Breakfast – the most important meal of the day. We’ve heard this message from moms since the beginning of time. And they’re right. People who eat breakfast were more likely to have higher levels of important nutrients in their overall diets, better focus and performance in schools and at work, and a healthier weight status. With all these benefits, why aren’t more people eating breakfast? Mainly a lack of time during busy mornings and for some people, not having much of an appetite in the morning. Both of these issues have solutions, so keep reading for quick, healthy breakfast ideas.
Quick Breakfast Ideas
Let’s break these down into three levels of fast breakfast foods – 10 minutes or less to prepare, grab and go, and make ahead. You might choose from each category over the course of a week. Or you might already know grab and go options are the only realistic choice for your family. I personally fall into the make-ahead category, although I do make coffee every morning.
10 Minutes or Less
For those early birds among us who have time to devote to cooking breakfast, these are good breakfast ideas that are quick, affordable, and kid-friendly.
- DIY Smoothies – Smoothies are super quick and can be a complete meal if you choose ingredients from multiple food groups. Include a protein-rich addition (Greek yogurt, peanut butter, etc.) to make it filling enough to last until lunch. Plus, it’s a great breakfast idea for kids, who love smoothies! I’ve been making an awesome frozen cherry and fresh spinach smoothie with plain Greek yogurt recently. Yum!
- Eggs any way you like them. Eggs are a quick and filling option for savory breakfast lovers. This microwave mug recipe is ready in just 2 minutes! Making an omelet with leftover or frozen veggies is also fast, no time-consuming chopping needed!. Even Basic Scrambled Eggs are ready to eat in 5 minutes or less.
- Cereal – Hot or cold, cereal is a popular quick breakfast idea. Look for low sugar, whole grain options. Add a serving of fruit (berries, banana slices, raisins, etc.) to your cereal, granola, or oatmeal for more color and nutrition. Make a parfait with low-fat yogurt, cereal or granola, and fruit. Grits or cream of wheat are other options if you like a more savory breakfast. Just be sure to limit the butter and salt you add.
Grab and Go Breakfast Ideas
For the slightly frazzled among us, these are the best breakfast options you can eat on the go. This was my strategy when I was still in school. I’d grab an apple, string cheese, and slice of my favorite whole grain bread on my way out the door. Totally portable and MyPlate approved. A good rule of thumb is trying to get 3 of the 5 MyPlate food groups.
- Portable Fruit – apples, bananas, clementines, pears, peaches, etc.
- Portable Veggies – snow peas, carrots, celery, cucumber slices, radishes, pepper slices, etc. (You might need to prep some of these ahead and store in snack bags.)
- Portable Grains – Whole grain bread/toast, whole grain crackers, whole wheat hard pretzels (look for low-sodium varieties), make ahead oatmeal cups or muffins, whole wheat tortilla, whole wheat mini bagel, whole wheat English muffin, etc.
- Portable Protein – peanut butter, unsalted nuts, leftover chicken or burger patty, a few slices of low-sodium lunch meat, hummus, etc.
- Portable Dairy – Glass of low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) milk, low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt cup, part skim string cheese stick, etc.
You can eat your 3-5 items separately or quickly throw together a sandwich (peanut butter & banana on whole wheat), or a wrap (hummus and peppers in a tortilla, etc.).
Make Ahead Breakfast Recipes
For the meal planners and preppers, make these healthy breakfast recipes the night before or on the weekend and enjoy in the morning.
- Oatmeal – There are a lot of options with make ahead oatmeal. Overnight oats have gotten popular online and are a great recipe to invite kids to help prepare. Baked oatmeal casserole-type dishes or even large batches of your favorite oatmeal recipes can be made ahead and reheated throughout the week. Try Baked Apple Oatmeal Casserole, Jiffy Oatmeal Bars, or this collection of oatmeal variations (just be sure to double or triple the amount for enough to last all week).
- Hard-boiled Eggs – Make a batch, store in their shells in the fridge, and enjoy all week. This is what I do for breakfast 99% of the time. Pair with whole-wheat toast, a piece of fruit, and/or leftover veggies.
- Muffins – Muffins are great for make ahead breakfasts. You can make a large batch to last a week or more. They’re easily frozen for later. Add a protein-rich food (hard-boiled egg, string cheese, a dollop of peanut butter) and you have a light breakfast.
- Breakfast Burritos – Spend Smart, Eat Smart from Iowa State has a great recipe for freezing breakfast burritos. Just defrost and reheat for a filling breakfast meal.
No Appetite, No Problem
Although you might not feel hungry first thing in the morning, it’s still important to eat (or drink) something to get your metabolism going. Breakfast literally means break the fast of not eating since the previous evening. Having even a small snack within an hour of waking up helps kickstart your metabolism, which might make you feel more alert and burn a few extra calories. Eat a small piece of fruit and reduced fat cheese slices, or a slice of toast and a spoonful of peanut butter, or drink a small smoothie or glass of 100% juice, and have a larger mid-morning snack. If you just don’t like breakfast foods, think beyond traditional breakfast foods and eat what you enjoy – a sandwich, leftovers from dinner, etc.
What do you usually eat for breakfast? What’s your best recommendation for a healthy breakfast for people who struggle to find the time or appetite to eat breakfast every morning?