you do not eat eggs or dairy. You can also find essential fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals in many nuts and seeds.
Almond butter is an excellent alternate source of protein, with about 6.72 grams in two tablespoons. Almond butter packs monounsaturated fat, a good substitute for saturated fat.
“It’s a really delicious spread on whole grain bread or paired with a banana or an apple,” said Giovinazzo.
Sprinkling ground flaxseed into a smoothie or bowl of cereal will turn your breakfast into a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and lignan. Those compounds are anti-inflammatory and antioxidative, meaning they prevent damage to your cells.
Flaxseed can be an excellent addition to a diabetes meal plan because it is rich in fiber, an essential nutrient for managing blood sugar.
A word of caution: Don’t eat raw or unripe flaxseed, as it can contain toxic compounds.
The Department of Agriculture advises adding grains to one-quarter of your plate, with about half being whole grains.
Whole grains have many nutrients that offer health benefits and help protect against some chronic diseases. For example, whole grains are a good source of fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels. High total cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease.
“Cereal can be tricky because there are so many different kinds out there,” Giovinazzo said. “Something with at least five grams of fiber and less than five grams of sugar is probably your best bet.”
You’ll find this winning combination in many whole-grain or bran cereals, such as shredded wheat varieties. Whole grains have fiber, B vitamins, iron, and other nutrients.
Top off your bowl with your favorite milk or non-dairy milk alternative, or mix it with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese for more filling protein. Add fruit, too, for a nutritious and filling meal. The fruit and whole grains fiber will help you feel full and satisfied. Fruit also contains antioxidants.
The old-school breakfast option of oatmeal has many nutritional benefits. Oats contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber shown to help lower cholesterol when eaten regularly. Need another reason to dig in? Oats are also rich in phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Oats can also:
- Improve immunity
- Contains antioxidants, which may reduce inflammation
- Support digestive health
Overall, oatmeal is a healthy choice. Choose plain oatmeal and sweeten your bowl with fresh fruit, cinnamon, and nuts to reduce your added sugar intake.
Carbs are a breakfast mainstay. The type of carbs you choose can make a big difference in the overall health of your meal. For example, choose whole-grain bread like whole-wheat or rye if you want to add more fiber to your diet.
You can top your bread with an egg, avocado, or nut butter. The fat and protein in those foods help you feel more satisfied and fuller for longer.
There are a variety of breakfast staples that you can eat to provide you with nutrients, staying power, and protein. Whether you eat eggs, oatmeal, or whole-grain cereal, any of those breakfast foods will start your day off on the right foot.